Card scrapers vs. sanding

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 08-24-2010 04:38 AM 9375 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3316 days

08-24-2010 04:38 AM

Essentially, I am a power tool guy and included in my power tools are several power sanders. Nonetheless, I really like some hand tools in some situations. In this post I want to talk about card scrapers. It seems like in certain circumstances you can get an excellent finish with a card scrapper as opposed to sanding. I’m curious. How many people use card scrapers in lieu of sanding frequently, on occasion or not at all? If you use a card scrapper occasionally, on what occasions do you use it?

In my case, I prefer card scrapers when I am making a small item with relatively smooth grain.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

18 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8548 posts in 3890 days

#1 posted 08-24-2010 04:47 AM

I use a card scraper ever since I knew it exists :) I mainly use it to finish off milling pieces before glue up to have a glass smooth surface.

I only sand in 2 situations:

1. sharpening/honing irons
2. finishing process

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4460 days

#2 posted 08-24-2010 04:51 AM

Rich, I purchased a good set of scrapers from Lee Valley, along with their sharpening/burnishing set. I spent quite a bit of time and effort learning how to keep them in shape and burnish a hook on them.

Having said all that, I still don’t see scraping as superior to sanding as some people claim. I find myself reaching for the scraper in certain situations… you can’t beat it for removing excess dried glue from a joint… but I always sand before I finish.

A project sanded down to 400 grit or finer just “feels” better to my fingers than a surface prepared with a scraper. Maybe my technique isn’t as good as I think it is. To each his own, I guess.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View schloemoe's profile


709 posts in 3179 days

#3 posted 08-24-2010 04:53 AM

I’m having trouble keeping sanding disc’s and belts . Don’t use flat paper too lazy. So I’ve been using a card scrapper alot latley and I really like it Hurts my hands though….....................Schloemoe

-- schloemoe, Oregon , http://www.

View lew's profile


12514 posts in 3997 days

#4 posted 08-24-2010 05:03 AM


The entertainment center I recently posted was the first time I really used a card scraper to any extent. It really deceased the amount of sanding I had to do to flatten the slight imperfections in the glued up panels. I used the information from LJ Todd Clippinger to produce the edge.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3300 days

#5 posted 08-24-2010 07:06 AM

I use card scrapers frequently. Also, I recently aquired an old Stanley #80 Cabinet Scraper. I really like the control that this tool gives to the use of a scraper. It is basically nothing more than a tool that holds a card scraper at a fixed angle. Once I got it tuned up nicely, I was thoroughly satisfied with the surface that it leaves behind. I don’t use scrapers (or planes for that matter) a lot on soft woods. The surface just isn’t as polished on softer woods as it is on a hard wood. However, on most hard woods, the surface left by a well prepared plane or scraper is ready for finish right off of the blade. The biggest reason that I prefer scraping, or planing to sanding is the dust. I hate the dust created by sanding and it is amplified many times over by power sanding. I am also much less likely to accidentally round over an edge or something like that with a scraper than I am with a power sander. The important thing is the preparation of the scraper. It really is a bit of a mis-nomer to call it a scraper because it really does not scrape the wood. If you were merely scraping, it would produce dust much like that of sanding. However, a well prepared scraper produces very fine shavings that are actually cut. This, to me, is the key to the effective use of a scraper. I also think it is important to note that there are card scrapers and then there are the scraper tools used for scraping glue squeeze out or possibly scraping paint off of wood. The later tools are scraping tools. They do not really cut the surface as much as they are designed to remove things adhered to the surface of the wood and to help get down to the bear surface of the wood. The surface left by these tools is not acceptable for finish, in most cases. However, the properly tuned card scraper is actually a cutting tool like a very finely set smoothing plane would be and therefore is cutting a new surface and not simply scraping or smoothing the surface that is already there. It will not obscure the grain with dust as some sanding operations can do.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View Woodwrecker's profile


4211 posts in 3817 days

#6 posted 08-24-2010 07:13 AM

Seems like sanding works best for me.

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3909 days

#7 posted 08-24-2010 02:09 PM

I find I use a card on edges to clean up saw markes etc. and on panels that come out of the drum sander. I do the loins share with a scraper and then sand.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4256 posts in 3406 days

#8 posted 08-24-2010 03:39 PM

Thanks for the info guys.

I find I do more hand sanding than I used to, but I haven’t gotten into scrapers yet, but they are on my list. I use a common window razor blade scraper at times on glue or hard to work on places, but I use it vertically like a scraper. Cheap source of throw away blades are its main value point.

Alaska Jim

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View b2rtch's profile


4868 posts in 3290 days

#9 posted 08-24-2010 04:33 PM

scrapers like planes produce glass smooth finishes that cannot be obtained be sanding as scrapers cut the fibers but sanding abrade them.
Even a very fine sanding is never really glass smooth.
Contrary to sanding, it is a real pleasure to use a scraper.
The only issue with them is that they are tricky to properly sharpen and they get very hot when used.
If you do not have scraper , a piece of glass will also give good result as in the same way as the scraper does , it will cut the wood fibers cleanly.
Scrapers are also very good for small area that a plane cannot reach

Rich,if you have a sawmill not too far from where you live, ask if they would have a old band saw you could get, this is ideal material to make your own scrapers.

-- Bert

View Tom Coster's profile

Tom Coster

120 posts in 3080 days

#10 posted 08-24-2010 08:39 PM

Hey Lew,

I looked and couldn’t find the info your refered to on Todd Clippingers page. Could you point me in the right direction?


-- Tom, MI, SC

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4369 days

#11 posted 08-24-2010 09:02 PM

Card scrapers cut.
Sandpaper abrades (scratches).

I have about forty years experience with card scrapers and/or other types of scrapers.
I’ve added card scrapers to my classes on wood finishing.
I teach how to obtain and use three different types of card scraper edge preparations.
Nothing beats a well turned burr.

Sometimes card scrapers and planes leave too smooth a surface for some kinds of finishes, especially stains.
That’s when I’ll use a little sandpaper to tone down the surface so it will properly take a stain.

-- 温故知新

View rance's profile


4267 posts in 3402 days

#12 posted 08-24-2010 09:39 PM

zonkers, try

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3357 days

#13 posted 08-24-2010 10:07 PM

try to smooth a board with a smother
and then use some sandpaper on half off it
take the board in you hand and look down over the surface
at the same time you have the light from the other end
then you will see that the sanded area is dull and not alive as the smoothed area is
even with grit 1200 its still dull


View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3182 days

#14 posted 08-24-2010 10:25 PM

I MUCH prefer shavings to dust. If it is hardwood, scrapers. Softwood, sanding. Except for all those curvy, shapely things I do. Sandpaper, no choice.
Rich, I can’t help noticing. I think we have a powertool guy who is slowly becoming a handtool guy as well!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View b2rtch's profile


4868 posts in 3290 days

#15 posted 08-24-2010 10:31 PM

rance, ” Backer boards, stop blocks, cross cuts before rip cuts, follow the grain’
why cross cut before rip cuts?

-- Bert

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