As a blacksmith, I often find myself needing to clear away scale or rust on a piece of work. There are a lot of options when it comes to removing this scale, for larger projects, I tend to use a good needle scaler gun.
These tools are great for quickly removing large flakey chunks of mill scale and rust. They handle irregular surfaces well, and are the most efficient way to clear this junk off in many cases.
These tools save you from the tedium of using a hammer and chisel, and are much cheaper/easier than sandblasting. I also find that they have better control than wire wheels or grinding discs.
Most needle scaler guns are pneumatic, meaning they used compressed air. There are also electric varieties available, but the pneumatic needle scaler guns have some advantages over the electric needle scalers. For example, most pneumatic needle scaler guns that I have personally seen are both cheaper and lighter than the electric variety.
The downside to both is that they are very noisy. There is no quiet way to quickly remove rust when you are pummeling it with metal needles. They can also be “Too-much-tool” for projects that just have a thin coat of surface rust, or are composed of softer materials. They can also leave impact marks, so doing a test run on a similar surface may be a wise idea to avoid any surprises. In some cases I actually want these impact marks and will use a needle scaler to texture my work.
Quick Picks: Which needle scaler should you buy?
While I go more in depth later on in the article, I know some people just want my top picks ASAP. So here they are:
How Do Needle Scaler Guns Work?
A needle gun pounds a set of fine chisels known as needles into the workpiece at 2000-6000 times per minute (with most guns falling at around 4000). This causes the surface gunk to chip off.
Pneumatic needle scaler guns will need to be hooked up to a compressor. Check the owners manual or the specs of your needle scaler to ensure you have the proper setup.
Electric needle scaler guns will need to be plugged into an electricity source.
It’s pretty straight forward as far as tools go.
Needle Scaler Gun Tips and Tricks
Like all machines, friction and heat cause wear and tear with use. Most people I know make sure to oil their needle guns before using them. This is especially important if you buy a more expensive needle scaler…I mean what’s the point of buying a higher quality tool (to avoid headache) if you are just going to abuse it?
Other than oil, I would recommend holding the gun at a 45 degree angle to the work. You don’t want to blast your piece at an angle, as you may end up with a more uneven finish. Sometimes this can’t be helped, so make sure to use your eyes and guide the needle scaler with common sense.
Finally, just make sure to use basic ergonomic knowledge. Don’t hold the gun far away from your body, use your big muscles, work in a balanced athletic stance, and make sure not to press down too hard on your work surface. Start the needle scaler BEFORE you make contact with the work surface.
Needle Scaler Gun Uses
As I said earlier, I primarily use this tool for texturing blacksmithing work and for removing forging scale. I have however seen this tool use in conjunction with many other projects, projects such as:
- needle scaler to remove mill scale
- needle scaler to remove slag
- needle scaler to remove rust
- needle scaler to clean or texture sheet metal
- needle scaler clean or texture thin metal
- needle scaler on wood – careful with this one, wood is very soft
- needle scaler on aluminum
- needle scaler pool tile – be wary of dust
- needle scaler to remove undercoating – be wary of dust
- needle scaler for texture
- needle scaler for weld spatter
- needle scaler masonry – be wary of dust
- needle scaler on stone – be wary of dust
- needle scaler for welding slag
- needle scaler for paint removal on metallic surfaces – be wary of dust
- needle scaler for cleaning up welds
- needle scaler for pool – be wary of dust
- needle scaler for stone – be wary of dust
- Needle scaler for removing rust on boats that have had contact with salt water – very useful for naval applications.
It’s too difficult for me to go over all these use cases in depth, I don’t have the expertise to do so, and it would make this article insufferably long. Because of this, I can’t vouch for the safety/efficacy of all these use cases, so make sure to look into the safety and health risks for each of these on your own
Needle Scaler Attachments and Accessories
Needle scaler guns are for the most part self-contained tools. You will need an air compressor or an electric outlet depending on what type of scaler you buy. There are a number of accessories such as gloves, noise reducers, and respirators that can make your use of needle scalers safer and more comfortable.
Heavy Duty Work Gloves – Needle Scaler Guns Vibrate!
As the title indicates, it can be handy to have a pair of heavy duty anti vibration gloves when using a needle scaler. These tools really shake up your hands and your fingers will most definitely be tingling by the end of your work session. A good pair of gloves will keep your hands happy and healthy.
Hearing protection, Needle Scaler Guns Are Very Loud
Needle scaler guns are incredibly loud tools and prolong use can damage your hearing. I can’t tell you how many older craftsman I know who have hearing troubles. Their lack of hearing is a cause of great suffering as it denies them the basic human ability to communicate.
Luckily this is an avoidable problem. There are many great noise reduction headphones out on the market. There is really no excuse for not using hearing protection. Your spouse, your kids, and your grandkids will thank you later down the line when they are able to converse with you without having to yell!
As Benjamin Franklin once so wisely wrote, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Saftey Glasses For When You Use A Needle Scaler Gun
Needle scaler guns are wonderful tools for quickly chipping off paint, scale, slag, and rust. But all that material has to go somewhere while the scaler is in use. Make sure that debris doesn’t go in your eyes by using a good pair of safety glasses.
