A scraper is a piece of mild steel that is used to smooth a wood surface. The edge is filed smooth and square, then a “hook” is burnished into the edge that effectively forms a very small cutting edge. When burnished and used properly, a scraper should create tiny curls that look like miniature plane shavings.
Watch below as Woodworker’s Journal Editor in Chief Rob Johnstone explains how to burnish a scraper:
Note that the center is bowed inward slightly to stiffen the cutting edge and keep it from vibrating. Also note the fine shavings at the cutting edge. In time, the card will get hot, so there are card holders that improve your grip and keep the blade flexed.
To maintain the proper angle, scrapers can also be mounted in a plane-like body that helps prevent scraping hollows. This Stanley No. 12 is an antique example, but there are modern ones made as well.
Scraping instead of sanding gives a number of advantages. It is quieter and far less dusty than sanding, and the finished surface is cleaner. Fine sanding dust tends to become clogged in the pores of the wood, causing a dulling of the final appearance. Scraping avoids this, and burnishes the surface of the wood. You’ll be surprised at the difference between a sanded and a scraped finish, especially in figured woods or with inlays.
A well tuned scraper is just as pleasing to use as a fine hand plane, and all sorts of shapes and sizes exist to smooth nearly any surface. Once you get the feel for it, you’ll be hooked!