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It’s funny what you can accomplish when you’re ignorant. No one told me I couldn’t cut joinery with a hacksaw, which has fine teeth and little set. But that’s exactly what I used to do — until I took a class in hand joinery and learned all about backsaws.

Same thing goes for scraping. For years I used a card scraper on pine until I read somewhere that you can’t scrape softwoods.

You can scrape softwoods, such as pine, with a sharp scraper, a light touch and a slightly different angle of attack. When I scrape hardwoods, my card scraper is usually about 65�° from the surface of the wood. When I scrape softwoods, I increase that angle slightly until two things happen: I get curls instead of dust and the grain stops looking fuzzy.

Other lies:
– Always work “with the grain.”
– Curved edges cannot make flat surfaces.
– Grits have no flavor.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 16 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz


    Nope, I don’t sharpen them differently. I use this method:

    The only thing I change is the angle of my attack.


  • Bob Rozaieski

    Do you sharpen your scrapers different for pine? I know a lot of other folks scrape pine successfully but I’ve never been able to. On hardwoods I’m fine but on pine all I get is dust and a fuzzy surface left behind. I would love to be able to scrape pine successfully. Perhaps I just don’t sharpen them well enough? I am very good about honing of plane irons and chisels to the point that they shave pine end grain like butter but I have been known to rush through a scraper sharpening.

  • David

    Chris – Do you know how grits (at least the variety we eat in the South) came to be? Yankees have this really god-awful concoction called "hominy", which is whole corn kernels soaked in lye to remove the shells, and it’s usually served at breakfast with – eeyuck – ketchup. From what I’m told by the patriarch in my family, lye was unobtainable in the civil war, so corn was just ground up, shell and all, into grits. Southerners figured out that it tasted a lot better than hominy anyway, so grits became a staple.

  • Bill

    Grits are like southern Tofu. They have a flavor (especially when some yankee forgets to wash em before cooking) but mostly you add your flavor to make’em special. Like oil from the bacon pan or garlic & cheese or what ever. I’m glad to be ignorate on most woodworking techiques except finishing. I can make do with what ever I have to get the wood to the final shape, but when it comes to finishing you have to follow the rules. Kind of like the difference between cooking and baking.

  • Neil

    You put the butter on the biscuit and just a dollup of the gravy with a few extra chunks of sauage of course right smack in the middle of the grits, you can still dip the biscuit….UumUum Good!!!

  • Bill Owens

    Ah, you mean the ground-up corn grits. When I read the article the first time, I thought you meant grit like from a grinding wheel. Which I’ve definitely tasted after long sessions at the grinder. And I think that different wheels actually do have different flavors. . .

  • John Fox

    Oh, gree-its. I thought you were talking about abrasives!
    Disclaimer: I’ve never tasted either one.

  • Steve Spear

    My kid’s Great Aunt got a baseball hat for Christmas that said
    Grits = Girls Raised In The South


  • T. D.

    Too true – along the same lines (of learning something new on the fly), I’d love to see a book or program on what things look like when you screw up, or when you use a tool incorrectly. Because you know, while breaking the rules can have good results, I’m also prone to encountering the bad ones, especially in finishing. Perhaps this could be a companion piece to the book suggested by John above.

    And J.C., I couldn’t agree more on the grits – garlic & cheese, baby! The best!

  • J.C.

    BTW, it’s what you put IN your grits that gives them flavor.

  • J.C.

    Ditto about the card scraper not being for softwoods. I’ve been scraping SYP for years. I simply didn’t know that it could not be done. Kind of like the bumblebee’s inability to fly due to the lack of surface area on its wings. Hmmmm… wonder what else I can’t do?


  • aris

    Hacksaw? Sweet! I have one.

  • Jerry

    I thought you had to put red-eye on grits to have flavor?

  • John Cashman

    There should be a whole book on woodworking myths. I used to get more accomplished when I just did stuff instead of thinking and reading about it too much.

  • Larry Marshall

    Agree on all counts, Chris… except for that grits thing.

    Cheers — Larry

  • swanz

    another one:

    Japanese planes/chisels are for softwoods.

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