Replacement Needles And Needle Scaler Repair Kits For Scaler Guns
While I have found that the needles that come with most scaler guns last for a long time, you may at some point have to replace them. This is pretty easy to do and I really wouldn’t overthink it. You can get some here
Dust when in use
Many applications of needle scalers will create a large clouds of dust. Make sure you know or look up the toxicity of any particles that you may be kicking up in your shop. Work in a well ventilated area and use a respirator with fresh filters if necessary. Don’t be a tough guy, make sure to take care of your eyes and lungs.
Dust masks and respirators really don’t cost that much in the grand scheme of things, at the very least they cost significantly less than the healthcare required to try and fix damaged lungs.
I strongly recommend all metal workers who do a lot of grinding to get a full face respirator with p100 filters. A flimsy dust mask does not cut it for most metal work and this is one piece of equipment worth paying up for. I personally like this air filter and this facepiece.
It may be overkill for small jobs, but I honestly can’t think of any job or project on planet earth that is worth sacrificing my lungs and health for.
Best 4 Needle Scaler Gun – Review
Alright, alright, enough talking already! Which needle scaler should you buy? The most honest answer is the dreaded “it depends.” But I know that’s not a helpful answer so I went ahead and rounded up 4 scaler guns that I think will cover most situations. Everyone shopping for this tool will have different needs, and ultimately you will have to decide which is best for your specific situation.
This needle scaler comes with a number of features that make it stand out from its competitors. It has an adjustable bayonet-type needle housing which make it SIGNIFICANTLY easier to make small adjustments without needing to use special tools.
This needle scaler also allows a choice of up to three needle materials. This allows you to use the right tools for the right job and makes it easier to select the right needle material for your surface. Easy and quick customizability is the name of the game with this needle scaler gun.
These 19 needles are ⅛-Inch (3.2 mm) and fire at a rate of 4600 blows per minute ensuring that you can quickly descale your work and move on to the higher yield creative work that gets you up on the morning.
This tool has a rubber faced throttle valve, and is tested and approved in accordance to the military specification 23492a (ships).
Finally we have the pneumatic specs. This tool has an air consumption of 15CFM, and an air inlet size of ¼ in.
Overall all this is a high quality durable tool that is sold at a great price.
If you don’t believe me, just check out the number of 5 star reviews. Many happy users of this tool have taken the time out of their day to provide feedback and to review this tool. It works great for a large number of applications.
But it can’t all be good, after all EVERYTHING has tradeoffs. So what are some of the negative aspects of this tool? Well for starters, it’s a bit heavier than some other options weighing in at 6 pounds. This makes it more durable, but it may be too heavy for comfort if you are going to be using this for long stretches of time. It is also about 16” long, which may be too large and cumbersome in situations where there is limited space.
This is my number one pick for someone who is not on a strict budget! You can conveniently get one on amazon.
It’s possible that the previous needle scaler gun was “too much.” Too much power, too much weight, too expensive. Don’t worry there is a tool for you too.
This little beauty comes with a smaller frame in the shape of a pistol grip. This scaler gun has a lightweight aluminum housing that is designed for comfort and makes it easier to hold for long periods of time. Unlike the previous needle scaler, this pistol grip needle gun is much easier to hold in cramped positions where you do not have a lot of room to work.
It also comes with slightly less power which is appropriate for many applications. It has 19 3mm needles that hit your projects at 3000 blows per minute.
Finally, this needle scaler gun is quite a bit cheaper than the previous one examined. If you just need a small scaler for a one off project, this is the perfect tool for you!
There is no sense in waiting for the heat death of the universe, get yours here.
Maybe you need a needle scaler gun with a little more oomph. If this is the case then I have one more needle scaler to show you. This little beauty has a heat treated piston and cylinder which enables it to endure heavier workloads.
It has 12 3/4in diameter high tension steel needles that will chew through your toughest projects. These needles are 3 x 7-inches long
In addition to it’s higher duty needles, it strikes with an astonishing 5000 BPM ½-inch piston stroke.
It comes with a little higher price tag, but depending on the project you have in mind, this japanese made needle scaler may be the right tool for your job.
Get yours today.
Best Needle Scaler Guns For Beginners
I’m throwing this in here as my research shows this is a question people ask…but to be honest a needle scaler gun is a needle scaler gun. There is no “best for beginners”. Just assess your budget and how much power you need and go ahead and buy the appropriate scaler gun.
Needle Scaler Guns For A Blacksmith
As I mentioned earlier, I use this tool for blacksmithing projects. These tools can remove forge scale and leave a nice texture that I like for some of my projects. I should stress that IT DOES leave impact marks…so keep that in mind if you are considering it for your projects.
It’s also great for cleaning up all the rusty junk that seems to accumulate in my workshop.
Best Electric Needle Scaler
I should warn you that you will pay for the convenience of electricity. I have found that electric scaler guns tend to be quite a bit more expensive than the compressed air variety. You can check out some of the electric ones on amazon
This needle scaler operates on the standard 120v current and has a powerful 300 watt double insulated motor. It features an extended length slim barrel design and weighs in at a heavy duty 12.7 lb.
title image source.