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Using a Scraping Plane

Make smoothing wood just plane simple. Sand less by tackling tricky wood grains with a scraping plane.

Scraping Planes

Before sandpaper, craftsmen turned to a scraper when they needed a silkysmooth surface. Today, scrapers still work wonders for taming wild wood grain, and provide you with a welcome break from the noise and dust of sanding.

Unlike handheld card scrapers, a scraping plane requires less effort, especially on large surfaces, and holds the blade at a consistent angle. (It also costs 10 -- 20 times more than a $10 card scraper.)

As with any bench plane, clean cuts depend on a sharp blade, so sharpen a scraping plane blade as you would a conventional plane blade. (For a sharpening system using waterstones you can download the article for $3.00 at As you would with a conventional blade, slightly round over the ends of the bevel to keep the blade from leaving marks with each pass.

Next, form a burr on this sharpened edge.
To do this, make a burnisher guide block from a 2"-thick scrap about 6" long and 1/2" wider than the plane blade. Bevel-cut one end at 15° or the angle specified for your plane, as shown, bottom right. Clamp the guide block and blade in a vise -- the blade can be on either side of the block -- with the bevels facing the same way and the blade about 1/64" proud of the block.

With the block as your angle guide, use a
burnisher or the hardened shaft of a screwdriver or chisel to roll the burr. Press firmly as you push or pull the burnisher from the center to one edge while
simultaneously sliding it diagonally, as shown at right. Then slide the burnisher from the center to the opposite edge. Repeat until you feel an even burr form as the sharp edge rolls over.

Adjustment screws fine-tune the angle of the blade. Tighten the blade bow thumbscrew to create a slight concave in thin blades to help eliminate edge marks.


Scraping Blades

A properly burred and installed scraping blade should remove a paper-thin shaving. To install the blade, first place two pieces of typing paper about 2" apart on a flat wooden surface such as your workbench. Then rest the sole of the plane on the papers with the opening in the sole (called the "throat") between them, as shown at right, center. Adjust the frog angle until it's about 80° to the sole. Open the lever cap knob far enough to insert the blade with the burr facing forward (avoid dinging the burr against the plane body) and resting on the benchtop. Then tighten the lever cap knob.

For a shallower cut, use just one piece of paper beneath half the plane sole. For the shallowest cut, place the sole directly on the benchtop and press down on the blade while tightening the lever cap knob.

Now test your scraping plane on a piece of scrap clamped firmly in place, but don't be surprised if nothing happens. To peel off an even curl of wood, the frog must be adjusted to an angle where the burr snags the wood as you begin to work the plane.

The blade changes depth as you change the frog angle, so first loosen the lever cap knob just enough to free the blade. Then back away the two frog adjustment wheels by about 1/8". After you secure the frog, retighten the lever cap knob to reset the blade depth. Repeat this process until you feel the blade bite into the wood and shave thin curls of wood from your scrap. (See "Shavings tell how you're scraping by.")


The burr gives the blade an angled lip that scrapes a thin curl from the surface.

Using a scraping plane

Scraping planes work slowly by taking thin curls, so start with a surface flattened with a power planer or hand plane. As when using a smoothing plane, grip the scraping plane firmly by the front knob and rear handle, as shown at right.

Working in the direction of the grain,
hold the plane with the blade off the work
surface and the toe firmly pressed against it.
Push firmly against the rear handle hard
enough to begin cutting and build momentum
to complete the stroke. For hard or difficult
woods, such as quilted maple, start the
cut while holding the plane at roughtly a 25°
angle to the grain for a shearing motion.

Equalize your hand pressure on the toe
and heel by midcut. At the opposite end of
the workpiece, shift pressure to the heel as
the blade nears the edge. That reduces the
chance of rounding over the work surface.

Plan the next stroke to slightly overlap the
previous one. Test your work periodically
by wiping the surface with mineral spirits to
reveal any plane marks. If you notice any,
reduce the depth of cut, round over the blade
edges, or use the blade bow thumbscrew to
eliminate the problem.


Shavings tell how you're scraping by

Examine the wood and your plane shavings to diagnose problems. If the blade cuts too deeply, as shown top right, loosen the lever cap knob and reduce the blade depth.

Too Deep

If a freshly sharpened blade still leaves just tiny curls and sawdust, as shown right center, adjust the pitch of the frog until the burr bites into the wood surface.

Too Shallow

If a worn blade goes from making curls to making sawdust, resharpen the blade and restore the burr. Aim for long, wide, and thin shavings, like the one shown bottom right.


Scraping planes. No. 85 Cabinet Makers Scraper. Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, 800/327-2520 or Kunz No. 112 Scraping Plane (no. 16X61). Woodcraft, 800/225-1153 or Veritas Scraping Plane (05P29.01). Lee Valley Tools, 800/871-8158 or
Triangular burnisher. Two Cherries triangular burnisher (520-5085). Di Legno Workshop Supply, 877/208-4298 or

©Copyright Meredith Corporation 2007

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