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Masons are builders who work with concrete, brick, stone or other individual units. Masonry construction has been around for thousands of years, and many of the tools modern masons use date from ancient times. While there are a number of different types of masons, most use the same basic tools.
A mason's most important tools are her trowels. Trowels usually have triangular-shaped heads attached to wooden or plastic handles. Masons use trowels to pick up mortar and spread it on bricks. They also sometimes use the butt of the trowel's handle to tap the brick into place in the mortar bed. Trowels come in different shapes and sizes for special jobs.
Masons use chisels to cut bricks into smaller pieces. They also sometimes use them to remove bricks that are not sitting correctly and need to be adjusted. A chisel normally has a metal head that is shaped like the head of a shovel, except that it's flat. The edge of the chisel is slightly sharp.
A mason's hammers don't look exactly like the hammers most people are accustomed to using. Instead, a mason's hammer has an iron head with a square face on one end. The other end has a long chisel. Mason's hammers are also much heavier than normal hammers, weighing up to 3 1/2 pounds. Masons use their hammers to split and break up bricks.
Masons use jointers to make mortar joints. Many jointers look like long, flat metal bars with a bend in the middle, but there are several types of jointers. Jointers may be round, flat or pointed, and masons select their them based upon what kinds of mortar joints they need to make.
Masons use their squares to measure right angles and lay corners. Squares are generally made of wood or metal and come in a variety of sizes.
Masons use levels to establish plumb and level lines. Plumb lines are perfectly vertical, while level lines are perfectly horizontal. Good levels are very lightweight but sturdy, and masons expect them to withstand rough treatment. Often, levels are made from wood, hardwood or even plastic. They have vials enclosed in glass, and each vial has a bubble of air suspended in liquid. When the bubble rests between two center marks on the vial, the mason knows that his line is level or plumb.
Straightedges are used for extending level or plumb lines. They can be as much as 16 feet long. Straightedges vary between 1 1/8 and 1 1/2 inches thick and are usually between 6 and 10 inches wide. The top edge of a straightedge must be perfectly parallel to the bottom edge.
Elizabeth Hannigan began writing freelance articles in 2005. Her work can be found in "Orientations" magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in art history from the University of Delaware.