Chris Schwarz's Blog

A Trickier Ruler Trick

Anything – a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g – that reduces the time I spend sharpening my tools makes me giddy. Care Bear giddy. Monchichi giddy.

Making tools dull is more fun.

A few years ago I found a way to use a thin ruler to help me stone the faces of my card scrapers. It’s an adaptation of David Charlesworth’s ruler trick, and I documented the process on a DVD, “Handscrapers: Understanding, Preparing and Using the Ultimate Finishing Tool.”

It is a great trick and reduced the time I spend preparing a new card scraper to minutes instead of hours.

A couple weekends ago as I was teaching a handplane class with Deneb Puchalski (let’s say it together now: Poo-HALL-ski) of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, and he showed me how he had tricked out my little trick.

It uses the same ruler, but you do two things differently. One, you pinch the ruler and the scraper together in a sandwich. Two, you place a block of wood on the scraper and apply pressure on the cutting edge.

This cuts your stoning time in half. And it makes it easier to stone thin card scrapers. If you don’t use the block of wood, you need to move your fingers around on a thin scraper to get the entire edge stoned – otherwise you will stone only the areas under your fingertips. The block of wood applies consistent pressure.

I prepared this short video that demonstrates my earlier method and the improved one. Thanks Deneb. I owe you (another) beer.

— Christopher Schwarz

• Speaking of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, I’ll be teaching a weekend class in their workshop in Warren, Maine, on how to make chisels, handplanes and saws work together – and we’ll be building an English Square. Click here for more details.

10 thoughts on “A Trickier Ruler Trick

  1. Stumper

    Instead of a metal ruler, I use a strip of .040″ styrene and it works great. Also, I imbedded a couple rare-earth magnets in a strip of hardwood and use that to hold the scraper while flattening the scraper on the stone.

  2. Richard

    L-N has a six inch ruler for $3.00, and they advertise it as being ideal for the ruler trick.

    Another option is a six inch ruler made be General. I think the part number is 300/1. It’s available at most hardware stores and lumber yards and sells for about $3.00.

    1. tsstahl

      Woodcraft puts them on sale for a buck and a half every so often. I stock up on a half dozen or so every time. I don’t sharpen them to death, I just lose the little buggers.

  3. Steve_OH

    In my experience, the block that you use to apply pressure to the edge of the scraper has to be really, really flat. Otherwise, you get a nice impression of any irregularities in the scratch pattern…

    -Steve

  4. macmarty15221

    This method seems to involve stoning the face of the ruler as well. All of my small rulers have scales etched on both sides, and I don’t want to polish that away. What’s a fella to do in this case? (Get a cheesier ruler? Use a Small Strip of Something Stainless?)

    1. Steve_OH

      The thin, flexible marking rules from Incra work well here: They’re only engraved on one side, so you don’t have to worry about damaging the engravings on the back. And they’re wide, so you can get a good grip and still leave plenty of ruler on the stone.

      Theyr’e not throwaway cheap ($14 for a 6″), but they’re also not expensive enough that they make you cringe when you scratch up the back.

      -Steve

    2. Phil Smiley

      I use very thin (i.e. cheap) aluminum flashing. You can score it with a knife and bend it to fit the corner of your stones so it stays in place better. I saw Mario Rodriguez do that in a class I took some time back. He also put a strip of painter’s tape on the bottom so it didn’t slide around on the wet stones.

      You can also use the flashing to make templates for things like dovetails. Mario showed me that as well.

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