Chris' Tool Obsession: Barwalt, Ultralife Tile Trowels

From Chris

A quick note: we weren't compensated in anyway for this post, but if Barwalt (or anyone else) wants to send us free stuff I'm not going to send it back. ;)

Since I have a seemingly unquenchable thirst for new and exciting tools, I figured I'd put that obsession to some good use by reviewing some of my favorites. I'll try to do one review a month and hopefully I'll never run out of tools to review. Without further ado:

The upcoming Kerdi membrane installation in the shower gave me the opportunity to look for the required 1/4" x 3/16" v-notch trowel. I have a smaller v-notch trowel that I used in the last bathroom, but it was a bear getting the membrane to get proper coverage, so the search for a new trowel began. 

I had heard of the Barwalt trowel system before and bookmarked it for another date. I took this opportunity to revisit the system. Lucky for me it comes with 7 interchangeable trowel sizes, including the one I needed to install the Kerdi membrane. The system also comes with a case for all the trowels and a handle.

The system is simple. The handle attaches to any of the 7 trowels that come with the kit (you can buy 2 additional trowel sizes) by simply sliding the handle onto the trowel which has a piece of V channel welded to the top.

You can slide the trowels on either way you want, which is nice for lefties who usually have to hold trowels upside down to scrape thinset on the substrate left to right.

There is a locking piece that slides on the bottom of the handle, but I found that it works just fine without the locking piece.

When done, all the trowels nest in the yellow carrying case.

With the handle attached to any of the trowel blades, you can use this to create the top of the case which locks in place thanks to three grooves. This then doubles as a handle for the entire set. It's a very elegant and simple system.

Clean-up for the system was one of my concerns going in, but it turned out to be a breeze. There aren't a lot of nooks and crannies for the thinset to get caught in so clean up is very easy. Just disassemble the handle and trowel blade and clean with a sponge as usual. I haven't noticed any rusting on any of the trowel blades so far, so it seems that the stainless steel is of good quality.

The assortment of trowels is great. It's pretty unlikely that you'll need anything outside of the 7 trowels included in the set for any DIY tile setting needs.

The only downside to the system that I see is that you can really only use one trowel blade at a time. If there was some need to use both a flat trowel and square notch trowel, for example, you would have to swap the handle off and on in order to use them for the same project. That, or buy another handle (which is sold separately).

It's this kind of simple and effective system that, as a tool junkie, makes me giddy (relatively speaking). I only wish I had purchased this earlier as it would have saved me a couple purchases.


Gene Anderson said...

That looks pretty awesome. Somewhere in the basement I have an odd-sized trowel or two in addition to my regular one. This would have been a nice alternative, and the left-handed thing is a nice feature.

Bunny @ 86n It said...

I will never let Marc see this post. These are right up his alley!

aptpupil said...

Oh, one more thing about this awesome tool that I forgot to add: it's made in the USA. Yay for non-imports!

threeacres said...

Wow that's a pretty cool system! That kit plus a spare flat trowel (to pry up uneven tiles) is all we would have needed for our large format tiles. I'll have to keep this in mind when we get to more tile work.