Whether or not it is obvious, there are only a few types of tasks in our world. Two of the most common tasks are creating something and destroying something. When placed in this context, it is easy to see how different tasks are very similar, even when they seem no where near each other on the surface. Mudding drywall joints and crumb-coating a cake are two examples. They accomplish very different outcomes, but in the end they both create something and take a learned skill.
Finishing drywall is a timely process that takes a great amount of elbow grease and a good eye. The first step of finishing drywall is the most important. It provides a clean, flat slate onto which a more artistic texturing layer can be applied. This first step is call mudding the joints and it takes time, a good eye, a stead hand, and patients.
To do this, you first need to gather the necessary supplies. You will need joint compound, drywall tape, a mudding tray and three mudding scrapers (usually three-inch, six-inch, and ten-inch). All of these supplies can be found in the building or remodeling section at any hardware or home improvement store.
Once you have all of the supplies, begin by putting a generous amount of mud into your tray. Then, using the three-inch scraper, apply mud to the cracks between the wallboards. You will do this by putting a generous amount of mud on your scraper, and then push the mud into the crack between the two boards. Once the crack has been filled, place the scraper at one end of the joint at a 45-degree angle to the board. Pull the scraper along the joint, creating a flat surface between the two boards.
Now that you have a coat of mud on the joint, you can add the drywall tape to the joint. Drywall tape is a specific type of tape that hardens once it gets wet. This hardness creates another layer of support for the joint between the two drywall boards. To apply tape, cut a piece of tape the length of the joint. Lay the tape so that there are equal sides of the tape on either side of the mudded joint. The tape will absorb moisture from the joint compound and harden when it dries.
After the tape is in place, add another layer of mud on top of the tape. To do this, you will need to change the direction of your scraper. Apply mud the same as before the tape, but to remove excess mud this time, you will scrape away from the tape. Start with your scraper at a 45-degree angle to the wall in the center of the tape. Then, pull the excess mud away in the direction of the edge of the tape. These movements will be short, and time consuming, but will help seal the tape into the mud and to the drywall boards themselves.
As you are mudding these joints, you will no doubt be near the shallow holes created in the drywall boards by the drywall screws. These also need to be mudded to create a flat wall surface. This mudding is very similar to caulking nail holes in a home. First, apply mud to your scraper. Then, push the mud into the hole; make sure it is filled completely. Finally, holding the scraper at a 45-degree angle, scrape over the mudded hole to remove any excess mud.
Once all the joints are mudded and the holes filled, you will need to let the mud dry for at least 24 hours, if not more depending on joint compound manufacturer recommendations. After this time period, check the screw holes to assure they are all completely fill and check the joints for levelness. Most seams will need at least two if not more coats of mud in order to create a flat surface between the two boards. During the first coat, you used the three-inch scraper to simply create a bond. For the second coat, you will want to use the six-inch scraper and repeat the first coat directions to create an even larger patch. For the 3rd and any future coats, use the 10” scraper.
You will know that you are done with mudding joints when the joint is completely flat and the tape is no longer visible beneath the mud layers.
The same basic principles used in mudding joints can be applied to crumb-coating a cake. Frosting a cake may seem like a simple task, but there are many elements to being successful at this task. Not only do you need to have the correct tools, but you also need to make sure that you have prepared the cake correctly. In order to prepare the cake for final decoration, you first need to make sure that it is crumb-coated correctly. A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting applied to a cake to help seal in moisture and create a barrier to crumbs that could make the final layer of the cake messy.
To apply a crumb coat, you first need to make sure you have all of the necessary tools. You will need an offset frosting spatula, a rubber spatula, frosting, and, of course, your completed nine-inch cake. Make sure the cake is fully cooled before attempting to apply frosting. If your cake seems especially crumby, freeze for 30 minutes before frosting.
Once you have all of your supplies, you need to assure that your frosting is of the correct consistency. A butter cream recipe usually yields a frosting that is perfect for cakes, but any recipe can be used. If your frosting is too stiff, add one tablespoon of corn syrup to give it some elasticity. On the contrary, if it is too runny, add one tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar to help it hold its shape.
The final preparation steps are to place the cake on a rotating base (like a Lazy Suzanne) and to make sure you have a glass of warm water near by. You’ll want to use this to clean your spatula throughout the process. Plus, the heat from the spatula will help create a smoother layer of frosting on your cake.
Begin frosting the crumb coat by placing a large amount of frosting on top of the cake. Using the offset spatula spread the frosting out evenly across the entire top of the cake. You’ll know you have enough frosting on the top when the whole top is covered and there is also frosting hanging over the edge of the cake.
When you’ve finished with the top of the cake, move on to the sides. Load your spatula (this means that you fill the spatula from the top to the bottom) with frosting, and place it along the side of the cake. Pull the spatula along the cake side to spread the frosting. Rotate the base if necessary to keep an even amount.
Remember that the crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting. Once you’ve covered the side of the cake with frosting you’ll want to remove any excess frosting and smooth out the edge. Make sure you have a clean, warm spatula before you begin. Then, place the spatula so it is flush with the side of the cake. Pull the spatula around the whole side of the cake using consistent pressure.
Cleaning up the sides of the cake will leave a small lip of frosting along the edge where the side and the top of the cake meet. To remove this lip, start with a clean spatula again. Then, push the lip down and toward the center of the cake. Remove any excess frosting that stays on your spatula between strokes. Repeat all around the cake to assure a clean joint between the sides and the top of the cake. Make sure to freeze this cake for at least 30 minutes before adding the next layer of frosting.
Now that the two processes are clear, let us see how they stand up to one another. The two processes previously described may not seem to be similar in any way, but when closely compared it is obvious that they area actually very alike.
There are obvious differences of course. Drywall mud and boards are not edible; a cake and its frosting can and are meant to be eaten. A cake, no matter how grand, is small when compared with an entire room that needs its drywall joints mudded. Applying drywall mud can be a very physically taxing activity, while applying a crumb-coat to a cake may provide a mental challenge, but rarely physically exhausts the applicator. Finally, and most evidently, the finished products for these two processes are very different. A dry walled room should last a very long time and should be difficult to destroy. A cake, on the other hand, is created with the intention that it will have a short life-span and will be not only destroyed, but devoured eagerly.
But, this is where the differences end. The end products of the two processes, in fact, are very much alike. Both processes prepare a surface for a final coat: texturing walls and top coat cake decorations. To reach these ends, both processes require careful attention to an even application of a pasty substance to another surface. Both require a steady hand and spatula-like tools. Also, both processes take a keen eye and a skilled hand. When mudding drywall, one needs to use observation to assure that they not only cover all joints and screw holes, but that the mudding application is the correct consistency, and make adjustments as necessary. Similarly, during the crumb-coat process, a cake decorator needs to observe the thickness of the frosting and adjust pressure on the spatula accordingly.
When the whole picture is taken into consideration, it is obvious that these two processes are very much alike. They may seem different because of their respective locations and professional attachments, but they are made up of the same ideas, just performed on different surfaces.