A Much Better Shape for a Card Scraper - Popular Woodworking Magazine

A Much Better Shape for a Card Scraper

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Woodworking Blogs

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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Showing 12 comments
  • diceloader

    Lee Valley have one as part of a set that only needs the corners rounded off if you want to save some work.

  • Michael Kratky

    Great concept. BTW, enjoyed meeting you and your “lecture” at the Lobster Bake last year at the Lie-Nielsen open house in Warren Maine.

  • gtrboy77

    Chris, how thick is your “thick scraper”?

    • Capie

      Probably 0,032″, me thinks.

  • Kevin0611

    You mention how you like thick scrapers because they “actually level a surface” yet you find this curved scraper superior in every way to a rectangular one. I’m a bit confused. Wouldn’t the curved scraper make it difficult to level a surface as well as a thick, standard shape? Does the curved scraper dish out material less than a flexed, thin card scraper…is it a happy medium between a thin and thick scraper?

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      A thin scraper follows ripples in the wood. A thick scraper plows them flat.

    • TJdaMan

      Unless you are very careful and have lots of experience curved scrapers are not the tool for working a flat surface, but they work well on curved surfaces like a seat. Violin makers have been using them forever. An online image search will quickly find you photos of scrapers made from old sword blades. Old saw blades work well too.

      I’ve made them in all sorts of shapes for special tasks. One of my favorites looks like an elongated guitar pick with one long edge being straight and the other slightly curved. It’s about 1/3 of the original Sandvik scraper. It’s fairly easy to snap off whatever piece you need by clamping tightly in a vise and hitting with a hammer. (After donning your eye, ear, nose, and throat protective gear of course)

  • Mark82

    Hi, Chris:

    Normally I’d push the scraper against a wood block on a sharpening stone. But how would that work with a curved edge? If you could say an extra sentence or two on stoning a scraper of this shape, that’d be helpful.


    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz


      That’s exactly what I do. I use the block to keep the scraper at 90°. Then rub the scraper against the stone. Easy.

  • Capie

    Nice! Looks quite multi-functional, Chris. Struggling with my 100% size printing…. Uhmm… This about 5 x 2,5 inches?

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