Wagner PaintEater - Review
We're pretty vocal about our dislike (hatred, really) of painting. We're happy to spend 10 hours shaping a piece of wood, but for some reason we don't have the patience to paint it. And if painting isn't bad enough, there's scraping to think about. If painting is like getting your fingernail pulled off, scraping is like being drawn and quartered. So when we heard about Wagner's new PaintEater, we dove at the opportunity to test one out and see if it makes the unbearable at least somewhat bearable.
First, about the tool. The PaintEater is about the size of a coffee can. It's got an adjustable Velcro hand strap around the main grip as well as a secondary handle that can retract back up to the body of the tool when not in use. The handle, when in the down or up position, locks in place preventing any slipping or unexpected movement. The on-off switch has a nice dust protected cover over it and is located in a convenient spot. At the bottom of the tool is the brillo-like pad that does the actual paint eating. The pad is a bit hard to describe, it reminds us more of a sea creature than anything else. It's much more rigid than a brillo, but there is a bit of a give to it. The disc can be easily removed with an arbor stop and a twist of the pad. The tool is pretty light (3.8 lbs), so there should be no problem spending a day on a ladder with it.
Since none of our friends have houses that need scraping, for our test we went to the workshop to find an old, old piece of corner board or something left over from some long finished renovation. Our only requirement when looking for a piece was that it be ancient and have multiple coats of equally ancient paint on it. The piece we settled on was cedar (pictured below), a particularly soft wood, which we liked because it would also test Wagner's claim that the tool is aggressive on paint, but gentle on the substrate.
So we got our board and we fired up the PaintEater. Immediately, we were a bit shocked at how much power this little tool has. When we first put it to the board, we could barely control it. We got the technique down pretty quickly though and spent the next 25 seconds watching old paint simply vanish from our board. There's no other way to describe it, the paint was just atomized. We figured the tool would be good, but not this good. And once we got the hang of it, we had no problem maneuvering the PaintEater around and getting this spot or that spot and actually being quite precise with it. And as advertised, the cedar remained in near perfect condition.
The board we chose also had a little cove on one side. We wanted to see how the tool would do on a contoured surface, simulating profiled window trim or a nice rake board. While grinding the paint off of the cove there was some very minimal wood removal, but nothing that would be noticed from more than a few feet away. If you're particular about these things, you may want to switch over to traditional scraping for the really delicate parts of your house.
We tried the tool out on a few more boards and the results were the same. After about a half hour, the abrasive disc showed no signs of wear and little signs of clogging. The tool just kept chowing through the paint like it was at a free buffet.
But nothing is perfect and the Wagner PaintEater is no exception. There are a few things about the tool that we aren't all that fond of. First, the cord is a miniscule 10 inches, so an extension cord is mandatory, which is no problem, but with such a piddly cord, the connection is going to be right up at the tool. If you're safe about things, you'll square knot the connection, moving it up even further towards the body of the PaintEater. Now, being on a ladder and working over your head and switching the tool from hand to hand, you've got this cord connection to deal with at head level. Tiny cords are something of a pet peeve with us and we don't see any reason for having to deal with the annoyance. Did an additional two feet of cord break the manufacturing budget?
Secondly, there is no dust collection system for the tool, which is fine for working on the side of a house (you'll still have to wear a dust mask though), but it doesn't bode well for using the PaintEater as a shop tool (unless you get really creative with the Shop Vac). When using the tool, the dust spray was pretty impressive, so make sure to do all the appropriate lead paint research before you have at your old house.
These complaints may just be us. If you're buying the tool you might have no intention of using it in a shop and who knows if the cord thing bothers you as much as it does us. The bottom line is that this is a great tool that really does what it says it's going to do, and it does it quickly. It's no wonder that it has attained the Contactor Recommended Seal from the Handyman Club of America. We see this tool knocking, literally, days and days off of a house painting project.
The Wagner PaintEater retails for about $75 and comes with one pad (no case). If you're going to be doing your house this summer, that $75 will save you about a thousand dollars of time and frustration. The one thing that we didn't get a feel of is how long the abrasive pads last. They sell for about $15 apiece, so at that price, we figure that they last a little while. Also, there is currently a deal where Wagner is throwing in an extra disc with the purchase of a PaintEater.
Watch Wagner's video of the PaintEater in action.
Available at Amazon.com
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at July 11, 2007 5:52 AM