Painting: Choosing a Paint Scraper

ilovebutter/flickrWhen it comes to a good paint job, nothing will improve the quality of the finished product better than solid preparation. Removing loose and peeling paint can be done with a variety of tools, most prominently the paint scraper. Although paint removal may be accomplished with power washers, sanders and grinders, they most often have to be used in combination with shavers and putty knifes – in other words, paint scrapers.

Choose your tool based on the condition and surface that you’re preparing to paint. For large areas, pressure washing is common. When done properly it can clean and remove loose material, but in nearly every case additional detail work is needed. This is where paint scraper tools excel.  

Multi-tools and Putty Knives

While generally grouped as “scrapers,” putty knives fall into a useful category for light touchup work on flat surfaces. These tools can be found in stiff or flexible models. Stiff putty knives are rigid enough to be sharpened and used a like a chisel. 

One of the more versatile “versions” of the stiff knife is a tool I learned to call a “painter’s 5-in-1” tool (also known as a “painter's tool” or an “11-in-1”). This implement is recognizable by the circular cutout in the side, which functions as a paint roller cleaner. If you are looking for a great addition to your tool box, this is great place to start. The many hats that the multi-tool wears include: Paint scraper, putty spreader, gouger, hammer, rake, opener, putty remover, paint roller cleaner, nail setter, nail puller and flat screwdriver.

Double-edge Paint Scrapers

The double-edge scraper uses a shallow U-shaped blade. Some of these scrapers have an additional round knob-type handle above the blade that can be used for adding extra force or power to the scraping stroke. These tools may be pushed or pulled. In most cases, the blade can be rotated after one side becomes dull to allow some more use before the next sharpening. 

Single-edge Scrapers

Perhaps the most specific scraper is the single edge pull type. This scraper's  basic shape resembles a large screwdriver, but where a screwdriver’s “work” end would be, is a thick, sharp blade mounted with a screw or bolt to the shaft. This blade is beveled like a chisel’s, and the sharp profile is pulled across the wall surface to scrape away the paint. Many of these tools have a wide range of removable “tips” to work more complex profiles than a simple flat surface. If you need to scrape the inside of cove molding, install a blade that will match the inside curve.  Scrape corner molding with a concave blade. The beauty of these scrapers is the wide range of blades that can be used.

Keeping Your Paint Scraper Sharp

Regardless of what type of paint stripper you use, the most effective scraper is one that is sharp -- not necessarily razor sharp, but a keen edge will allow the blade to work its magic.  The putty knife type and the double-edge type of paint scraper can often be touched up with a simple mill file.  While the simple profiles of a single-edge scraper can also be sharpened this way, the more complex profiles of the cove and concave scrapers may need specialty stones or tools to renew their edges.

Kevin Stevens writes for 

Updated September 12, 2018.

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