Here’s the situation: I’m stranded on a desert island. I can only take one tool with me. Would I take a knife? Or a magnifying glass? How about a leatherman’s tool? Nope. I would take this:

What the heck is that thing?

They call it a five-in-one. Or a six-in-one. Or a painter’s tool. It doesn’t really have a fixed name. I know it doesn’t look like much. But this simple tool has given me more value than any other three tools combined.

It has an endless number of uses. For tradespeople, DIYers, or homeowners, it’s an indispensable tool. Below, I show the 10 most important uses for this tool. Stick around, because I consider the last one to be the most important one. In the meantime, here are a couple of Amazon links for painter’s tools:


Let’s get going on uses for the painter’s tool!

Mostly, people call this thing a painter’s tool, so here are some painting functions.

1. Cleaning Paint Rollers

Amazingly enough, paint rollers can carry more than a half a pint of paint in the nap! Even when you’re done rolling, a lot of the paint is still in there. Painters use this tool to squeeze out this excess paint. Here’s how: Hold the rounded notch tightly against one end the roller. Do this over the paint can. Squeeze and scrape the painter’s tool downward. Repeat, around the rest of the roller. (Here’s how much paint can come out of a loaded roller:

Ethan cleaning roller with painters tool

Ethan cleans the roller with his painter’s tool.

After you scrape the roller, rinse it in water. Scrape it again. Repeat as necessary. By the way, this works for both full-sized rollers and mini rollers. It’s a great way to prolong the life of your painting tools.

2. Use Painter’s Tool To Open Cans

The little flat head on the end of the scraper is great for prying up paint lids. It’s extremely easy to slot it in. Then, give the handle a little pry and lift the lid a bit. Work the tool around the rim like a can opener. The lid lifts off with ease.

Ethan opens paint can with painters tool

Ethan opens a paint can with the painter’s tool.

3. Hammer Your Paint Cans Closed

Most painter’s tools come with a little metal butt on the end of the handle. Primarily, use this is to hammer down paint can lids.

Closeup of Painter's Tool, showing striker

Closeup of Painter’s Tool, showing striker on handle

But, don’t use it for other types of hammering. Certainly not driving nails! It doesn’t have the mass or the accuracy for that.

4. Use Your Painter’s Tool for Scraping

This is a really big one. Paint scraping. The blade of the tool is very thin. Just over 1/16″ (about 1.6mm). The end of the blade has a wide beveled edge, which is quite sharp.

painter's tool shown scraping paint

Painter’s tool shown scraping paint from a board

.This feature makes this the ultimate paint scraping tool. Turn the bevel facedown. Then drive it forward at a low angle. You can scrape away even the most stubborn paint chips.

Alternatively, use the back edge, at a steeper angle. Push down hard and drag the edge toward you. The pressure and friction will plow up loose paint.

5. Caulk, too! You May Have To Use the Dagger

Also use the tool to remove caulk from interior and exterior trim. Be sure to not dig too deeply. If you’re not careful, you can scrape up the underlying wood.

Dagger point of painter's tool

Closeup of dagger point of painter’s tool

If you’re having a hard time loosening the caulk, scrape with the sharp dagger point. Then go back to using the edge. This method works on inside trim corners. There, you have two surfaces intersecting at an angle.

Keep in mind this doesn’t have to just be for paint removal. Use it carve out dirt, grime, or nearly anything else trapped in corner.

6. Spread Putty With Your Painter’s Tool

The beveled face is also excellent for use as a putty knife. Use it to trowel spackle, wood filler, or even Bondo. The wide blade creates a lot of surface area to carry your filler. And, the sharp edge gives you a sturdy point of control.

using a painter's to putty holes

Using a painter’s to fill holes with putty

Remember to clean the tool off when you’re done! Bondo and other putties really harden when they cure.

As a Carpenter, I Use a Painter’s Tool, Too.

I’m a professional carpenter. I don’t paint all that often. Yet, I always have a painter’s tool with me in my tool belt. Here’s why:

7. Pulling Small Nails

Some models now come with a teardrop opening near the bevel. This is for pulling small nails. First, hook the wide part of the hole over the nail head. Pull it snugly into the small end of the teardrop.

prying a small nail

Prying a small nail with a painter’s tool.

Now, pry up gently. Note, this is only effective for small fasteners in soft woods. It doesn’t have enough leverage to pull out large fasteners. However, it can help you pull out large fasteners. Here’s how:

8. Surface Protection

Hammers are the handiest tools for pulling nails. But, never pry too hard on vulnerable surfaces, like trim or drywall. As you can imagine, these materials damage easily. To avoid this damage, slide something thin and hard between hammer and the material. Guess what works great for this?!

hammer prying nail

Protecting a surface with a painter’s tool

Grab the nail head with your hammer’s claws. Then, slip the painter’s tool underneath the hammer head. This gives you a flat surface to absorb much of the force of pulling the nail.

9. Light Chiseling

And, I do mean light chiseling! Again, I wouldn’t use this tool for heavy chiseling work. But, if I already have my painter’s tool out, I sometimes use it. For instance, splitting wood or breaking apart soft materials during minor demolition. The tool is pretty tough and can take some abuse.

Note, for major demolition, I switch to my large (demolition) screwdriver. Here’s a whole video I did on that tool:

10. Prying Apart Materials

During a renovation, controlled demolition is the key to saving money. You must preserve reusable materials. But, most demolition tools work by brute force. They’re blunt and heavy. Plus, they leave a lot of scarring on the materials they come in contact with.

The five-in-one or painters tool is the most delicate demolition tool ever invented. It’s incredibly thin, but it’s also extremely stiff. That means that you can wedge or tap it into the tiniest crevice. Without causing damage to the material on either side! I can’t explain how invaluable this is to a professional carpenter.

prying apart materials

Prying apart column boards during demolition

When I remove trim of any kind or pry two materials apart, I start with my painter’s tool. With my hammer, I lightly tap the tool into the crevice. Then, when it’s partially driven, I apply prying force. I carefully work those materials apart.

I have large pry bars and tiny trim pry bars. They’re great for various phases of demolition. But they’re all too thick to drive into a small gap. They bruise the surfaces where you’re working. So, in these cases, start with your painter’s tool. Save time and money!

Another Helpful Video

If you will be removing and re-installing interior trim, you need to watch this video:

Thanks for reading. I’m Ross James with The Honest Carpenter.

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