Cabinet scraper, sharpening and performance

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    Jeff Stuart

    I bought a Veritas cabinet scraper (very like the Stanley 80) and I’ve been trying to learn to sharpen and use the thing. Following Paul’s and others’ advice, I’ve filed, polished and honed the blade, and I have gotten it to perform well. But since I have only videos to go by, where people (mostly) describe the scraper finish “like glass”, I have to wonder how close I am to getting it right.

    First, the finish. It is good, but on wood I can plane, my no. 4 is better. The plane leaves the wood literally shining. The scraper leaves a nice uniform finish that’s a bit duller. The plane finish indeed feels almost like glass. The scraper feels like very smooth, finely sanded wood.

    When you sharpen properly, does the burr feel pronounced, as in you can’t miss it? Or is it more subtle? Is it visible?

    The best finish I’ve gotten is with a lighter burr, but it seems to dull quickly and has a very narrow cut, as in half inch or less. Is that normal?

    Any advice is appreciated. Thanks,

    Eddy Flynn

    What are you using to turn the burr

    Eddy .. Liverpool, Merseyside, UK


    I think that the obvious thing to say is that if the wood responds better to a plane’s cut, then the plane is the way to go.

    Scrapers are not an alternative to a plane running on compliant grain, rather a compliment to it, used when the wood has a wavy structure that a plane’s blade will dig up; in these cases the angle of attack of a hooked scraper will deal with this better.

    The nature of the No: 80 scrapers – Stanley/Record are just about identical – and their modern clones means that they are intended to take a bite out of the wood, possibly reaching into slight hollows that a plane’s bed will skate over. The curving screw amplifies this by bending the blade centre.

    If you need a finer cut, why not consider hand-held card-scrapers where you can modify your cut almost infinitely from aggressive to very fine by altering your scrape-angle and degree of bevel when you hone. It’s possible with a bit of practice to have a fine cut on one side and a heavier cut on the other side of the same scraper. Having said that, they are cheap enough to build up a library of these, because -as with all cutting tools – they lose their edge fairly quickly and it’s easiest to work through a stack of cards without interrupting the flow of work and follow it up with a sharpening-party.

    Good luck


    HMi Jeff, I wonder a similar thing. I too get a much finer surface from my planes than from my scrapers, whether a cabinet scarper or a card scraper. But as YrHenSaer says, I generally use my scrapers from more problematical wood anyway. And, in any event, the scraper often leaves a good enough surface even if it is not that glass-like surface.

    Three thoughts. First, maybe others can say more, but I sort of concluded that that planes just leave a different surface from scrapers since the cutting action is different. Planes leave a finely cut surface and scrapers leave a, well, scraped surface. And maybe that glass-like surface from a plane is not necessary anyway. After all, Paul has us knock off that shine with a quick sanding anyway to help the wood absorb finish. And once I add a finish, I am not sure I can tell the difference between a scraped and a planed surface.

    Second, I wonder what kind for wood you are using the scraper on? Some woods scrape poorly and some scrape scrape well. Of course, even woods like pine which tend not to scrape well will sometimes scrape just fine. You just have to try and see. Hardwoods tend to do better than softwoods. I just built a table out of white oak and the grain on the top, with all its rays etc., was too confused to plane but scraped decently, even though I did not get that glass surface.

    Third, I sometimes wonder about the quality of the burr. Might I somehow be getting a ragged burr or some such? I usually put a pretty heavy burr on my cabinet scraper (it is a veritas like yours) and a lighter burr on my card scrapers. They seem to cut well (shockingly well considering how much trouble I had at first getting them to work at all) , but since (like you) I am learning by video, I have no one to look at my scrapers and tell me whether they are as they should be.

    Larry Geib

    What species are you trying to scrape?

    Hardwoods respond to a scraper better than most softwoods.

    • This reply was modified 2 years ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 2 years ago by Larry Geib.
    Roberto Fischer

    I spent a while trying to scrape fir and poplar and thought my scraper edges were not well turned. Then I planed wenge and it worked amazingly. I still don’t know how well I’m sharpening the scraper, but at least I know it works well in some cases.


    I have the same scraper. The first time sharpening mine, it wouldn’t cut butter. I’m no expert at this by any means but my opinion is that a small bur works better. Until I watched Paul’s video very closely I was putting way to much effort into trying to form the bur and it was probably rolling completely over like a curl. I could feel the darn bur with my finger but it wasn’t cutting the wood at all. Using a card scraper I started a DOE…. Design of Experiment. Changing the number of burnishing strokes and pressure applied to the burnishing tool. two key things I found… make sure you get a good sharp corner on the blade before you start burnishing, and lighten up on the burnishing. It takes practice to get your technique right but when you perfect it, you can cut any wood with it including soft woods.

