Turning wood into glass

March 22, 2009

I’ve seen plenty of sandpaper in my life. I’ve seen orbital sanders and belt sanders – palm sanders and block sanders. But I had never seen a scraper – a cabinet scraper before.

A cabinet scraper is just a thin sheet of steel but when used in the right circumstances, it can turn your wood surface into glass. Instead of grinding the wood fibers like sandpaper, it cuts microscopic layers of wood tissue.

Excerpts from the following article are listed below:

Back before the invention of sandpaper, craftsmen would scrape the surface of wood to get it smooth. Thankfully, cabinet scrapers have stood the test of time and are still available today. One of the most inexpensive tools to buy, scrapers leave a silky-smooth surface superior to even the finest grits of sandpaper. They also work faster than sandpaper.

In order for a scraper to work, you need to form—or burnish—a hooked edge to cut the wood fibres. To accomplish this, first polish the scraper’s edge at 90º using either a fine whetstone or 1,000-grit sandpaper on a flat surface

The three main ways to use a scraper

Push method: This is the most aggressive method of scraping. A bow is formed in the scraper by pushing the centre out with your thumbs, and the scraper is pushed into the wood. This is the most popular approach, as it yields the fastest results.

Pull method: While not as aggressive as the push method, the pull method gives the user more control. I prefer to use the pull method when doing detail work, focusing on a specific area or difficult grain

Flat method: Because of the shape of the hook, scrapers work while laying flat on the surface of the wood. This method is the least aggressive, but really shines when you don’t want much material removed. A great use for the flat method is to remove dust bumps from cured finishes. Before rubbing out your finish, lay the scraper flat on the surface and use your fingertips to slide the tool back and forth. The scraper acts as a mini-plane as it removes the bumps without going through the surrounding finish.

For more great tips or to see the furniture we are making, please visit



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