Pricey Stops from 2013: Hand Tools that Broke

Tools that stop working are the most costly tools to have around.

In 2013, for us, it wasn’t the expensive tools that stopped working. It was tools in the under $20 price range that bit us.

Here is a run down on some of the disappointments of 2013. We suspect that you will see a common theme.

Wooster 9″ Roller Frames

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Yep, the old saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Well, it’s on us, Wooster. You made a nice looking frame with a sweet handle at a great price point. The only thing missing was the stamp that should say: “One time use only.” Thanks for just about nothing. Twice. We purchased both of these in professional paint stores that serve contractors. Clearly, not a contractor grade tool.

Purdy: A couple of Things

Purdy is still on our short list as a brush manufacturer, but we have some issues in other categories.

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1. The whole 9″ roller thing. While we love the idea of the solid plastic cylinder to eliminate the cage and make the frame easier to clean, there were two problems here. First, only Purdy roller covers fit on this. We don’t buy Purdy roller covers and we don’t want to have to buy them in order to check out a better frame. Second, the frame had a habit of getting loaded and caked in places that can’t be cleaned, causing the roller to bind up, and, well…not roll. Further, taking it apart to clean is not an option. Nor should we even have to consider that. Keep it simple. Don’t over engineer.

2. Speaking of roller frames, the Jumbo Mini Coater left quite a bit to be desired. At best, they were difficult to clean. At worst, they totally fell apart.

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3. And finally, this was great…right up til it wasn’t.

wire brush

Well that didn’t go as planned…

Again, we hold Purdy paint brushes in very high esteem. We purchase and use a lot of them. Some of our favorite brushes for certain applications are made by Purdy.

Don’t change your paint brushes.

Maybe let some of these other categories go, or put a little more R&D into them. Send them to us prior to launch.

Again, don’t mess with your paint brushes.


And The Jekkyl and Hyde Award goes to:


When they are good, they’re great.

…For profound lack of consistency, Proform Picasso brushes.

This one is a real mind game. A game with no middle ground. The brush is either dynamite, or falling apart junk. No in between.

It’s a home run or a strikeout, every time up to bat. While we love home runs, we can’t be striking out half the time.

Brush work is too important.

Figure it out, Picasso. Unlike Purdy, please, mess with your brushes. Make them consistent.


From all this you’d imagine that there must be something learned…

These are just a scoop of “on the job” failures we experienced this year. Everyone of these tools is put out by brush or applicator manufacturers and costs less than $20.

As a group, applicator technologies can’t be falling behind what other paint industry tool manufacturers are producing, and we hope to see them all step it up in 2014.

The tools that broke remind us that no one has time for nuisance failures that stop production, especially when they are under $20 items.

We have said it before, and it bears repeating:

It’s not the elephants that’ll kill you, it’s the mosquitoes…

What tools landed on your junk pile in 2013?




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  1. Mike says:

    I bought a Purdy mini roller frame – Junk! After one use it was clogged and wouldn’t turn smoothly. Tried to clean it by all means but just not a good product as compared to the Wooster mini roller that fits the Whiz covers with the larger holes. Those things work for ever! Even if the little cap on the end falls off, it doesn’t effect the roller at all.

    As far as the Picasso brushes, Since using them, I don’t even want to touch a Purdy any more. I’m actually in the midst of setting up a dealership with them where I live in Hawaii. Brian uses them exclusively, and I can tell you he wouldn’t if he had problems with them. He simply has no tolerance for poor products.

    Speaking of which, has any one tried the Behr Interior Marquee Paint? I did on one occasion, and it was a terrible experience. Brian also tried it with similar results. Maybe we just both happened to get bad batches, but that’s quite a coincidence. Would like to give them the benefit of the doubt though.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Cool, Mike. Good luck with the dealership. We’ve still been seeing mixed results with the Picassos. We ran a couple recently against Arroworthy’s and Purdy’s and the Picassos weren’t top 3 material in the tasks we were doing. We’ve used them for a few years now and keep waiting for them to nail it.

