Taping Knife Versus Putty Knife

Taping Knife Versus Putty Knife

Putty knives (also commonly known as a Joint Knife) and taping knives look very similar – flat, relatively wide blades attached to a handle, so what’s the difference? Are they interchangeable? Is a putty knife just smaller taping knife? These are pretty common questions, especially for anyone who’s new to home repair or who has only used one type of knife or the other. While they can be used interchangeably for a couple of specific tasks, they are in fact pretty different tools. Let’s take a look at how they differ from each other.

Intended Use

Putty knives are designed (surprise, surprise) for working with putty and more specifically for smoothly spreading putty into indentations and depressions. Taping knives, on the other hand, are designed specifically for scooping and spreading drywall mud onto seams and joints between panels.


Because of the difference in intended uses, putty knives have, on the whole, smaller blades than taping knives. Typical putty knife sizes vary from 1.5” up to 4”, while the lion’s share of taping knives are 6” and above, all the way up to 14”. Smaller taping knives are most useful for applying compound at the start of a project while progressively larger sizes are used with each pass to smooth and feather the drywall mud farther and farther from the joint to create a smooth transition from the seam to the board.


Putty knives tend to be more rigid than taping knives. That said, putty knives also offer a wider variety of rigidity, since some are designed more for spreading and spackling (tasks that are more similar to spreading joint compound and requiring a more flexible blade) while others are designed more for scraping away old paint (and are therefore more rigid).

Taping knives, on the other hand, are all generally flexible, an important quality for ensuring a smooth spread with your drywall joint compound. These are best for the specific tasks required in drywall work and are critical to ensuring a good, smooth-looking finished product. While not designed for heavy scraping the way some putty knives are, drywall taping knives can also be used to scrape away small, uneven bits of dried joint compound. Thinner, more flexible taping knives are also better suited to scraping away wallpaper than are putty knives.


There are a few cases where you may be able to use putty and taping knives interchangeably. Generally, these are the cases where the intended tasks of the knives already overlap. For instance, spreading putty over a large area may be accomplished faster with a wider drywall knife, saving you some time. By the same token, a flexible putty knife can sometimes stand in for a taping knife if you need to get into a small area and your taping knives are too big. In a pinch, putty knives can also be used to scrape away wallpaper in areas where the taping knife won’t fit, such as a narrow strip of wall between a window frame and the ceiling.


Putty and taping knives are visually similar but are actually quite different tools designed mostly for different purposes. Putty knives are generally smaller, stiffer, and better suited to heavy scraping while drywall taping knives are generally wider, more flexible and better suited to spreading and feathering and to more delicate scraping work. In a few cases, they can be used interchangeably where their uses overlap, such as using a putty knife for tight spaces if you don’t have a small enough taping knife.

One-Piece Joint Knives

Looking for a set of new putty knives (joint knives)? New Circle Brand One Piece Joint Knives  are created from a single piece of stainless steel to give you a robust, durable tool with a broken-in feel. From start to finish, contractors choose Circle Brand for professional quality drywall tools designed to work just as hard as they do.


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