Neat freaks definitely need not apply for Julian Davis's job.

Davis, 35, is a plasterer, an ancient building trade that has recently enjoyed a bit of a resurgence thanks to the development of less costly materials and techniques.

Working for Hayles and Howe Inc. in Baltimore, Davis has been intimately involved with restoring and preserving the details of such architectural masterpieces as the Hippodrome Theatre (now the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center) in Baltimore, Kansas City's Union Station and Windsor Castle in England.

Davis specializes in complex decorative projects, including molding and installing intricate wall and ceiling designs. Only a few companies in the world specialize in this sort of work, so he frequently travels.

Plasterers and stucco masons held about 59,000 jobs in 2002, the most recent numbers available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Most people learn the plaster craft through a formal apprenticeship or by working as a helper to an experienced plasterer. Davis, for instance, started in the trade with a four-year apprenticeship.

Most plasterers work for independent contractors and earn a median wage of about $16 an hour. Those with special skills, and working in areas with high demand, can make considerably more. After nearly 20 years, Davis said he still loves the work. "I like making a mess."

-- Mary Ellen Slayter

Plasterer Julian Davis at work. He has taken his crafts- manship to Windsor Castle.