7 Steps to Sharp Scrapers

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When it comes to tweaking the final shape or if you have a small amount of tearout to smooth, there are no better tools in woodworking than card scrapers and cabinet scrapers. These are simple tools that when sharp can save your project at almost any step prior to finishing – the surface of your project can be made glass-smooth. The problem most woodworkers have with these tools is sharpening them. But once you have my seven-step process down, you’ll never want for a sharp scraper again.

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(Fig. 1) Raising your sharpening stones above the bench and using its surface to hold your blades square is the perfect technique to guarantee that your edges are right.

While the seven steps are used to sharpen both blades, there are a few differences in the techniques when moving from blade to blade. When filing and honing a card scraper, the edge is made square. (If you need help in holding the file at the perfect angle, there’s a trick using a small block that gets the job done.) Plus, how you position your sharpening stones makes the transition to the next step way easy (Fig. 1). These are significant setups learned through experience that will save you time and get your edge right.

Change the Angle of Attack

With a cabinet scraper, setup is different. The first rule is to make sure that your tool is good to go. Check the casting for cracks or breaks. Stresses put onto the tools when your blade is in place are significant; regardless of how sharp your blade is, a damaged cabinet scraper is not going to provide peak performance. Additionally, while the base of the tool needs to be relatively flat, there is little need to spends hours bringing the sole of your scraper within .001” to .002”.

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10 thoughts on “7 Steps to Sharp Scrapers

  1. Chuck. Very nice, simple and straight forward. Well done. I like your tip on “pealing back” the burn and will try that.

    Bob

    1. Bob,

      Thanks. Opening up the hook on the scraper just a bit makes a huge difference in how it cuts. Sometimes, when you put a little extra umph on the burnisher, you can curl the edge over completely. By sliding a hardened tool along the hook, you can make it useable again.

  2. This is the kind of video that makes me appreciate my membership !!!
    Great job , Chuck

    1. Leo,

      Glad you like the video, and your membership. Thanks.

  3. I tried this out today and now feel much more confident using scrapers. Thanks for this post. Now I need to get a scraper plane… and I’m working on it! This was very useful.

    1. Duane,

      The one story I’m not sure I’ve told revolves around a scraper plane. Werner Duerr didn’t teach his students about scrapers – it was all hand planes for surface prep. When I started working at Irion, they were all about the cabinet scraper because it creates that subtle surface undulation that you find on period pieces. I couldn’t get that thing to work no matter how hard I tried. I got it sharpened and a proper burr turned on the blade, but the hand placement gave me fits, so I bought a scraper plane (this is way before Lie-Nielsen, or anyone else, was making good versions, and before I was really aware of what Stanley had offered in the past) because the orientation was more familiar.

      Besides being a piece of junk with a plastic tote and knob, it worked even worse than the #80 and you couldn’t tension the blade to get the proper curvature like you could with a cabinet scraper. I spent months forcing myself to use the #80 until I started getting reasonable results. And that translates to, I spent lots of time resanding pieces once they had gone to the finish room and the stain had brought out the scraper chatter/tear out left behind. Once I actually got it working better, the scraper marks began to diminish as did the toil of skinning those stained pieces, but it was still a couple of years of constantly working on setup before I felt like I had mastered the tool.

  4. Chuck, I can’t thank you enough! Great video presentation. I’ve had mixed results in the past with card scrapers, usually resorting to sandpaper, and I’ve had the Veritas cabinet scraper for years but never really got it going. Now, with your instruction, I feel confident that I’ll be able to improve the results. Between projects now, I’ll be able to practice tomorrow.

    Grant

    1. Grant,

      Let me know how you make out. If you need a little coaching, take some pics and send them to me. I’m happy to help if I can.

  5. Hi Chuck,

    Really love this instruction. Bought a Stanley cabinet scraper last year and tried to set it up according to an article in a magazine. Got mixed results and went back to my card scraper. Without sharpening and putting a new hook on the blade, I got way better results by your set-up method. Two questions:
    Noticed there are two edges on the scraper blade, one straight, one slightly convex. I was using the convex, but went to the straight. Is your method only to be used on the straight side of the blade? Under what circumstances do you use the different profiles?

    Thanks,

    Tom Caso
    P.S. Really bummed that you and Glen will not be at the Chantilly Va woodworking show

    1. Tom,

      I never use anything but a straight grind on my cabinet scraper (card scrapers are a completely different thing, however). The thumbscrew controls the amount of arc that is presented to the board. I suppose, if I was trying to emulate a scrub plane I might try to camber the scraper blade, but then again I would probably just use a scrub plane…

      Just because we’re not making it to Chantilly (or anywhere else), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. There’s plenty of great stuff to see and do at the show, and it’s a no-brainer to sit in on one of Ron Herman’s classes and heckle.

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