Favorite Drywall Tools & Accessories
I'm in the drywall business — admittedly not the most
glamorous line of work. When I first started out 20 years ago,
not only was drywall considered unglamorous, it didn't even
require many tools. And, in the building business, it's "no
tools, no glory." I always had a decent but dusty truck with
some scaffolding and a few planks in the bed. The rest of the
tools I needed to hang, tape, and sand, I could pretty much
carry in my arms.
I'm proud to say that in the last 10 years or so, all that
has changed. A lot of new labor-saving tools, as well as tools
that improve quality, have become available. I don't hesitate
to buy the tools I need, either. Nowadays, I make four or five
trips to the truck to haul my tools, just like the framers and
finish carpenters do. For any of you builders who occasionally
find yourself doing some drywall work now and then, here's a
rundown of the tools I take to the job. Many of these are
standard tools, but you may not have heard of some of them.
Measuring and Marking
A good-quality tape measure is important. I use a 25-foot tape
to figure materials for large rooms and, along with my utility
knife, to scribe short, straight measurements along the edge of
a sheet of drywall. The wider blade of a 25-foot tape allows
you to extend it farther before it sags or buckles.
T-square. A 4-foot aluminum T-square is a must
for any drywalling job, large or small (see Figure 1). On
larger jobs, I have three or four squares on site so I don't
have to go searching as I move from room to room working
different stacks of drywall. You can pick up a 4-foot-long
square for about $12 at most discount lumber stores, but the
tongues are only 1/8 inch thick and their construction is
somewhat flimsy. I buy a better-grade square with a
1/4-inch-thick tongue from Warner Tools (see "Sources of
Supply," last page) for about $20. The thicker, stiffer metal
gives more accurate cuts and lasts longer.
This pro-duty T-square from Warner has a
1/4-inch-thick tongue (top); most lumberyard varieties have
only 1/8-inch-thick tongues. Graduated notches on the Johnson
24-inch ripping square guide make it easy to use a utility
knife for long cuts (above).
Scribing square. I also use a 24-inch-long
Rock-Ripper Scoring Square from Johnson for scribing long,
narrow strips of drywall. Graduated notches along the square's
blade guide your utility knife as you slide the square along
the edge of the panel. The scribing square provides a more
precise alternative to the tape-measure-and-utility-knife
approach to scribing.
Specialized Cutting Tools
Accurate, clean cuts are important because they keep the
amount of taping and repairs to a minimum. Each type of cut
requires a different cutting tool. My cutting tools are laid
out in Figure 2.
2. The author's cutting tools include (above, left to
right) a drywall router, a wide-blade drywall saw, a keyhole
saw, a pocket rasp, a utility knife, and a calibrated circle
The most common tool is, of course, the utility knife, which
is used to score and snap straight cuts. I always keep a sharp
blade in the knife for clean cuts and to prevent tearing the
paper. For smoothing rough edges, I use a Procut Rasp-n-Knife
from Warner with a serrated handle that works great as a
drywall rasp. I have both a keyhole saw and a larger, more
rigid drywall saw that makes short work of large cutouts at
doors and windows.
The RotoZip drywall router
is one of my favorite tools. The pilot-tipped spiral cutter
follows the outline of an electrical box or window opening when
guided in a counter-clockwise direction. A special attachment
is available for making circular cuts and is ideal for
retrofitting recessed lights.
A circle cutting tool scores drywall in a
perfect circle by pivoting a sharp blade around a point stuck
into the drywall at the hole's center. Hole diameters are
calibrated right on the pivot-arm. The scored drywall is
removed by tapping it inward and cutting the paper backing with
a utility knife.
All drywall panels have to be lifted into place, some to the
top of a cathedral ceiling, some only 1/2 inch off the floor to
butt against the upper panel on an 8-foot-high wall.
The drywall lift makes one-man hanging
possible and two-man hanging a breeze. Just place the
finish-face of the panel against the tool's cradle, wheel the
lift into position, and crank the sheet skyward. The crank
locks into place to hold the sheet firmly against the framing.
The lift works great on walls and flat or sloped ceilings up to
16 feet high. If you're not ready to make a $550 to $800
investment, drywall lifts are available at most tool rental
If you have
extra help and you’re working low to average ceiling
heights (10 feet or less), a drywallbench is a must —
don’t risk your neck on inverted mud-buckets and
makeshift rigs. These stable aluminum benches are about 4 feet
long and 10 inches wide and can be adjusted in height from 18
to 48 inches. A low siderail acts as a step to assist climbing
up with a piece of dry-wall. When the bench is set for higher
ceilings, the rail step is a little harder to use. A special
attachment, called Mack’s Step, can be ordered to fit the
bench you’re using. It hooks onto the side of the bench,
adding an extra step and more stability (Figure 3).
An adjustable aluminum drywall bench provides enough elevation
to hang ceilings up to 10 feet high. At the highest adjustment,
a detachable “Mack’s Step” accessory adds an
intermediate step and more stability.