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Woodcarvers' Scrapers

Woodcarvers scrapers are not the same as those used by cabinetmakers.

You'll see me using woodcarvers scrapers in various projects on our site. If sharpened correctly, they'll leave a beautiful smooth surface with a lot of character and which doesn't need sanding. Some carvers actually scrape with their chisels; I don't like doing this and prefer a dedicated scraper but it does point to the essence of the matter: essentially carvers use a very sharp edge, not a 'ticketed' burr ('or wire edge') of the classic cabinetmaker's scraper.

I leave the scrapers straight from the grinder but you can sharpen them further on a fine benchstone 'for that ultimate shave'...


| 14 February 2021 17:55

Imran - You will always get the best finish scraping WITH the grain. But why not set up an experiment and see what happens - what finish you get - when you scrape with, across and against the lie of the fibres?
There's nothing like experience!

| 12 February 2021 03:02

Chris hi. When using a scraper, does grain direction matter? Thanks

| 06 February 2021 09:35

Imran - What you are looking for is a really sharp edge - as sharp, really as your carving tools. (I've actually seen a master carver using his chisel for just this purpose.)
Cabinetmakers usually leave the 'wire edge' (burr) on their scrapers. I put the blade flat to the stone and take it off, as you would a plane blade or chisel. Carvers scrapers are not so wide and flexible as the cabinetmaker's and this seems to me to work better. You could experiment here leaving or removing the wire edge? See what you think yourself.

An angle around 25-30 degrees will do to start with and, yes, you work the bevel on a fine benchstone just as you would a chisel. It's trickier with curved edges to be consistent on a benchstone so feel free to work the bevel side of these with the flat face of a slipstone.

Lastly, although I say the edge is sharp like a carving tool, the scraper is NOT a carving tool (though it should produce shavings!).
The bevel is all important in carving as that is what the edge works from. In a scraper, the flat side precedes; the bevel is not in contact. So it's all about the quality of that scraping edge.

| 06 February 2021 09:24

Azucena - I've found that the wider (25m) industrial hacksaw blades make excellent scrapers. Grind off the teeth and the thin, hard metal is good to go. It may be that they are specially hardened towards the toothed side but I've never noticed the difference.
I've also used narrower (10mm) blades for detailed scrapers and scratch-stocks.
When shaping either, take care not to overheat and ruin the hardness.

| 05 February 2021 23:02

Chris, thanks for your previuos reply. If one wants to further refine the scraper’s edge on a stone, what angle should the scraper be presented to the stone? In your video you have the side opposite the bevel flat on the stone to take the bur away. If I wanted to take it to the stone to further sharpen the edge would I do the same or would I present the bevel to the stone? Thanks

| 05 February 2021 17:28

Would metal from old handsaws be good to make scrapers from?

| 05 February 2021 09:43

Imram - All very well, thanks!

SCRAPER:You want what's called 'high carbon' steel and ideally should be hardened to keep the edge longer. If you put your piece of metal to a high speed grinder and you get lots of bright sparks, it's good steel to use. Dull sparks - useless. Grind to the shape you want and test. If you think the scraper loses it's edge too quickly, heat the cutting part up to a bright cherry red in the fire of with a blow torch and toss it into a pail of water. The edge will now be very hard - you don't need to temper the blade as you would a carving tool. Touch up the sharp edge and you are good to go.

SANDPAPER: Sanding to a finish is a choice and in some cases essential, so no problem there. However, when you carve through a sanded surface, the blade must pass through the sandpaper grit that remains in the wood and potentially dull the cutting edge. So, generally, we don't carve after sanding. But sometimes we have to, as with your project. 400 grit is very fine but the issue still remains; you might find tiny scratches on subsequent cuts from the damaged edge but probably not enough to need a stone touch up. Just make sure you strop more than you do regularly. And, of course, once below the sanded surface the wood is free from grit.

| 05 February 2021 01:46

Hi Chris. Hope all is well. I had 2 questions. First regarding material used for making the scraper. I have a gorgeously beautiful piece of steel from a seperate project. About 145 mm long, 50 mm wide and 5 mm or so thick. Will the edge of this make for a good scraper?

