A trowel is one of several similar hand tools used for digging, smoothing, or otherwise moving around small amounts of viscous or particulate material.
A bricklayer's trowel (also known as a pointing trowel) is a flat-bladed tool with a handle and flat metal blade, used by masons for leveling, spreading, or shaping substances such as cement, plaster, or mortar, as well as for breaking bricks to shape them or smoothing a mold. A tuck pointing trowel is longer and thinner, designed for packing mortar between bricks. Brick trowels are traditionally made of carbon steel, but some newer versions are made of cast stainless steel, which has longer wear and is rust-free.
In archaeology brick or pointing trowels (usually 4" steel trowels) are used to scratch the strata in an excavation and allow the colours of the soil to be clear, so that the different strata can be identified, processed and excavated. In the United States, the Marshalltown trowel is favoured, but in the British Isles the WHS 4" pointing trowel is the traditional tool.
Several types of trowel are used in concrete construction. The float trowel or finishing trowel is usually rectangular, used to smooth, level, or texture the top layer of hardening concrete. A flooring trowel has one rectangular end and one pointed end, made to fit corners.
A gauging trowel has a rounded tip, used to mix measured proportions of the ingredients for quick set plaster.
In 1978, Mr Edward Welfare, himself a freemason and scout-master, opened what was believed to be the UK's first dedicated trowel museum in Norfolk.
The trowel is the nearest that the archaeological profession has to a uniform symbol. It is incorporated into the designs of many archaeological association logos and publications.