In May I got to spend two weeks working with Chris Williams, a Welsh chairmaker who worked with John Brown for many years. While Chris was teaching a class in building his Welsh Stick Chair I spied his cabinet scraper on the bench. I was compelled to pick it up.
It was thick like mine (I prefer thicker cabinet scrapers so they can actually level a surface). But what was unusual was its overall shape – two broad curves with rounded corners. I’ve long experimented with different shapes of cabinet scrapers, but I’d never seen this particular shape before.
After watching Chris use it for a few minutes while cleaning up a seat, I asked permission to trace the shape and immediately ground one of my scrapers to that shape.
For almost two months I’ve been using this shape and have found it to be superior in every single way to a traditional rectangle. You have to do a lot less bending of the tool to get the scraper into small (or deep) hollows in a chair seat. Yet the thing works just as well on the flat faces and edges of boards.
I have yet to find a time when I would prefer the rectangular tool.
I encourage you to give it a try. The image below is the shape I traced from Chris Williams’s scraper. Print it out at 100 percent and stick it to one of your old scrapers (or make a template and trace around it). Then take the scraper to the grinder and grind the tool to shape. If it gets hot to the touch, cool it in a bucket of water to prevent it from overheating and becoming soft.
Then stone and burnish the tool like you would normally. Give it a try. If you like it, you can thank the Welsh for one more contribution to society. (Follow Chris and his chairmaking adventures here on Instagram.)
— Christopher Schwarz
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