A Heavy-Duty Paint Scraper from Spring Steel

If store-bought scrapers aren't tough enough for your paint-removal project, give these DIY paint scrapers made from salvaged carbon spring steel a try, and increase your pace to 15 square feet per hour.

| July/August 1983

Our splendid 100-year-old house was badly in need of paint, but apparently had never been scraped down to its original varnish stain finish, making an already distasteful task a nearly impossible one! Worse yet, the small removable blades in the paint scrapers I bought for the job were rendered useless after ten minutes' work. Even by replacing them regularly, the best scraping pace I could muster was only two or three square feet per hour. 

So rather than waste my time using ineffective tools, I decided to invest it by designing my own heavy-duty paint scraper to suit the circumstances. I knew that my homemade paint scrapers would have to be nail-tough to stand up to the abuse I was sure to put them through. At the same time, they'd have to be capable of taking repeated sharpenings (so that I could spruce them up between bouts). 

The best—and least expensive—raw material I could think of was the carbon steel used in automobile leaf springs. Accordingly, I went on a short foray through the local scrap yard, which rewarded me with a 2 1/4" × 28" spring steel arc that looked just about perfect for the tools I had in mind. 

Since I had to deal with both flat, exposed surfaces (such as trim and windowsills) and hard-to-get-at joint areas (the lower edges and upper faces of my lapstrake weatherboard), I needed to make two different kinds of paint scrapers. Using my gas torch, I first cut the salvaged leaf into two 2 1/4" × 14" pieces, then shaped handles in those sections by narrowing their sides and rounding their butts, as shown in the diagram. 

Once I'd accomplished this, I tackled the business end of each of these paint stripping tools. I wanted the first paint scraper to be fairly conventional, so I just heated its square end about 1 1/4 inch from the tip and bent the metal to form a 1" lip that was about 90° to the inside of the leaf's natural arc. It was a simple matter to grind a 60° bevel into the face of this lip, and sharpen the rear face slightly to establish a fine cutting edge. 

After I'd formed and sharpened the blade, I heated it to a cherry red color and quenched it in water to harden the steel. Then, to temper the material—i.e., remove its brittleness while still retaining its hardness—I reheated the tool in the kitchen oven at 300 to 400°F. When the new implement assumed a light to medium straw color, I took it from the cooker and let it cool in the air. 

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