Air needle scalers are used for metal surface preparation. It is one of many other percussion tools mainly used to remove old paint, rust, dirt and weld slag from metal surfaces.
It’s used heavily in shipyards for cleaning off hardened dirt and rust from large iron ships that comes to the yard. They’re also used for cleaning and maintenance of tractor parts.
Welders use it for cleaning and removing welding slag, and autobody repair shops use it for removing old paint from rusted auto parts like chassis and for carrying out other metal surface preparation tasks.
An air needle scaler can also be called a needlegun scaler. Although there’re electric needle scalers, I’ve covered the pneumatic or air powered ones in this article.
Table of Contents
How it works
The needle scaler comprises a set of very fine chisels which are known as the needles. When connected to a compressed air source, the tool forces these needles against the metal surface it’s applied on at variable speeds up to around 5000 times per minutes measured in BPM (Bumps Per Minute).
These needles moving at these speeds force chips of every dirt, rust and old paint off the surface. We’ve reviewed several models in this article with each of them offering different numbers of needles, operating speeds and power levels.
There are other methods of scaling or removing rust, old paint and other foreign materials off the surface of metal, but the needle scaler has advantage over the rest because each of the needles adjusts itself to the contours of the material being cleaned, which makes it ideal for scaling irregular surfaces.
Before using it on any surface however, it’s important to prepare the surface first by removing any greese, chemicals, oil and any water-soluble contaminants.
This you can do with solvents or a combination of fresh water and ditergent.
To start scaling the surface, hold it at an angle of 45 degrees to the work surface and work it across the surface, taking care not to cover too large an area at once.
About 2 or 3 passes over a 6 or 8 inch area is usually enough to clean that area. Then you can move on to another area and so on.
When using it however, you should wear gloves and a suitable eye protection as the needle scaler can cause the rusts or weld slags to fly everywhere randomly.
What to Consider When Choosing an Air Needle Scaler
Here’s what you should consider before choosing a pneumatic needle scaler for your projects
Type of handle or grip
One of the first things most pros consider when choosing an air needle scaler is the type of handle it comes with.
There are two types of handles you’ll have to choose from. A pistol grip handle, and a straight handle. These two handle types offer different advantages and disadvantages.
Pistol grip handles are generally easier to hold, and it’s fairly easy to apply more pressure on the surface you’re preparing while using one with a pistol grip handle. On the other hand, they’re often larger, heavier and can be quite difficult to use in tight spaces, like under your truck.
Straight handles however can also be held pretty easily, but you can’t apply the same amount of pressure on the tool and surface you’re working on as when you’re using one with a pistol grip handle.
On the other hand, they fit more into tighter spaces because of their streamline design. You can easily slip that under your truck and knock off some rust from the frame or chassis.
You should also consider the total length of the tool when making your choice. No matter the type of handle it comes with, a longer unit will be hard to fit into tight quarters.
So, consider the handle you’re going for when choosing an air needle scaler. Personally, I generally prefer the pistol grip handles, since you can easily grip it better and apply more pressure on the surface you’re working on, especially when working in an open area where space is not a concern.
Number of needles and diameter
Needle size and quantity is also something you need to consider. Air needle scalers usually come with different number of needles on each one.
The number of needles can range from 12 to 19. Usually, the more needles it has the more rusts or area of rusts it can knock off in one go.
The diameter of each needle also differs. There’re 2mm and 3 mm diameter needles. If you have very heavy rust or welding slag to knock off, then one with 3 mm diameter needles is preferred.
On the other hand, if the rust is not that heavy, it’s better to use one with smaller diameter.
Stroke speed is measured in bumps per minute, and it refers to how fast the needles bump against the surface to remove the rust or welding slag. The greater the stroke speed, the more powerful it is, thus making it easier to remove rusts and welding slags.
The needles in your air needle scaler should be easy to replace without the use of tools.
Weight is also an important factor you need to consider. Obviously, the larger it is, the heavier it will be. That means you’ll tire easily when using it for projects. If you’re removing rust from a large surface, you’ll be handling it for a long time, and a heavy unit will not be too comfortable to hold for long. So, consider the weight and choose one that you can handle with ease.
With that said, here are 7 of the best air needle scalers you can use for metal surface preparation.
1. Chicago Pneumatic CP7125 Air Needle Scaler
Needle Capacity: 19 x 1/8″ (3mm Standard Usage) and 29 x5/64 (2mm Finer usage), BPM (Blows Per Minute): 4000, Stroke: 1.32 inches, Length: 12.8 inches, Air Consumption: 4.6 cfm Weight: 6.2 lbs,
Among all the air needle scalers reviewed in this article, this Chicago Pneumatic CP7125 pistol grip model is probably the one that will give you the most value for your money.
It does not come with just one set of needles but comes delivered with 2 sets of scaling needles.
One set of 19x3mm you can use for standard duty work and another set of 29x2mm scaling needles for finer usage.
With this Chicago Pneumatic needle scaler, you have a power scaler in hand to perform light/heavy duty metal surface preparation work.
It features a pistol grip handle that makes it easy to hold firmly and the rubber sleeve covering the handle provides all the comfort you need as you work with the tool.
All in all, if you’re looking for a top-end air needle scaler with the best value for your money, this Chicago Pneumatic CP7125 is one I’ll strongly recommend.
2. Ingersoll Rand 125 Series Standard Duty Air Needle Scaler
Needle Capacity: 19 x 1/8″, BPM (Blows Per Minute): 4600, Stroke: 1.13 Length: 18.3 inches, Air Consumption: 15 cfm, Weight: 6.22 lbs
This Ingersoll Rand 125 Series standard duty air needle scaler comes out as one of the best units I’ve seen.
