Cabinet Scraper & Scatch Stocks

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Forum topic by rilanda posted 07-18-2012 07:27 AM 3494 views 5 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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171 posts in 2176 days

07-18-2012 07:27 AM

A Stanley 112 hand scraper

A selection of Cabinet scrapers

Filing the edge straight & square

Honing the edge on the edge of an oil stone the lid is used
as a guide to keep the scraper square

My Ticketer ( burnisher) made from a solid TCT router cutter,
using the shank as the burnishing tool.

Turning the edge

Producing the hook, holding the scraper in a wood jawed vice
is another way to apply the hook.

A well sharpened scraper will produce very fine shaving sometimes referred to
as Bees wings

A selection of scratch stocks and cutters made from old band saw or hacksaw blades

Using a scratch stock to produce a small molding

This is an article about cabinet scraper sharpening and scratch stocks although a very old tool it is still a very useful tool.

INTRODUCTION. The cabinet scraper although a simple tool made of tempered spring steel is perhaps one of the least understood when it comes to sharpening, and unless sharpened correctly it is less than useful. A correctly sharpened scraper is a joy to use and the finish it will produce on hardwoods is excellent leaving very little work to follow with abrasive papers. The tool cuts by the virtue of a turned back edge to the thin steel blade that is produced by a very hard steel tool known as a ticketer or burnisher. The edge of the blade must be straight, square, and polished to produce an extremely sharp edge before the edge is turned with the ticketer. In consequence, an examination of the process that is needed to produce an efficient cutting edge to a cabinet scraper follows.
The scraper is held in the vice [see photograph & drawing] and a file is worked along the edge of the scraper. The file should be a fine file or a mill saw file (my own preference); the edge must be kept straight and square. A similar holder as that use for topping out saws can be used to assist with keeping the edge straight & square. The filing should continue until these criterion are met and both sides of the scraper have sharp edges. This filing however will only produce a very coarse finish to the edge, this is not suitable for the production of an efficient scraping cutting edge; the edge now needs polishing on an oil stone.
This can be achieved in one of two ways [See photographs], each method achieving the same result. The fist method is to hold the oil stone in its box in the vice, the scraper is placed against the edge of the oil stone, and the box lid is place over it. Now move the scraper along the length of the oil stone working back and forth with a slight pressure to bring the scraper in contact with the oil stone. One word of warning here; scrapers have sharp corners consequently wrap the scraper in a strong cloth and wear protective gloves to avoid an accident with the corner of the scraper piecing the palm of the hand. This work to the scrapers edge must continue until the edge has a polished appearance for its whole length.
The alternative method to this is to hold the scraper in the vice and move the oil stone along the length of the scraper, however this method has inherent dangers and strong protective gloves should be worn. The oil stone should remain in its box with the lid acting as a guide to keep the stone on the scraper.
Whichever of the methods is decided upon this process should be repeated on the opposite edge, this is then followed by rubbing the scraper flat against the oil stone [see photograph & drawing] to prepare the edges for the next stage.
This is achieved by placing the scraper flat on the bench with its edge slightly overhanging and held down firmly with the fingers of the left hand [See photograph]. The ticketer is moistened slightly with oil (I have an oil soaked pad contained in a small container for this purpose) [See photograph]; now grip the ticketer firmly in the right hand and draw across the face of the scraper. This should be done with a positive downward pressure at an angle of about 5 -10deg for two or three times to raise a burr on the inside of the edge. Do not overdo this process, as it will only serve to produce a much-weakened cutting edge that would not last. Treat all four edges of the scraper in a similar manner before moving on to the next stage.
Like the process at (2 polishing the edge), there are two methods for achieving a satisfactory outcome to this part of the process. The first way is to hold the scraper vertical to the bench with the edge to be worked upon slightly over hanging the edge of the bench. Wrap the scraper partly in a good stout cloth and wear protective gloves to prevent injury to the hands both from the edges of the scraper and the ticketer. The scraper must be held firmly down against the bench top in the left hand and the ticketer held firmly in the right hand drawn upwards along the length of the scrapers cutting edge. The ticketer should be at an angle of approximately 80 – 85deg to the face of the scraper. Repeat this process twice (three times maximum) for each cutting edge, repeating the process to each of the four cutting edges. Lightly run the ball of the thumb over each of the edges and “feel” for the burr, this should feel like a dragging action against the ball of the thumb. If this “drag” can’t be felt then it may be necessary to repeat the edge turning process or possibly you may need to repeat processes 4 & 5.
Either the cabinet scraper can be pushed across the surface of the work or it can be drawn towards you over the work [See photograph]. What is common to both methods is the slight bend that should be imparted into the scraper either by the thumbs when pushing the scraper or by a strong grip where the thumb pushes the scraper back against the fingers to form a bend when drawing the scraper across the work. The direction of scraping should be changed at every stroke to avoid causing a rippled effect over the surface. A sharp scraper should produce very fine shavings (bee’s wings) when in peak condition, if the timber is coming away as dust then it is most likely the scraper is dull. A sharp scraper should be able to work at 45deg to the grain from either direction; it should also be able to work against the grain without tearing the grain although the best finish is always obtained working with the grain. It can also work very successfully on difficult timbers for example interlocking grain (SAPELE) and wild grain (YEW). The “life” of the cutting edge is dependent on the density and hardness of the timber being worked.
