If you have to scrape…

…then do it, but go ahead and turn a burr on that blade so you’re actually taking shavings.

Although I revel in those moments when my handplanes leave a smooth, glassy surface behind, there are times when that’s just not going to happen. Reversing grain and run-out plague even the best woodworkers, and there’s never any shame in getting out a scraper.

In the current issue of Popular Woodworking you’ll find my review of the BearKat Wood chair scraper. I’ll let you read that here, but suffice it to say I’m a big fan. I have a stanley no. 80 which I love and I also use a traditional rectangular scraper when I’m working in the rectilinear world, but I’ve become a big fan of scraper planes. They aren’t always useful, but when they are, they are so in the extreme.

The trick is setting them up.

I feel like there’s some coddling and mis-information out there about scraper planes (some of it coming from the manufacturers themselves) that suggests beginners should sharpen the blade, but not turn a burr.

I understand that they don’t want to scare anyone off with the technique, but what you get in this scenario is a lot of dust and a quickly dulled blade. Especially if it’s A2 steel. Honestly, you would be better off leaving the plane in it’s box and reaching for some 220 sandpaper. Maybe this is the reason so many of these end up relegated to that boxed up state anyway. Who knows? All I know is, that should you work up the courage to turn the burr, and take an hour or so familiarizing yourself with setting the blade up and getting the right angle (212 styles have this feature, while others do not always) the payoff is worthwhile.

Here’s what I do:

  • -Sharpen the blade as per normal (I usually shoot for 30° like all my other plane blades)
  • -after honing, clamp the blade in a vise against a backing board. I usually use a piece of 2×4 with a 35° angle cut into the top. This helps me visualize the angle at which I want to turn the burr.
  • apply oil (carefully to the bevel) and use a burnisher to work from the center of the blade out to the ends. Ten passes is plenty.
  • Carefully re-install the blade and adjust the angle until the burr takes a clean shaving.

That’s it. No mystery, just gossamer shavings.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you! I was struggling with my scraper plane Saturday, ended up using my smoother and a hand scraper instead.

    What angle do you have the blade at – vertical? A little forward? A little back? Whatever I did, I got chatter…


    1. Mine is tilted forward approximately 13 degrees (from 90) but that’s what works for me at the moment. It’s not uncommon to adjust that a degree or two in either direction after turning a new burr.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s