Fibrous Plastering is a method or process used to produce decorative plasterwork on a bench in a workshop. The casts produced in the workshop are taken to site and put in place by fibrous plaster fixers.
The three component parts of fibrous plaster casts are casting plaster, timber laths and canvas or hessian scrim. The plaster forms the body of the casts which is reinforced with the fabric scrim to prevent cracking and the laths assist in fixing as mechanical fixings can be run through the timber laths concealed in the casts.
The use of timber laths and fabric scrim gave rise to the term rag and stick for fibrous plastering.
When fixing casts on site the fibrous fixers should always use two or more methods of fixing so there is a back up if one method of fixing fails.
Methods of Fixing
The fixing methods available are strong plaster adhesives, mechanical fixings such as screws and for larger work the use of wires, brackets and wads of scrim soaked in plaster. With large fibrous works on ceilings all the methods may be employed together as it is essential that large heavy sections of plaster do not fall down endangering people below.
First use of Fibrous Plastering
Fibrous plastering was first used in France and some excellent examples of this can be seen in buildings throughtout Paris. In England George Jackson Limited, who started trading as Thomas Jackson in 1763, were the first company to use fibrous plaster using it to embellish rooms and buildings in London, including many gentleman’s clubs and politically-based coffee and chocolate houses.
Many other fibrous firms were set up in London in the years which followed carrying out high class work in all kinds of buildings and at exhibitions.
Fibrous plaster is lightweight when dry, compatible with traditional building materials, long lasting and extremely fire proof.
The fire proofing qualities of fibrous plaster was often the reason for its use on plain faced ceilings or where protection of steel was required.
Plain faced ceilings were used in the highest class of work, the individual panels being cast on a dedicated glass bench in a workshop.
Remarkably some modern substitute materials used as a cheap imitation of fibrous plaster are not fireproof, not very compatible with traditional building materials and require machinery and mass production techniques for their manufacture. Many of these products are marketed and sold by various discount direct companies.
Fortunately the products used to imitate fibrous plaster are inferior, do not perform as well as fibrous plaster and are not nearly as flexible in their use.
A good fibrous plastering company can usually match and reproduce most traditional decorative mouldings. They can also manufacture contemporary items to a clients own specification. Most of the work is still carried out by hand by traditional craftsmen.
In contemporary work GRP (Glass Reinforced Gypsum) is also used. This type of work can often be seen in the columns and sweeping curves of modern construction such as those to the interior of shopping centres.
When the products of fibrous plastering are well made and fixed by skilled craftsmen the results can be breathtaking.