By Roberto Ramirez
Last year one of my remodeling projects involved stripping the paint off a large area of wood siding. It was the perfect job for trying out Metabo's LF 724 Paint Remover — because I really didn't want to do the work with a heat gun and a scraper.
The tool I tested was the second-generation model of a product that came out in the 1990s. Designed to remove paint and other finishes from flat wood surfaces, it consists of a motor, an aluminum base, and a cutter head that contains carbide blades — two on the bottom and two on the sides. To use the tool, you place it against the surface and move it around while the blades plane off the finish.
Metabo LF 724 Specs
Weight (including cord): 6.6 pounds
Speed: 10,000 rpm
Motor: 6 amps
Cord length: 13.5 feet
Street price: $379
Blades: 10 for $40
Operation and Features Metabo's LF 724 has four four-sided carbide blades: two on the bottom of the head (left) and two on the sides (right). The side blades are staggered high and low on the head and are normally hidden behind spring-loaded plastic doors.
You can adjust the bottom blades' depth-of-cut by locking the spindle and using a spanner wrench to turn a screw on the tool's head. An arrow — also on the head — points to a scale that indicates how deep the blades will cut. The blades can be set to cut between 0 and .3 mm deep — about three times the thickness of a dollar bill.
For this particular job, we had to remove six to eight layers of oil and latex paint from redwood siding, some of which was cupped. It was more material than the tool could remove in a single pass, so we made multiple passes at the deepest setting and then, when we got down to the wood, reset the drum for a shallower final cut.
The tool worked best when we moved it back and forth as if it were an orbital sander. The blades planed cleanly but left swirl marks that had to be sanded with medium-grit paper.
According to Metabo, the LF 724 removes paint 70 percent faster than other methods. Although I can't vouch for that number, I can say that the tool removes paint much faster than you can remove it by heating and scraping — and there's no need to constantly clean and sharpen a scraper.
Dust collection. By connecting a powerful vac to the hose adapter at the rear of the tool's base, we were able to collect virtually all the fine dust created during the paint's removal. Many of the larger chips escaped, but they were heavy enough to simply fall to the ground, where we could collect them on drop cloths. Even though there was almost no dust in the air, I wore a mask. I didn't want to breathe any lead.
If I owned this tool, I'd buy a smaller, lighter hose than the one I normally use with my vac. My hose threw the tool out of balance and occasionally got in the way.
The hose adaptor accepts a standard 1 1/4-inch hose fitting. To change the depth-of-cut, the author raises or lowers the head by locking the spindle and using a spanner wrench to turn a screw in the bottom of the tool.
Side cutters. The two side blades are staggered high and low on opposite edges of the cutter head, allowing you to cut a 1-inch strip along the inside of a corner. I didn't like the side cutters: We never needed them, and the doors that cover them are flimsy. It was only a few weeks before one of the three doors broke off, leaving a spinning blade exposed along the side of the tool.
Blades. I used to own a rotary stripper that took abrasive disks; they worked fine on oil but quickly gummed up on latex. The Metabo, by contrast, works well on all kinds of paint. It took multiple passes with the LF 724 to remove the thick paint buildup on this siding (left). The freshly planed surface is smooth but will require some sanding to remove the swirl marks left by the cutters (right).
The carbide blades are four-sided, which means that when an edge gets dull you can switch to a new one. We removed about 250 square feet of paint and had to flip the blades only once. They would have lasted even longer if we hadn't run over nails we'd missed setting before we stripped paint. Hitting these nails chipped — but didn't break — the blades.
Using the LF 724 is much faster than heating and scraping. The tool is powerful and — except for the flimsy doors over the side cutters — well-made. And it does a good job collecting fine dust (though not large chips). For those reasons, I've decided that the next time I'm faced with having to strip a lot of paint from a flat surface, I'll probably go out and buy one of my own.
Roberto Ramirez is a remodeler in Moraga, Calif. A vacuum can be attached to the tool to collect fine dust, but many of the larger chips will escape and fall to the ground, where they can — and should — be collected on a drop cloth.
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