Scrapers are available in a range of shapes and sizes; the thickness of the steel plate can also vary. For shaped work, there are a number of shaped scrapers available on the market for this purpose. These are available with straight sides, a concave surface at one end, and a convex surface at the other end. Another type has two straight ends and two convex edges of differing radii. The last type is known as a goose neck, this type is a series of ever changing curves that produces a variety of convex and concave radii to fit most situations. Any curves outside of this selection can be met by making scrapers out of old saw blades or similar hard metal products, even modifying existing old cabinet scrapers for a given purpose. One thing in common to all these scrapers is the sharpening should follow the same process as before but this time it’s a curved edge that is needed, therefore a different approach to the filing and edge polishing is required, but, they are still required as part of the process. There are no short cuts to sharpening cabinet scrapers. Finally, it is not necessary to repeat all processes 1 to 4 at each sharpening, in general repeating processes 3 & 4 will be sufficient to revive a tired cutting edge; when this approach will not produce an effective cutting edge the whole process 1 to 4 must be carried out. There are varieties of holders available that will hold the scraper in a frame and with a screw in the centre of the scraper to impart a bend. These can reduce the discomfort created by the friction-generated heat that builds up in the scraper during use
This is very often referred to as a burnisher that is probably a more accurate description of the tool however; it has been known to me as a ticketer for all my working life. These are widely available as manufactured items some being cylindrical and others triangular with slightly rounded corners. These are made in a variety of different hardened steels with some available in tungsten carbide. However, most cabinetmakers and joiners of my era would have made their own from a hardened piece of cylindrical steel. Some would even use the back of a gouge, but this raises a serious safety question mark over the process with a sharp cutting edge passing very close to the left hand the risk of serious injury is high. It is not a process without risk and it is not to be recommended. My own ticketer is self-made from a solid carbide router cutter that had passed its useful life as a router cutter but its shank made the ideal edge ticketer. It is mounted in a suitable handle with epoxy resin to give it firm seating, the handle also provides some protection to the right hand from making contact with the scrapers cutting edge during the ticketing process.
The scraping process can be very hard on the thumbs in particular; heat is generated during the scraping process that can lead to some burns to the fingers and thumbs. Although these are not serious burns, this heat generation can make the process of scraping a less than enjoyable experience. The scraper plane provides a solution to this phenomenon by mounting the scraper in a metal body and providing the user with either one or two handles for grip depending on the type of plane being used.
There are two main type of scraper plane; the first has a metal body to hold the scraper, which has two handles on either side of the body (Stanley No. 80 or similar). The scraper is held in the body with two clamping screws, another turn screw is fitted centrally at the back of the scraper; this is screwed into the scraper to impart a bend into the scraper. The amount of “bend” applied to the scraper determines the value of the cut. A shallow bend will allow the scraper to work with fine cuts whereas a greater bend will make the scraper work with a much coarser cut. The scraper blade is sharpened slightly different to the cabinet scraper. It has two cutting edges only on opposing edges; these are sharpened with a slight convex surface [See drawing] but at 45deg to the face of the blade. These should be filed to this and like the cabinet scraper finished with an oil stone to polish the edge, remove the burr by working the blade with the face flat down to the oil stone. From this stage, the process is the same as for the cabinet scraper by raising the burr (3) and turning the edge (4) with one minor difference. When turning the edge lay the ticketer across the face of the bevel and lift the ticketer 5 – 10deg clear of the back of the bevel to strike the edge. Remember there are only two edges to prepare on this scraper.
The second type of scraper plane is in the shape of a metal smoothing plane with a boat shaped body (Stanley 112 sadly now no longer available although there are now others very similar) which is surmounted with a centrally placed scraper held at an almost vertical angle to the planes base. The scraper can be rotated e few degrees and locked into position at that angle; this facility provides the scraper with its cut adjustment. The cutter is sharpened the same as the cutter for the Stanley No. 80. It is an easy tool to use once the cutter has been sharpened correctly and the setting of the tool is correct.
However, both of these types of planes have one shortcoming; they cannot work into corners, this is the domain of the cabinet scraper, they are however ideal for working on large flat surfaces. They can work taking off very fine shavings, however when set to coarse cutting there is a risk of producing a rippled surface. On veneered surfaces my only choice of scraper would be the cabinet scraper, these, I feel I have more control over when working on easily damaged surfaces.
Available in a range of sizes with replaceable blades, these scrapers are available with tempered steel and tungsten carbide blades disposable blades. They cannot be sharpened and are probably more suited to the removal of surface coatings for example paint & varnish etcetera.