      • Mike says:

        Scott, I will give you this, the Picasso is not a brush that is going to last as long as a Purdy or Wooster, however, it is twice as sharp for cutting as either of them. If you want to use a really fantastic brush, try Proform’s Blaze Oval Angle 2.5″. This brush practically paints casings a trim by itself. Truly amazing, and it lasts better than the Picasso. It has truly changed the way I paint. I hardly will touch a Purdy any more. Totally antiquated with the split ends! If you want to hold more paint, nothing is going to do it like a good Oval Angle brush. You’ll never go back once you’ve mastered loading and using one.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Nice to hear from you Mike. It might be semantics but “sharp” hasn’t been a descriptive for the Oval and semi ovals, and we have used them all. They aren’t the sharpest cutters of crisp lines but they do hold and release paint well. Here in the Northeast, they seem to be more popular as exterior brushes for these reasons. There is definitely a spot in the market place for them.

          • Mike says:

            Wow! if you’ve found something better, I and a bunch of other guys would like to know what they are so we can run out and buy some.
            I’d put the Picasso or the Blaze up against any Wooster brush I’ve ever used. Purdy is not even in the running. Any brush with Flagging by definition cannot be.

          • Scott Burt says:

            Hi Mike, its great that you believe in the products that you sell. Proform is definitely aware of the issues they’ve had, and they seem responsive and dedicated to developing better products. It is good to have options for the variety of application scenarios we all face.

          • Mike says:

            Scott, it’s actually the other way around; I don’t believe in the products I sell; I sell the products I believe in. I am aware of some of the short falls of the Picasso, like short life span. The razor edge is not one of the short comings. As far as the Blaze, I’m not aware of any short falls.

            Again, I would be interested to know if you’ve fond anything better. I will use them. I’m loyal to products that work, not products I sell.

  2. I have found most paint tools just aren’t built like they used to be. To me purdy is one of the most overrated companies, the new frames and poles aren’t standard. We don’t need less incompatibility. Unlike Scott I don’t like most of their brushes. The picasso quality control was a problem for everyone, hopefully its been sorted. My last couple of cases ordered have been fine.

  3. I totally agree Scott that if a company with stellar history such as Wooster, Prudy or Bestt Liebco the product should be as good no matter what grade level. I am just a firm believer in using quality products and not cutting corners. In a pinch I can see using a lesser tool but try to avoid it. HOWEVER…that frame should never fallen apart like THAT! I call a demerit for Wooster!

    • Scott Burt says:

      I do have to concede that we usually only grab cheaper rollers like that when we are doing 16 colors in the same day, and all the good rollers are already engaged. I can’t emphasize enough how great Wooster’s other lines of frames etc are. Thanks for the reminder about Bestt Liebco – they make great stuff. And as I mentioned to Nichole in another comment, I really like Arroworthy roller gear (and brushes) too. So many good choices these days, which is part of how I was feeling when I wrote the piece, the big names in applicators need to keep raising the bar.

      • Mike says:

        Proform is coming out with a Roller frame and Covers very soon. The covers are Italian Microfiber. Whatever that means, but I’m told there is nothing like it. Looking forward to seeing if that holds true. You wont be able to miss them – bright orange!

    • But that is like their cheapest el cheapo frame..

      • but that makes total sense when doing that many colors if you dont have enough frames!

      • Scott Burt says:

        It does appear to be right at the bottom of the Wooster barrel, but the barrel still says Wooster on it! 🙂

        • exactly….should have never….ever passed their inspection nor fell apart!

        • by the way…I had the same problem you did with the miniroller as well.

          • Scott Burt says:

            That was more of a disappointment, I think, because that was a product redesign from the old classic style minis. Alot of engineering went into that, and there were some pretty obvious flaws. They were great when they worked. I am sure they will correct the issues and launch a better one, if they haven’t already. One thing is for sure, manufacturers do pay attention to what us painters in the field are experiencing with their gear, and that is a huge step toward better quality control.

