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How to Use a Cabinet Scraper

For hundreds of years master woodworkers and cabinetmakers have used cabinet scrapers to bring wood to a glassy smooth finish. A skilled woodworker can often achieve a surface so smooth it needs no further sanding. A scraper can also be used to remove paint and other finishes without damaging the wood below. Assorted Cabinet Scrapers
Scrapers Shapes
A scraper is basically a flat rectangular piece of high carbon steel roughly the size of a 3x5 index card. The edge of the scraper is burnished, or rounded over to form a hook. This hook is then pushed or pulled across the surface of the wood to remove fine shavings.
Scrapers are made from hard saw or spring steel and come in a number of sizes and shapes. The most common shape is a rectangle. French Curves and other odd shapes are available for scraping bowls and other irregular projects.
Before a scraper can be used it must be prepared. The steps for preparing a scraper are as follows:
1) File The Edges
Most scrapers are stamped from sheets of steel. This process leaves the edges ragged and requiring attention. Before the edges can be used for the first time they must be jointed with a metal file. As seen in the picture to the right, the file must be kept at a 90-degree angle to the body of the scraper. The best way to make sure the file is perpendicular is to clamp a small scrap of wood to the edge of the scraper.
Note: If you plan to use the scraper to remove paint, globs of dried glue, or similar applications then you can stop with this step.
A jig for jointing the scraper
A jig for jointing a
scraper with a file.
2) Stoning the Scraper
For more demanding scraping applications, such as finished work, you will need to smooth out the edges you just filed. The edge is smoothed on a bench sharpening stone. It is best to use the edge of the stone so you don’t wear a groove in the top. The easiest way to smooth the edge of the scraper is to lay the stone flat on the benchtop and rub the scraper against the side of the stone. Use a piece of smooth scrapwood under the scraper (see picture to the right).
Stoning the Scraper
Stoning the Scraper
3) Drawing A Burr
The edge of the scraper should now be 90 degrees to the body and can be used for light scraping work. To remove more material you will need to draw a burr on the edge of the scraper. This is done using a burnisher. A burnisher is simply a hard steel rod that is run down the edge of the scraper to draw the edge over into a wave-like hook. A screwdriver can be used as a burnishing rod but a commercial burnisher will work better since its made from harder metal. It is this hook, or burr, that catches the wood and scrapes it from the surface. The angle of the burr effects the amount of material it will remove. The greater the angle the more material it will remove. Angles of 5 degrees are used for fine finishing while angles of 10 degrees are used more for removal of paint and lacquers.

To burnish the edge of the scraper, hold it firmly in a padded bench vice. Before burnishing you will need to apply a very small amount of lubricant across the edge of the scraper. Then take a burnisher (or screwdriver) and while holding it at an angle run it along the edge of the scraper. Use minimal pressure and make a number of passes. (See picture to right)

Drawing a Burr
Drawing a Burr
Using the Scraper
Using the scraper is for the most part self explanatory. However, there are a few tricks that will help you produce a perfect finish.

The first trick is to work with the grain to help prevent the scraper from grabbing and gouging the wood.

The second trick is to bend the scraper slightly in the middle. (See picture to the right.) The easiest way to bend the scraper is to hold the edges and apply pressure to the middle. There are a number of commercial jigs that hold and bend scrapers for easier use.

The final trick is to make sure your scraper is well tuned and kept in a good condition. If you notice that your scraper begins to produce dust instead of shaving it is time to sharpen it. Since the scraper has already been jointed with the file, you may skip this step and start with the bench stone.
Using the scraper
Using the Scraper

Bending the Scraper
Bend the Scraper

 

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