This is a very ancient tool used for making small beads, moldings, and grooves for inlays working with the grain of the timber. Used across the grain the tool will tear the timber up on both sides of the cutter, this can be minimized by either scribing the surface with a marking knife or cutting gauge where the cutter is to work. Although this can eliminate the tearing, the tool would produce a rough finish that can require a lot of work with abrasive paper to achieve a good finish. However, it has some advantages over more conventional tools; the material required to make both the stock and the cutters is easily obtained and invariably very cheap to make. The cutters are filed or ground exactly to the shape of the moulding required making the matching of existing moulding easy to achieve. The tool is easy to use and good results can be achieved quickly, albeit with a good deal of endeavor from the operative; it may be used in both directions either pushing away or pulling towards the user. Some work may be required afterwards with abrasive paper to remove any irregularities created by the scratch stock. A few scratch stock cutters can be ground with a 45deg filing/ grinding angle rather than at the 90deg standard. These cutters are useful particularly on timbers with difficult grain; however, they can only be used in on direction.
The blades can be made out of any high quality thin steel plate for example; old band saw blades, old wide hacksaw blades, old hand, or tenon saw blades, and even old steel rules that can no longer be read. Two or three pieces is usually enough to last years, different profiles can be filed into all four corners of the blade; although I would suggest that the projecting end of the cutter be guarded to prevent accidents to the hands during use.
The stocks can be made from any suitable hardwood [see photograph & drawing] for example Beech; they can be as large or as small as the user would choose to make it, although, keep in mind you do need to be able to apply a strong grip on the scratch stock to maintain adequate control over it. The face of the stock that makes contact with the surface of the timber has a rounded face; likewise, the surface that makes contact with the edge of the timber is also rounded. This rounding is to allow the operator to roll the scratch stock during operation to allow the cutter to be brought into contact or rolled out of contact with the timber. The cutter is set to project is projection and locked into position with the screws. These screws can be wood screws, or machine screws with captivated nuts on the other face, or bolts with wing nuts. Whilst the scratch stock has been largely superseded with the modern day router and the wide variety of cutters that is available today; it still has a place in the toolbox as a tool that is cheap and easy to make, cutters are easy to make for moldings where router cutters are not available. The tool is easy to use once the technique has been mastered the results can be satisfying.

-- Bill, Nottingham. Remember its not waiting for the storm to end, but learning to dance in the rain that counts. If you dont make mistakes, you make nothing at all.

7 replies so far

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1040 posts in 2334 days

#1 posted 07-18-2012 10:11 AM

Bill, You are a mine of information. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View waho6o9's profile (online now)


8204 posts in 2598 days

#2 posted 07-18-2012 12:45 PM

Thank you rilanda! Your efforts are appreciated and I shall learn
to make Bees wings.

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8081 posts in 2350 days

#3 posted 07-18-2012 01:26 PM

great write up… thanks for taking the time to post it….

I made my own burnisher exactly the same way…. from a 1/4” dia. solid carbide router bit (with a broken tip that was not suitable for re-sharpening), and it works quite well…. though I wish it was a little bit longer.

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View rilanda's profile


171 posts in 2176 days

#4 posted 07-18-2012 02:08 PM

Hi ssnvet, made mine exactly the same way and for the same reason, but the shank on this cutter was a long one and although it is a little short I persevere with it, they don’t come made in anything harder do they? I actually glued mine into the handle using epoxy resin to prevent it falling out. Made it several years ago and it has seen a lot of use.

-- Bill, Nottingham. Remember its not waiting for the storm to end, but learning to dance in the rain that counts. If you dont make mistakes, you make nothing at all.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


15366 posts in 2640 days

#5 posted 07-18-2012 02:40 PM

Bill, a wonderful post. Thanks!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Brit's profile


7385 posts in 2864 days

#6 posted 07-18-2012 07:51 PM

Great information Bill. I’ve yet to buy a set of cabinet scrapers. They been on my Christmas list for the past two years, but as yet nobody has bought them for me. Maybe this year. I did pick up a No.80 with a Hock blade, but I haven’t played with it yet. Definitely one for my favourites. Thanks for posting.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 2223 days

#7 posted 07-20-2012 04:54 AM

I made my own scratch stock a couple years ago and bought a set of blades from Lee Valley.. * irons pre cut to beads and flutes and one blank that I made to my own profile.. works great.. used it to cut bead on shaker blanket chest on project page.. funny a couple years ago nobody was selling the whole tool, now there are at least three available from different makers.. LN for one has a new one out and so does Hock.. what was old is new and all that.. thanks for the info, great to see it brought out in to the open for all to use.. Papa//

-- Papa...

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