Every surface has some sort of finish. Some surfaces have finishes that are intentionally applied, like a clear coat, paint, or a rust preventative. In the case of the two latter options, sometimes these remain on longer than desired or need to be removed and replaced from time to time.

To do that, or simply to prepare a surface for a new coat of paint or a rust preventing agent, you need to remove the old surface. Occasionally you might even be tasked with removing rust that has accumulated from the surface of sheet metal or other exposed metalwork.

This is what scraper tools like paint scrapers, and other abrading tools were made for. Here are some of the most common of them, along with some of their defining features and general utility.

Paint Scrapers

Paint scrapers should not be confused with putty knives (see below) despite the fact that they are both used, quite literally, as paint scrapers.

This type of scraper is a specialized tool, often with a wooden handle, with a shank and a specialized head that can be used for removing paint from a surface. Here at John Stortz & Son, we sell a number of specialized paint scrapers with distinct features that make it easier for you to remove paint in a very precise manner.

Triangle Paint Scrapers:

As their name suggests, triangle paint scrapers consist of a tool with a wooden handle and a metal shank; at the end of the shank there is a triangular blade, sharply pointed at the ends and sharpened along the edges.

Our triangular paint scrapers are available in five different sizes and are precision engineered to be superior tools. For one thing, our carbon steel blades are finely ground and are sharper than other tools commonly used for paint scraping, like putty knives. We call them “virtually indestructible,” because they are, and their heads will not loosen like scrapers that have replaceable or interchangeable blades. It’s a simple tool, for a simple function, but it does its job well.

The triangular scraper is useful for removing paint from flat surfaces because it has three flat edges, which can easily be resharpened when they wear down. However, triangular scrapers can be useful for precise paint removal because their corners can reach into seams and divots where there might be paint that you need to scrape out.

One variant of a triangular scraper that deserves a mention is the 351-A triangular scraper with one rounded corner pictured below:

These types of scrapers carry the same basic benefits of triangular scrapers but with a mitigated risk of damaging the material from which you’re removing the paint. The best thing about this particular scraper is that the rounded end can be used to reach into concave regions of a surface in order to extract the paint; a sharpened, pointed corner would not be as effective.

Square Ended Scrapers:

Square ended scrapers have the same basic construction as triangular scrapers, with a hardwood handle and a carbon steel shank with a head fitting to the top. The only real difference between the two is that the square scrapers have four edges that meet at right angle corners instead of three edges and three points.

Like triangular scrapers, square scrapers have keenly sharpened, flat edges that are highly effective at removing paint from flat surfaces. However, since the corners of the square scrapers meet at right angles, these can be more effective at removing paint from square corners completely and cleanly. The only thing to keep in mind here (as with other scrapers with pointed ends) is that careless use can score or gouge the surface on which you are working.

Oval Scrapers:

Theoretically, a fully oval paint scraper would have only rounded edges. However, since this would be useful for very few surfaces, our oval paint scraper has an oval edge on one side that curves around to a tapered point behind it.

As has been described, the pointed edge of this scraper is highly useful for reaching into corners and along furrows where paint might have accumulated but needs to be removed.

As far as the oval portion of the blade can be concerned, it is useful for scraping out concave surfaces. A flat blade would be highly impractical and inefficient for this, so if you expect to have to remove paint from an inwardly-curved surface, it’s useful to have an oval or round paint scraper on hand. Otherwise, you’ll have to resort to a flexible abrasive like sandpaper, steel wool or a wire brush for paint removal, all of which create hazardous dust and are not as effective.

Half Oval Scrapers:

Our half oval scraper brings together just about all of the best features of a paint scraper into one design and is highly utilitarian. One side of the head is curved; it is a half oval, which is very useful for removing paint from concave surfaces. Just like our other oval scraper, one side of the head is tapered to a point, so you can reach into hard-to-access areas to get the paint out

What really makes this scraper useful is the fact that on one side of the oval there is a flat edge, which makes this type of scraper useful for removing paint from flat surfaces as well. Like our other scrapers, this one has blades that come sharp but can easily be resharpened, making it useful and effective in almost any situation.

Round/Square Scrapers:

Our round and square paint scraper, like our other “combination” scrapers, is useful in a few different situations. As it has a flat section of blade, it’s perfect for removing paint from flat, even surfaces. It’s also ideal for removing paint from curved surfaces due to the rounded section of the blade.

In addition to being able to categorize paint scrapers in this manner, we sell paint scrapers in a variety of sizes, making them more or less efficient, given the needs of the paint removal job at hand.

