The Versatile 5-in-1 Painters Tool

You’ve probably heard the Craftsman’s mantra “Use the Proper Tool for the Proper Job.”

The guys who spout this wise advice are the ones who have a garage filled with every tool and gadget imaginable, from a series of immaculate razor sharp wood carving chisels to electric paint-brush spinners to pneumatic paint sprayers. I’ve talked to several of these guys, and am amazed how their skills can vary; at one end of the scale there are some who can build highly detailed works of art and craftsmanship that the masters of old would envy, while others (often the ones with the most expensive and fanciest tool sets) can’t get the roof straight on a bird house. For the rest of us, we just want to make our home as attractive as we can using the bucket full of simple tools that we’ve collected. One of the best tools to pick up is the Painters 5-in-1 tool. This simple little tool goes against so many rules of craftsmanship that you would think they should be illegal. But they are so darned useful that no tool box should be without one.

Looking at a 5-in-1 tool hanging on the hook in the home improvement center can leave the novice filled with questions. The tool looks like it was designed by someone who broke their putty knife, and I haven’t heard anything to refute that theory! The name is a little deceptive as well; if you use one for a weekend and only think of five ways to use it, you aren’t trying very hard! It is NOT the best tool for most of the jobs it will do, but it will do a good enough job at so many tasks that it is a good thing to keep in your pocket.

Lets start at the top end. The handle is usually made of hardwood or a hardened plastic, although rubberized handles are becoming “fashionable”. Look for a handle with a metal cap at the end; this is very useful for hammering lids back on paint cans. The handle will also have a hole so you can neatly hang the tool on your peg-board when not using it (but most likely you’ll just drop it in your tool-bucket.)

The blade will usually be made of stainless steel. This means that after use it can be easily washed without the worry of rusting. The metal will be a little thicker than a putty knife, so it is not as flexible. The first thing you may notice is the semi-circular notch cut from one side of the blade. This is used to squeegee excess paint from your paint rollers before cleaning.

The short section between the cutout and the end can be used as a flat-tipped screw-driver. It is not as good as a real screw driver, but it will do for light jobs like removing the covers from light switches. Its best use is removing the lids of paint-cans. (Tip: when prying off paint-can lids, go slow; lift the lid a fraction of an inch then move your tool to another spot and lift a bit more. If you pry the lid off at one point you may bend the lid and then it will never reseal properly.)

The straight end of the tool will be sharpened like a chisel, but not to the razor sharpness of a carving tool. This makes the tool an effective scraper for removing old paint, cleaning paint from windows, cutting masking tape or scraping caulk. Because it is not overly sharp the tool can be used as a spreader for spackle or glue. If a finer edge is needed the tool can be easily sharpened with a few licks from a file (or even a piece of new sand-paper held on a hard, flat surface).

On the opposite edge of the end from the flat-tip will be point or pick. This can be used for widening cracks for repair, or cleaning the muck out of the grooves in the paint-can before putting the lid back on. Some of the tools will have a teardrop shaped hole in the blade; this is a useful nail-puller. Some 5-in-1 tools will have cutouts for various sized nuts and bolts. The tool is simply not strong enough for you to use these wrenches to work on your car, but they can be very useful for the fittings on an airless paint-sprayer.

With any tool that has a cutting edge, caution and care are called for in their use. Just because the edge on your 5-in-1 tool may not be very sharp, it is sharp enough to cause ugly and painful wounds. be sure to remember that even though it is an easy tool to carry in the hip pocket of your painting pants, the end sticking out can do damage, especially to your wifes favorite sofa!


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