Watching competent building professionals doing their jobs can belie how skilful they need to be. A good professional makes it look easy, whereas in real life it may not be. But there is always the pressure of cost and time and I think this leads to a constant search to find simpler ways of doing things with new tools, techniques and materials. I think that you could make an argument that the process of some tool developments, particularly of power tools, allows even the relatively unskilled to do a good job – and that is not a bad thing when we currently have a shortage of skills, housing and cash.
National Abrasives has joined the fray by taking on the agency of the MudGun from Canada. There is some clarification needed – in North America, filling plaster is referred to as “Mud” – easy to see why, and of course it is used in great quantities in modern American construction. We have followed the trend in our building methods and it is fair to say that we now need the MudGun in the UK to help us fill the skills gaps as well as the gaps in our drylining.
Although there are two versions of the MudGun – the Easy Load and the Professional, the basis of both kits is the gun itself. We are all used to the idea of silicone sealer and grout guns so imagine a 39cm long alloy tube with a nozzle at one end and a trigger mechanism at the other. This is the basic “mud delivery system”. Both kits come with two nozzles - one for flat joints and the other for inside corners. There is also a 7 inch finishing head, a T-adaptor, an inside corner smoothing tool and a cleaning brush. These are all needed for the basic operations of the tool and are well made in solid black plastic.
The MudGun Pro differs slightly with two extra additions – a loading ring and a MudPak adaptor. Delivering the Mud and getting it to stick on the surface requires it to be of a specific consistency – ask any plasterer. In North America, most MudGun users buy the sausage-shaped MudPaks or a straight sided bulk bucket of mud to ensure that the mud is always of the right consistency for use in the MudGun.
While it is possible to mix filling plaster to the right consistency and use it in the MudGun, it is often wasteful – particularly for small repairs. With a ready mixed bucket of Mud or MudPaks, users will always have the necessary at hand.
The loading ring is included in the Pro version so that professional users who tend to buy mud in bulk in tubs, can load the mud into their gun without exposing the mud to the air, where it will set quite quickly. The loading ring is a plastic disc that fits onto the top of a bucket of mud and seals it around the edges. In the middle of the disc is a round hole into which the end of the MudGun is inserted and it is the filled by simply pulling the plunger rod upwards. A screw cap is used to seal the remaining mud in the bucket so that it doesn’t go off.
It is good to point out here that the MudGun comes with a set of very comprehensive instructions. These explain quite clearly what to do and what some of the potential glitches might be. Also included is a list of some extras you need – like a bucket or two of water, a drywall taping knife and a cloth or sponge.
I used the MudGun only with the MudPaks and I have to say the they are simplicity itself to use. I was impressed with the robustness and size of the trigger and handle mechanism. It is solidly made in metal and clearly would be able to resist the inevitable ravages of drying plaster and plaster dust. Prepare the gun by releasing the brake lever and pulling the plunger rod out by its T-shaped handle. Then remove the plastic endcap on the delivery end of the gun and insert a MudPak. The mud is released by cutting the end of the MudPak with a knife and then you need to screw the end back on quickly with the nozzle required attached.
The nozzles, both flat and corner, are easy to attach by simply screwing them on, and can be easily adjusted to the correct angle by just backing off the collar a bit.
The MudGun can be used for doing simple repairs of holes and cracks in plasterboard, and the instructions provide clear advice on how to proceed. There is still an element of handwork with the drywall knife/scraper to ensure that the mud is spread evenly and covers holes etc, but it is what you would expect.
Where professionals, in particular, would save time is using the MudGun to tape and finish the joints between sections of drywalling. Using the T adaptor and the finishing head, layers of mud can be quickly applied to the edges of joints to even them out and also to fill in any slight gaps that might not have been covered first time round.
The finishing head can be adjusting via a sliding switch to vary the depth of the mud that is applied. At setting 0 the head is flat so will deliver a flat layer of mud, while at setting 5 a thicker bead of plaster can be used to fill the butt joints between boards. The whole head and adjustment mechanism is made of plastic and the switch can be popped out for easy cleaning – because nothing sticks like dried plaster.
I haven’t had as much fun in ages playing with the MudGun. I wouldn’t say I became an expert after half an hour of using it, but I will say that I had improved enough to be able to do a good enough job that would not be visible after decoration. With more use I am definitely going to get better and the MudGun is a valuable addition to the relevant trade toolkit. Keen DIYers and DIY property developers should be keen to take a look at it too.
Several Builders Merchants & DIY stores have placed orders at the recent trade shows as well as Belmore Tools, a specialist Drywall tool distributor.