Retractable Craft Scratcher by Tim Holtz

Reported by Taylor Usry

Have you seen this great Retractable Craft Scratcher from Tim Holtz? I came across it about a year ago and snapped it up immediately. Since then it has become an indispensable tool for distressing all of my projects. It’s a small (about the size of a pen) tool that packs a big punch!

The scratcher retails for around $5.00 and is widely available online and in stores that sell Tim Holtz/Tonic Studios products. It is comfortable to hold and easy to operate – just push down on the lock and slide it into place. The wires will extend and you are all set! To retract them, push the lock down again and slide it back up. It’s that simple! Here is the “official” description of this tool:

Distress photos, papers, cardstock, chipboard, Grungeboard™, polymer clay, and even metal with this handy wire brush. Go lightly over your surfaces or apply more pressure for heavily grunged looks: you are in complete control with this tool! The kushgrip handle provides a comfortable non-slip grip, while the wire brush fully retracts into it for safe transport and storage.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? It is! I’m going to share a variety of my favorite products to use it with.

First up are acrylic tags. These happen to be Fragments by Tim Holtz. I started by using the tool to scratch both sides of the tag, and then stamped my sentiment on it using Staz-on ink.

You can see the difference between the tag that I left plain, and the tag that I distressed.

Next I tried the scratcher with some polymer clay. I’ve always made my little clay trinkets by using the tool first, and then baking it. But for this demo I did it both ways. On the left are the different things you can do with the tool before baking – poke holes (my favorite), wavy lines, straight grooves, dotted grooves. Then I baked the clay in the oven, and tried the tool on the right side (after it cooled). You can just barely see faint scratch marks left by the tool. It will work in a pinch.

Here is the tool with cardstock (Stampin Up) and designer paper (Basic Grey). This cardstock is not white-cored, but I have used it on that kind before with very cool effects. You can see in the photo that the more you go over an area with the tool, the more distressed it will get. On the designer paper, it begins to pull up small areas and reveal the white core. On the cardstock it gets a bit fuzzy.

This is a small metal tag I have had forever. It scratched up like nobody’s business. I love the way the wire bristles scuff up metal. It only took about 30 seconds to take this tag from completely smooth to this scratched up. You don’t have to work hard at all.

I tried it on plain chipboard next. These are actually the 4″ x 4″ coasters, medium thickness. On the left side, with the blue and red ink, I went over the coaster with the scratcher several times before sponging on the ink. Can you see all of the grooves and lines? The coaster has a much grungier feel to it than the one on the right, with just blue ink sponged on to it.

Lastly I used the scratcher on Tim Holtz’s Grungeboard. The keyhole on the left has been scratched up using the tool, and then had distress ink sponged on. The key on the right just had ink sponged on to it. Notice how on the keyhole the grooves from the scratcher soaked up more ink? You can see the “grain” much better on that one.

I absolutely love this little tool. It is an inexpensive, versatile addition to my craft arsenal. I’m so glad I happened upon it!


  • Small, lightweight, portable
  • Very affordable price
  • Kushgrip makes it comfortable to hold and use


  • When using with polymer clay, the clay can gunk up the wires. It’s easily cleanable, but takes patience on occasion.
  • There aren’t any other cons, in my opinion!!

The Tonic Studios Tim Holtz 373 Retractable Craft Scratcher and refills Tonic Studios Tim Holtz 374 Refill Blades for Retractable Craft Scratcher, Pack of 4 are available at If you buy them by clicking that link, you’ll be helping support Craft Critique!

Have you used the Tim Holtz Craft Scratcher? What fun things do you use them on? Leave us a comment and let us know!


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2 Responses to Retractable Craft Scratcher by Tim Holtz

  1. Avatar
    Victoria August 29, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    I love my scratcher. You can fray fabric with it, too.

  2. Avatar
    Our Little Inspirations August 30, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    This is the first I’ve seen it, but for the price it’s a must have! I’d like to see if it will fray the edges of hemp or twine – I love that look!