          • I still love my Whizz and Shurline mini frames. Simple ,easy to clean and nothing to fall apart. Not to mention everyone and their uncle makes covers that fit every frame.

          • Scott Burt says:

            I agree. The original Whizz is just the right size. The original naps were always a little doggy (ragged texture) for me, but like you say, there are many options to fit that style of frame.

          • When it comes to the Proform brushes I agree they had a really rocky start. I had at least 5 loose the bristles in the same exact spot every time. The company was very good about replacing them and has apparently sense fixed the problem with their supplier. I currently have 5 Picasso brushes in rotation along with my Woosters and a couple remaining Purdy. The Picasso have been abused on a couple jobs and bounce right back. Going on 6 months with the newer design/ epoxy ….it would seem they fixed the problem. I give Kudos to them for standing behind the product….too bad they had a bad start. On a side not, is it just me or does anyone else see that certain brand brushes perform better with specific brands of paint???? Or is it just me?

          • Scott Burt says:

            I know, Proform was a curious case this year. Hopefully those problems are behind them. They did seem to stand behind the issue as best they could. They really are good brushes. To your question, no it is not just you…we have noticed that certain paints definitely do better with certain brushes. That is why we need so many different ones!

  4. I see that the first review is not truly a fair review. The “contractor grade” frame you reefer to is in fact a cheap DIY homeowner frame and not intended for what you are using it for. A contractor grade Wooster frame (the ONLY one I use) is in fact a heavy duty gage steel frame with a GREEN heavy duty handle.
    Not the blue frame pictured here. I have Wooster frames dating back to 2001 and I have yet to see one of the actual contractor frames separate after one use unless the person is beating the daylights out of it. That “contractor” store supplied frame looks suspiciously like a Home Depot Residential frame. Honesty and research is needed when doing a review before posting an article in my opinion. Just my 2 cents.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Charles, thanks for stopping by and commenting. These really aren’t “reviews”. We are just sharing our experiences with tools that didn’t meet our expectations. On the blue Wooster frame, you mentioned that it is not intended for what we are using it for. We used it for rolling walls, which is what it is intended for. It fell apart when we pulled the nap off. I don’t think that performance would please anyone…whether diy or pro, and regardless of price point. If Wooster puts their name on it, it needs to do better than this. Wooster makes great tools, and great frames. Almost all of our 18″ gear is Wooster…the frames, the trays, the extension poles, and often even the naps themselves. We like Wooster gear, but the blue 9-er didn’t measure up. Here is a link to the Wooster site, they do in fact make frames with blue handles and endcaps: Stay tuned as in the near future we will also be discussing some of Wooster’s gear which we happen to consider to be legendary.

  5. Nichole says:

    Just curious to know which 9 inch roller frames you’ve found to be stellar? I’ve been using the Wooster frame for a few years now without problems but if there’s something better…

    I hear you on the Purdy Jumbo Mini! I picked one up at the PDCA Expo earlier this year and have been using them since then. While I was impressed with their ease of roll versus the traditional mini roller, after long time use paint got gunked up in places impossible to clean and I especially had issues when using a cleaned roller and cover that had been used previously in some other color other than white and then used again to roll out some white paint. Watery colored spittles of paint from previous uses would shoot out the end and mess up day.

    My biggest disappointment in a tool this year was my purchase of a new Shurline easy reach pole. That was the first pole I picked up when I started my business over 5 years ago and after almost constant and daily use, it wasn’t performing as well as it had so I replaced it with a new one. The new one completely and totally fell apart in about 3 different places within one month. Boo hiss boo.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Nichole, Wooster does make some good 9″ frames, the blue handled model shown in this post just isn’t one of them. Arroworthy makes good ones as well. For poles, Wooster have performed really well for us. Definitely frustrating when you replace a legend and the newbie doesn’t measure up!

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