The straight in-line design makes it very ideal for accessing tight areas that cannot be accessed with one with a pistol grip.
Apart from being extremely compact, the Ingersoll Rand 125 is also very durable and dependable when carrying out projects with it.
It comes equipped with 19 precision heat-treated needles which allows you to use it in the maximum capacity possible.
It also produces a striking speed of 4600 blows per minute, delivering maximum power and ensuring the rust gets knocked lose with ease.
Adjusting it requires no special tools thanks to the adjustable bayonet-type needle housing it features.
Overall, this Ingersall Rand air needle scaller is definitely one model among many out there that will allow you to work at the highest level on any metal surface preparation project.
3. Sunex SX246 Pistol Grip Air Needle Scaler
Needle Capacity: 19 x 1/8 inches, BPM (Blows Per Minute): 4500, Stroke: 1-5/8 inches Length: 11 inches, Air Consumption: 10 cfm, Weight: 5.6 lbs
With speed up to 4500 blows per minute, this Sunex SX246 comes produces enough power needed to rid any metal surface from old paint, rust, dirt and weld slag.
It comes equipped with 19 hardened steel needles that are not only tough but also durable, and will not damage easily even after several use.
The pistol grip handle design ensures you’re able to hold it securely and control it comfortably while scaling metal surfaces with it.
The aluminum housing not only provides durability but also ensures you’re not handling excess weight as you make use of it.
All in all, there may be many other pneumatic needle scalers out there, but this one from Sunex definitely holds its own among them all.
4. Powermate Vx 024-0299CT Air Needle Scaler
Needle Capacity: 19 x 1/8 inches, BPM (Blows Per Minute): 4500, Stroke: 1.24 inches Length: 11.3 inches, Air Consumption: 9.8 cfm, Weight: 4.2 lbs
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly but effective and durable air needle scaler, this one from Powermate might just be what you need.
The Powermate VX 024-0299CT is a top-quality tool that you can get for a fraction of the price the other top models are sold.
But don’t let the price discourage you. Just like the rest, it comes with 19 steel needles for effective metal surface preparation work
The soft pistol grip offers you a firm hold on the tool, allowing you to control it just the way you want. Featured also is a handle exhaust which directs heat away from the work surface so as not to alter the material in any way.
With speed up to 4500 bumps per minute, this Powermate pneumatic needle scaler is capable of handling most rust removal jobs whether you work in a shipyard, automobile workshop or any other metal fabrication or surface prep shop.
5. Goplus Compact Air Needle Scaler
Needle Capacity: 19 x 1/8 inches, BPM (Blows Per Minute): 5000, Stroke: 9/8 inches Length: 18 inches, Air Consumption: 4.5 scfm, Weight: 6.5 lbs
This compact in-line air needle scaler from Goplus is another budget-friendly but very durable option you can go for.
Equipped with 19 hardened steel fine chisel needles, you can apply it on uneven rusty metal surfaces while working at optimal speeds.
The needles function at a speed of 5000 BPM, which makes it one of the most powerful units we reviewed. It will knock off every dirt rust and weld slag you throw it at.
It weighs just 6.5 lbs which is quite light, making it easy to use it for long periods without hand fatigue. It’s constructed with a durable metal frame coated with electrophoresis for durability.
The one-trigger-operation and adjustable bayonet-type needle housing lock makes it very ergonomic and easy to replace needles if necessary.
It consumes 4.5 SCFM of air at a minimum pressure of 90 PSI. It’s quite light, it’s compact and highly effective.
Needle Capacity: 19 x 1/8 inches, BPM (Blows Per Minute): 4800, Stroke: 1-1/8 inches Length: 18 inches, Air Consumption: 15.5 cfm, Weight: 6.5 lbs
Producing speeds up to 4800 blows per minute, this is another highly effective and powerful air needle scalers from Chicago Pneumatic.
It has a very neat feature which allows you to adapt the protrusion of the needles depending on the application. This also increases or reduces the amount power produced on each impact.
Equipped with high wear resistant steel needles, you can be rest assured the tool will not fail on the job before its time is up.
The Chicago Pneumatic CP7120 is not just an air needle scaler, but it easily converts to a weld flux chipping hammer by simply attaching the chisel attachment it comes with, thus making it an even more versatile tool.
Needless to say, it’s a two-in one tool you can use for a host of heavy duty metal surface preparation applications.
Overall, the Chicago Pneumatic CP7120 is effective, tough and durable, making it one of the best air need scalers you can use for your projects.
7. Astro 4320 In-Line Needle Scaler
Needle Capacity: 12pc. 3mm x7 inches, BPM (Blows Per Minute): 4200, Stroke: 1-1/8 inches Length: 14.5 inches, Air Consumption: 4.24 cfm, Weight: 2.51 lbs
This needle scaler from Astro Pneumatic Tools comes with just 12 high tension steel needles, not 19, but they work extremely well for metal surface preparation projects especially in removing weld slags, old paint and dirt.
It produces just 4200 blows per minute on the surface of materials which is not as powerful as the other units reviewed in this article, but also measures up and produces great results on very rusty surfaces.
The whole unit weighs just 2.51 lbs which is not heavy especially for the purpose it’s intended for.
It’s an in-line needle scaler which means it does not offer you the perfect grip and control a pistol grip offers, but instead it allows you to reach into tiny spaces where a pistol grip unit may not be able to reach.
Overall, this Astro 4320 is one of the best air needle scalers I reviewed and it’s certainly one I’d recommend for anyone looking for a tool like this.