2nd question regarding sandpaper. I have a semicircular surface I am getting ready to do low relief on. I need the surface exquisitely clean. I carved and shaped this with gouges and rasps. The wood is baswood. This wood seems to smooth up very nicely with fine a 400 grit sandpaper. I don’t use sandpaper on my projects,but on this one would you? Thanks Chris. Regards to Carrie. Cheers

| 12 January 2020 19:44

Jof - It's a good question! I think you'll see that these, shall we call them edge scrapers, do produce shavings if they are sharpened properly - but it's not a competition and you should certainly experiment with the burr type, cabinet scraper.
The main advantage for me lies in the fact that I'm not dealing with flat surfaces like table tops, in which case the cabinet scraper is the tool to use, but ones that are convoluted, sometimes with deep hollows and I have a variety of widths and profiles which readily answer.

| 10 January 2020 21:58

Hi Chris. Just finished making my own and I'm really impressed with this tool; I got a much better finish in just minutes than I did from several hours of sanding! If this means I never have to sand again, I'll be very happy.

Question, though. I've seen cabinetmakers' scrapers on YouTube produce suberb shavings and finishes so I'm wondering what the advantage is of using a blade rather than a burr? For me without a grinding wheel, a burr is much faster to make than a bevel on HSS.

| 08 February 2019 16:52

Charles - I use an 80 grit, fairly coarse grit. If you use a light final pass you only skim the tips of the (grit) crystals and will get a finer finish on the scraper.
The hacksaw blade is an 'industrial' one, much wider and thicker than the DIY sor and used by engineers with power hacksaws. Try an engineering workshop for worn out ones.

| 06 February 2019 01:51

What grade of stone do you have on the grinder ? It appears to be a hard and coarse grit. This hack saw blade appears to be thicker than a run of the mill blade. Would you clarify this
Thank you

| 19 February 2018 08:55

Jim - With a carving tool, the cutting edge heads directly into the wood and bevel splits it like a wedge. The side of the split near the air curls away as a shaving; the side attached to the main bulk of the wood stays where it is.
Our scraper edge on the other hand is angled very steeply and doesn't cut a shaving free but scrapes across it, more like a snow plough. The scraper bevel gives you a keen edge and lies away from the direction of movement as you work giving a clean, high angle at the work face. This keen edge and high angle tears off a shaving and pushes it in front of the metal.
How's that?

| 17 February 2018 16:06

Hi Chris - Can you explain how a shaving is produced when the tool is moving away from the cutting edge?

| 17 August 2017 00:05

Karen - I've been tagging videos where I've used the scares so if you put 'scraper' or 'scrapers' in the search box, top left, you should find them.
Scraping, that leaves a smooth surface, is something I use on bigger, more sculpturally-shaped surfaces, so not too often, but I do love using them. That keen edge is the key element.

| 16 August 2017 15:08

As usual very helpful. Seeing you do this opens up possibilities that I would not have thought of. I would like to see other applications for these scrapers other than what you have shown, perhaps some of your work where you have used them.

| 06 December 2015 18:21

Brian/Liam - At the end of the day you just need a sharp edge and the grinder is the quickest way to get there, but it's certainly not the only way and, yes, you can certainly use your bench stones, though you may need to experiment a little getting the right angle. After the coarse stone - and even with the grinder - I give the scraper a final dressing with the fine stone to a really smooth scrape. Just a few passes on the stone should do.

| 02 December 2015 15:49

Thanks for the info - also, can I use a coarse benchstone instead of the grinder?

| 01 December 2015 16:47

Brian - I've successfully used the blades from my scratchstocks as scraper, though they do tend to be narrow of course. As long as you get a good bevel and sharp edge it doesn't really matter the way you achieve it. Actually I started making and using scraper when I saw an excellent carver scraping a recess with his chisel. I thought that was a great idea except for the need to sharpen the chisel!

| 01 December 2015 00:09

Hi Mr. Pye,
Can I use scratch stock blades for making scrapers? And also - can I make the scrapers using a coarse benchstone instead of a grinder?

| 22 June 2015 08:28

Muhammad - You can use any flat, hardened steel so yes give it a go. I've experimented with old knives, scissors, and files with success.

| 22 June 2015 04:19

Hi Chris, can i use an old hand plane blade which already dull instead of using hack saw blade for a woodcarver scarper? Just need to resharpen it back. Thank you.

| 29 April 2015 14:01

David - The thing is, a really sharp edge will scrape a shaving; you don't need a burr, at least in our carving context. Try scraping with a fresh Stanley (or other utility) knive blade. I know of some cabinet makers who use glass to scrape a surface, which of course will never take a burr. You raise a good point: a scraper doen't need to be anything dedicated or special, just the right shape and keen.

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