Plastering by J.T. Sawyer

My mum’s cousin’s father, known to me during my childhood as “Uncle Joe”, was a famous plasterer. You might not think that there could be such a thing as a famous plasterer, but if any plasterer ever achieved some degree of fame, it was Joe Sawyer.

He became a plasterer just as his father and grandfather had been before him. Having worked for years in the trade, he became a teacher of plastering to several generations of post-war tradesmen at the East Ham School of Building. Frustrated by the lack of a good textbook for the course he taught, he wrote his own. “Plastering” was published in 1951, and became the textbook for young plasterers for decades afterwards.

I can remember my mum having a copy of the book on the shelf, and I can remember flicking through it with, I must confess, little interest.

Fast forward several more decades. A year or so ago, Joe’s daughters (my mum’s cousins) were approached out of the blue by Donhead, publishers of obscure works related to the building trade. They wanted to re-print “Plastering”, updated appropriately, and make it available for today’s trainee plasterers.

And that’s why you can now purchase a copy of the book directly from Donhead or even from Amazon UK. The new edition includes all of Joe’s original hand-drawn illustrations, but has been given a new introduction. Despite being first published in the 1950s, it remains a highly regarded work among craftsmen in the plastering trade.


My mum’s cousin writes:

"Don’t know whether you heard the bizarre way that we and Donhead found each other. A man called Jeff Orton, who is an old-school, qualified master plasterer like my dad was, works on restoring the plasterwork in stately homes and other restoration type work. He happened to be in St Leonards-on-Sea and wandered into my ex-husband’s bookshop (an amazing place full of thousands of second-hand books). He apparently always checks out second-hand bookshops and always asks the same question: “Have you got a copy of ‘Plastering’ by Sawyer?” to which a slightly amazed JC replied that he had been his father-in-law.

"Thus Jeff Orton and I were put in touch with each other, and Jeff explained that he had links with Donhead, who publish a range of books on building and architectural subjects. Jeff and his architect friend, Tim Ratcliffe, have written the foreword to the new edition."

Filed under: life
(20th May 2007)