Tool Review: Restorer's Cat's Paw

Simple yet versatile, this no-frills hand tool is a must-have for any old-house restorer.
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So many tools today are designed to entice with high-tech features that it’s easy to forget that the best tools for restoring old houses are often the simplest ones. Take the Restorer’s Cat’s Paw—based on a traditional Japanese tool, it combines a nail-pulling cat’s paw and a small tack hammer on one end, and a thin pry bar on the other. Until you’ve used one of these nifty little guys, it’s difficult to appreciate just how useful they really are.

Scoring paint with a restorer's cat's paw

Where to Use It

Usually made of solid steel, the Restorer’s Cat’s Paw offers powerful leverage in a small package to remove embedded, headless, or rusted-in nails. The hammer head has two sharp prongs with a V-shaped groove to grasp onto the shank of a nail or a nail head. The other side of the nail puller end is designed to double as a tack hammer or striking head for your larger hammer, just in case the nail needs a little persuasion.

The cat’s paw side can function as a down-and-dirty nail puller; how you use it depends on how careful you need to be with the wood surface, and whether you need to save the nail. If you’re trying to save the nails, go easy, as this little dynamo is strong enough to break the shank of smaller nails.

When saving the molding is key and the nails are disposable, the tight grab of the V-notch makes pulling finish nails out of the backside of molding a snap. Attempting to pull a nail out from the surface can disturb the wood fibers or finish buildup that have molded around it, so removing the nail from the back of molding is much less destructive to the wood surface—and this tool does the trick.

The fine edge of the pry bar side allows you get under almost anything without making a mark. You can score paint with ease, remove fussy moldings without damaging them, separate miter joints, and ease off painted-in hardware and architectural elements undetectably.

The Bottom Line

What it lacks in bells and whistles, the Restorer’s Cat’s Paw makes up for with sheer versatility. It’s the perfect housewarming gift for the new old-house owner—even a novice restorer will find many uses for this handy tool.

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