Anyhow, trowelling techniques on the face of it probably seem obvious enough (the expression concerning ‘grandmothers’, ‘eggs’ and ‘sucking’ springs to mind), but they’re actually very important. A lot of the more inexperienced excavators might have missed some of the basics (let’s be honest, we all have a tendency to overlook the wood for the trees from time to time) so a quick wash and brush up wouldn’t go amiss.
And just to make this article a bit more interesting, I’ve added a few illustrations. Pay close attention. There might be a quiz at the end.
Before we start this exercise, you will require some dirt (by which we’re not referring to the sort of dirt you'd find in a cat's litter tray, but a bucket of soil…everything’s so damned Americanised these days) and a 4-inch pointing trowel (which is a trowel used for 'pointing brickwork'...not a trowel that’s pointing at something.)
One. Always trowel in the same direction (i.e. the direction in which you started trowelling when the trench was first opened…or to put it another way, don’t change course in midstream. Obviously this doesn’t mean that you have to remember the direction you were trowelling several trenches previously…just trowel in one direction throughout the current trench unless otherwise directed.)
Five. Make sure that you don't create or leave any smudge marks. (So if you’re going to eat a cheese and pickle butty, please leave the trench first.)
Six. In a trench containing more than one person, ensure that the foremost individual trowels a meter span in front of the other. (Sharp trowel points accidentally jabbing you up the backside can be painful.)
Seven. Be careful not to miss any areas when several people are trowelling at once. Also check that you haven't left any ridges between the areas already trowelled. (Especially if you’ve been using them as a makeshift seat.)
Eight. Trowelling allows the trench to be cleaned, thus helping define any features. It also improves feature and strata clarity for the photographs and other methods of recording (which we’ll be covering in another article because it’s about time you lot started filling in some paperwork).
Nine. Depending on the thickness of the blade, trowelling should always be conducted as a slicing action and not a digging one. If we wanted a trench to be dug out using trowels we’d employ smurfs.