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Make Smoothing Wood Just Plane Simple

Sand less by tackling tricky wood grains with a scraping plane.

Before sandpaper, craftsmen turned to a card scraper when they needed a silky-smooth 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 card scraper.)

Anatomy of a Scraping Plane

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Frog adjustment wheels 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.

First, burnish the blade

As with any bench plane, clean cuts depend on a sharp blade, so sharpen a scraping plane blade as you would a conventional blade. Slightly round the ends of the bevel to keep the blade from leaving marks with each pass.

Next, form a burr on the sharpened edge. To do this, make a guide block from a 2"-thick scrap about 6" long and 12 " wider than the blade. Bevel-cut one end at 15° or the angle specified for your plane. Clamp the guide block and blade in a vise with the blade about 164 " proud of the block, photo below. With the block as your angle guide, use a burnisher [Sources] or the hardened shaft of a screwdriver or chisel to roll the burr, photo below.

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

Install and adjust the blade

A properly burred and installed scraping blade should remove a paper-thin shaving.  Open the lever cap knob and insert the blade with the burr facing forward (avoid dinging the burr against the plane body) and resting on the benchtop, photo below. Then adjust the frog angle until it’s about 80° to the sole. Tighten the lever cap knob.

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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.
 

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 the setting on a piece of scrap, 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.

The blade changes depth as you change the frog angle, so loosen the lever cap knob just enough to free the blade. Then back away the two frog adjustment wheels by about 18 ". After you secure the frog, retighten the lever cap knob. Repeat this process until the blade bites into the wood and shaves thin curls from your scrap (below).

Shavings tell how you’re scraping by

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Examine the wood and your plane shavings to diagnose problems. If the blade cuts too deeply, above left, loosen the lever cap knob and reduce the blade depth. If a freshly sharpened blade still leaves just tiny curls and sawdust, above center, adjust the pitch of the frog until the burr bites into the wood surface. 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 above right.

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 by the front knob and rear handle, photo below

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Keep the worksurface clear by clamping a stop just thinner than the workpiece to your benchtop. Butt the workpiece against the scrap.

Working in the direction of the grain, hold the plane with the blade off the worksurface and the toe firmly pressed against it. Push 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 roughly 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 worksurface. 

Take the next stroke so it slightly overlaps 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.

Sources

Scraping planes.
No. 85 Cabinet Maker’s Scraper. Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, 800-327-2520, lie-nielsen.com.
Kunz No. 112 scraping plane. Highland Hardware, 800-241-6748, highlandwoodworking.com.
Veritas scraping plane (05P29.01). Lee Valley Tools, 800-871-8158, leevalley.com
Triangular burnisher.
Two Cherries triangular burnisher (520-5085). Di Legno Workshop Supply, 412-331-1236, dlws.com.

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