A plasterer’s hawk – also known as a hand board – is a small, square, hand-held surface on which a load of plaster or mortar is carried. It is used in tasks such as the skimming (plastering) of walls or pointing of brickwork (filling gaps between bricks on the face of a wall). It has a straight handle underneath for carrying.
It is thought that the name “hawk” derives from the way that the object sits – like a hawker’s bird – on the arm, and also from the “assistant” role that they play – like the birds – in helping their owner do their job.
A hawk is often used alongside a larger mixing (or spot) board, onto which building compounds, such as plaster, are poured. These boards are much larger and hold the bulk of the mixture throughout the job.
Mixing boards are often mounted on a stand or trestle, to make them easier to use.
Unlike a mixing board, a plasterer’s hawk is small enough to carry around the room as you work and you can hold it close to the wall being plastered, preventing plaster spillage from the trowel. It is repeatedly loaded from the main board throughout the job.
In pointing, again, the hawk is loaded with small quantities of mortar from the mixing board and is carried close to the wall.
What is the difference between a hawk and a float?
Hawks are different from plasterer’s floats, which are small rectangular boards with a curved handle underneath. These are smoothed over freshly-applied plaster when it has firmed up, to level out irregularities in the surface.