A drywall mud pan is an essential tool for a drywall finisher. For a drywall finisher to do his job requires most basically a pan and knife. A drywall pan serves as a tool for carrying drywall compound. It would be difficult to complicate the description of a mud pan so we will mention some basic features that the professionals look for when purchasing a drywall mud pan.
There are mud pans made of plastic and those made of metal. Few of any professionals use plastic pans. A finisher needs a strait edge against which to scrape the drywall knife. Most plastic pans have a small piece of metal on one of the top edges. The metal strip of a plastic drywall pan often warps easily or comes out of its setting. For professional use, this is definitely unacceptable. Also, plastic mud pans easily become pitted and unfit for use.
When buying mud pans it is important to look for stainless steel construction. This is necessary for avoiding rust and ensuring a long lasting product. Some stainless steel pans come with slightly rounded bottom corners. This feature, though nice to have, is by no means critical.
Drywall mud pans come in a variety of sizes. As a general rule, the shorter the pan the easier it is to use. A drywall finisher will carry his mud pan with him most of the day so the lighter weight of a short pan is generally desirable. The main reason for its light weight is how much mud a pan can hold. Though it is nice to have the lighter weight, it also means you will have to fill it up more often throughout the day.
When determining what size pan to use, more important than the question of weight is the size of knife a finisher will be using. A drywall finisher needs a pan that is at least two inches longer than the longest knife he will be using. For example if a drywall finisher is taping corners or flats with a six inch knife, he can probably get away with a ten inch pan. However if he is finish coating corner bead or butt joints using a twelve inch knife, he will probably need at least a fourteen inch pan. To skip-trowel texture using a twenty inch knife you would need at least a twenty two inch pan.
High quality mud pans sell for around ten dollars in most general supply stores. It is worth it to look for a pan made completely out of stainless steel. For most tapers who will rely on only one pan, a fourteen inch pan is a good size to choose as this will allow for finish-coating with a twelve inch knife.