Thursday, December 19, 2013

Candace Rowe
Not everything at the PhinneyWood Tool Library is a loud, noisy power tool.  If you poke around, you can find humble tools that you might not even have known you needed. Like a bucket of trowels.
I’d been thinking about trowels lately, mostly when I was in the shower. You can take a nice, relaxing shower with your eyes closed and the steam slowly easing the cold from your bones; or you can take a multi-tasking shower, scrubbing the walls and checking for loose tiles while your conditioner is doing its thing. You can also take a frenzied shower with your dog, trying to shampoo him without getting clawed to ribbons, but that’s a whole other article. It’s that second kind of shower that I usually take, and I’d noticed that some of the shower tiles were cracked and wiggly, and that grout was discolored or even missing in places. Those things aren’t good from an aesthetic point of view, but, as my husband pointed out, water can get under those loose tiles and freeze on very cold nights. Our shower is in the basement. It’s pretty cold down there.

So I had been thinking about trowels, and grout, and all things shower-related. I did a little research and learned that shower grout needs to be resealed every year or two, depending on how much you use the shower. If you notice your grout is harder to clean, or is getting discolored, you need to clean it well and reseal it with a latex-based product. These are available at any hardware store. Our grout is colored, so I ordered grout stain pens in Dark Smoke and spent many painstaking hours coloring in the grout around our itty-bitty octagonal tiles. But before you ever get to that point, you need to clean the shower thoroughly and fix any damaged grout.
I referred to Pinterest (as in all things) and concocted a witch’s brew of blue Dawn and white vinegar, sprayed it on to sit overnight, and in the morning every bit of soap scum wiped right off. I love Pinterest. But I digress. With soap scum and mold vanquished, you’re ready for your trowel.

Trowels come in many shapes and sizes and are used for many different things, from gardening to construction to what we’re about to do in the shower. They consist of a metal blade and a short handle. Some are flat, while others are curved. They are used to spread, dig, scoop, and place. We will be spreading.

There are several trowels used in construction: a brick trowel has a slightly rounded, diamond-shaped blade; a finishing trowel has a large, flat rectangular blade, and a flooring trowel (used to lay concrete) is shaped like a lancet arch and has a pointed front to fit into corners. A gauging trowel has a rounded tip and is used for gauging or mixing quick set plaster. Corner trowels are v-shaped, and do about what you might expect. A pointing trowel is a smaller version of the brick trowel, and is used to separate concrete from the forms it is poured into. A tuck pointing trowel is a long, thin tool that is designed for packing mortar between bricks. There are also trowels used for gardening, and they look like miniature shovels. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you ever get bored you might want to explore the Tool Library’s tub of trowels and speculate about the use of each one.

Once the shower was completely dry, I used the smallest trowel from the Tool Library tub of trowels to push the sludge into every nook and cranny, even into cracks in broken tiles around the windowsill. As I’ve said, we have very tiny tiles. If you have bigger tiles, you might want a bigger trowel. There’s a trowel for everyone in that bin. The grout needed to dry for 24 hours, then I used my pens to re-stain it, and it looked like a brand new shower!
So as the holidays wind down and you are making those New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget your shower. Think how much more relaxing it’ll be in there if you know every single tile is safe and sound. Not to mention very, very clean.
The hours of the PhinneyWood Tool Library are Wednesdays from Wednesdays from 3-6:30 pm, Fridays from 5-7 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am-2 pm. Call 206.783.2244, extension 48 to check on availability or to reserve a tool. You do need to be a PNA member to borrow tools, and they ask for a minimal donation.
You can go here for a complete list of what tools they have available:  We’d love to hear about your experiences with our Tool Library. Send them to and you may see them here in future weeks!



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