The bench scraper is named for the job it does in the pastry kitchen -- dividing dough into portions and pulling it away from the counter. I don't bake bread that often, but I still find my bench scrapers to be indispensable.
Bakers use the scraper to cut up brownies and other bar cookies. They are also great for scraping down a cutting board before washing it.
We're heading into soup season. Here the bench scraper, also sometimes called a bench knife or chopper, is useful for lifting vegetables off the cutting board and dropping them into the soup pot. While some might use their chef's knife for this, the scraper is safer, faster, and helps to save wear on the knife blade.
I use two bench scrapers simultaneously, one for each hand, to chop up granita. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook explains that the "elegant texture" of a hand-chopped granita comes from using stainless steel bench scrapers. "They are easy to maneuver, and the relatively dull edges tease the crystals apart without slicing them up. . . A knife blade produces a finer, denser texture," explains Zuni.
I have this OXO Good Grips Pastry Scraper ($8.50 from Amazon.com). It is dishwasher safe and a ruler is imprinted on the blade, which is useful for measuring the thickness of rolled doughs and the diameter of cookies. Look like the model I have is on clearance because OXO has come out with a new model, the Soft Grip Bench Scraper