For example, our 18” Heavy Duty Triangle Paint Scraper is basically the same in design as our smaller triangular paint scrapers, but with much larger, broader blades to remove paint more efficiently from a large surface area.

This large tool is also bigger and tougher, so in the event that you accidentally hit a nailhead that has been covered with paint, you’ll be able to mark it and thus save your more delicate scrapers. This comes in handy if you’ve sharpened your smaller tools more finely – it prevents chipping and rapid dulling in your smaller tools. Some of our customers have commented that the larger paint scraper is better for the first “pass” at removing paint from a surface.

Something else to keep in mind with our paint scrapers is that, unlike sanders and wire brushes that are sometimes used for paint removal, the flat faces of our scrapers will not score or otherwise damage wood and other soft surfaces when used properly. These types of scrapers, as they produce minimal dust, are safer to use and more effective overall than sanders and wire brushes.

Paint Scrapers vs. Putty Knives

While some may call putty knives paint scrapers, it’s important to be able to identify the difference between them.

Designated paint scrapers are highly specialized tools that are specifically engineered to be effective and practical for removing paint from surfaces. You can see what these generally look like from the picture at the top of this article.

Some people use putty knives for the same purpose, but putty knives are not as effective at removing paint. Putty knives, unlike paint scrapers, are made with thin, flat, wedge shaped blades attached to a plastic or wooden handle. The image below shows a picture of a putty knife.

This picture brings up another interesting point. As you can see, the image is of a person applying, not removing, material. Putty knives are actually used to spread caulk, spackle or even paint, or for applying other materials to a surface.

For this reason, they are typically not sharpened, which severely limits their ability as scraping tools. Some putty knives are actually made with flimsy plastic blades. While these are perfectly acceptable for spreading and leveling spackle, they are decidedly unhelpful for scraping or removing paint.

For that reason, while a putty knife is better than nothing at all for a home improvement project requiring paint removal, a scraper or a scraper set is a much better, much more wisely chosen option.

Other Scraping and Paint Removal Tools

In addition to designated paint scrapers, we also recognize that some people use the following hand tools as alternatives to the specialized devices we categorized above. While they can have functional applications, in most scenarios a specially designed scraper is a better option.

Wire Brushes, Steel Wool and Sandpaper

It’s a fairly common practice to use wire brushes, both manually operated and powered, along with steel wool and sandpaper to remove paint from a surface. However, while these methods can be effective in certain situations, caution should be practiced when using these abrasive methods instead of an edged blade, be it a single edged or a double edged scraper.

For one thing, whether you are using a power tool or a hand tool, you have to exercise very particular care because sandpaper, wire brushes and steel wool (which is not effective for paint removal anyway) are all very likely to damage the surface on which you are working. Tile, sheet metal, stone, wood, plastic and other surfaces can be badly damaged from contact with these abrasive materials.

The other thing to remember is that wire brushes, in particular, need to be fastidiously cleaned in order to remain effective. If not, they will soon lose their ability to strip material effectively. Allowing paint chips or moisture to remove in the brush will also cause many of them to rust.

Additionally, when you use an abrasive to remove paint, instead of a specialized scraper, you will create hazardous dust, regardless of the care you exercise. This dust will not only make cleanup much more laborious, but it can also pose a health risk, as particulate, dried paint can be highly toxic. Take very special care to observe all safe practices and protect your mucous membranes, eyes and lungs when you remove paint in this manner.

Our specialized scrapers do produce some fine material, but they do not produce as much paint dust as abrasive removal methods, so it’s not as much of a concern with most bladed scrapers.

Razor Blade Scrapers and Utility Knives

There are other methods for pain removal as well, but some of these are not practical for industrial use. For example, some people use razor blade scrapers and utility knives to strip paint from surfaces.

A utility knife with a razor blade will remove paint, but it only removes a little bit at a time, requires precise control over the tool, and you need to exercise great care and caution so you don’t damage the material you work with.

As for razor blade scrapers, these are highly useful, but they only remove a little bit of paint at a time, the angle at which the blade contacts the surface is difficult to control, and worst of all, these blades work themselves loose over time. While practical, they are not as efficient as larger, purpose-built scrapers.

Contact Us for More Information

Still want to learn more about how specially designed paint scrapers are simply the best paint removal tools out there? Give a member of our team a call at 888-847-3456 and we’d be happy to fill you in on some of the fine points of paint removal. We’d call it a job well done if you end the conversation with your sights set on a brand new scraper or set of scrapers!

By the way, while you’re here, don’t miss our other specialized paint and wall scrapers – they’re highly useful for removing mortar, caulk, gum, putty and other residue from floors and walls. Depending on the walls or floors, they can even be useful for paint removal!