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Albert Einstein

    Jeff Stuart

    Thanks for all the replies.

    Filing the blade I used Paul’s guide with a fine mill file followed by an EZELap super fine hone. And I’ve worked it freehand over diamond plates. I don’t see a big difference betwixt the two. I’m confident the edge is good. After cleaning up the back it’s smooth, won’t snag a q-tip, feels about as sharp as a 45 degree edge should feel I reckon.

    I’ve used both a fine steel burnisher and a 1/4″ carbide rod for turning the burr. The carbide is very slippery and I can’t put much pressure on it, but I think it gives me the best control. I can go from next to nothing to very heavy. I agree with Sandy and others who say lighter is better, though the blade dulls pretty quick. I think my blade may be defective because one corner is hardened, and the rest is quite soft — softer than any steel I’ve ever sharpened. I have a feeling it was on the end of a sheet & didn’t get the right heat treatment. Veritas is good about such things, I’ll ask for a replacement.

    I have been futzing with this thing for a month or so, not sure how many hands-on hours. I’ve filed away about a millimeter of steel trying different combinations of burr and bend, all in search of the mystical “glass like” finish the internet experts tell me I should get. I’m beginning to think the internet experts exaggerate, from time to time. I know that sounds preposterous, but there I said it. Until I can actually witness a scraper laying down a finish equivalent to a smoothing plane, I’m going with that hypothesis.

    On undemanding cherry heartwood I can plane half a board, scrape the other half. The scraper produces fluffy curls. The difference between the plane & scraper is both visible and tactile. Hit that board with 3 or 4 swipes of 400 grit paper and the difference goes away. I would call scraper finish a “damned good” finish, but not “glass like”. In spots where the plane leaves an awful finish, “damned good” is damned good. I’m happy with that.

    I am trying to complete a cherry table top with lots of “character”. It’s a labor of love, right now mostly labor.

    Woodworking is such a tactile business, how I wish I could touch others’ work. Thanks again for the help,

    Colin Scowen

    My experience with card and cabinet scrapers is similar. I had a cabinet scraper that would do nowt more than raise sawdust. I watched a video about card scrapers in general, I think it was a guy who was making chairs, and he was showing that you should try to roll a small burr, and at a small angle, so that the scraper works best when it is almost vertical. He also mentioned, and I have found this to be true, that after you dress the edge and roll the first burr, this one will work OK, but you get a better edge when you re-consolidate and re-roll for a second time (but don’t re-file and flatten). I’m pretty sure it was from a FWW video, but I don’t remember for sure now, it was a while ago. For a burnisher I am just using an old ejector pin from an injection moulding tool.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    Larry Geib

    I spent a while trying to scrape fir and poplar and thought my scraper edges were not well turned. Then I planed wenge and it worked amazingly. I still don’t know how well I’m sharpening the scraper, but at least I know it works well in some cases.

    Well you aren’t alone. Paul discussed an article on scraping and said this:

    “ What this and most if not all other articles has failed to identify is that the wood type itself plays a major part in what kind of finish you can get with the cabinet scraper. The cabinet scraper relies on a firmness, density and closeness of grain structure for it to work properly. We’ll discuss this shortly, but soft woods cannot generally support the pressure of the type of cut you get from a turned cutting edge of the type used in cabinet and card scrapers.”

    Roberto Fischer

    Yeah I read that after, when I was trying to understand what could have gone wrong with fir while the scraper on wenge ended up with a finish better than my smoothing plane (maybe because it’s so stupidly hard and splintery).

    I’m very much with Jeff on that sentiment of wishing I could see others working in person and use their tools. Those would be benchmarks to aim for.

    Mark McConachie

    Hi Jeff, and many others here mentioning how they wish they could see others scrapers or work etc. I wholeheartedly agree, it brings as much value as video did versus just reading a magazine article. My thought here is, I suppose a question really, have you all looked into local woodworking clubs or guilds? Even if they are several miles away, meeting once a month you can begin to network quickly. Attending a meeting or two as a guest you will no doubt ‘connect’ with a few members who by the very nature of the club will be happy to share insight, experience and most likely shop time with a cup of coffee or perhaps a cold beer. Generally these guys and gals are just like us, some with knowledge and experience and some just learning but almost always willing to share and grow.

    I guess my thought here is search diligently for a club or guild in your area.

    Benoît Van Noten

    Guild or club.
    No such a thing in my part of the world (Belgium)

    Chris Jelliffe

    Hi Benoit- why not start one?

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