A Softwood Scraper Mystery - Popular Woodworking Magazine

A Softwood Scraper Mystery

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes, Woodworking Blogs

Sometimes a craftsman-made tool surfaces that is just plain mysterious and wondrous. Today I spent the morning with Carl Bilderback, a semi-retired Chicago-area carpenter who has an astonishing collection of handsaws and dang-good collection of other tools. We were working on a story together about resawing with band saws, but he also really wanted to show me an oddball scraping plane he’d bought years ago.

The thing looks a bit like a Stanley 112 scraper plane with some major differences. First, this plane holds the scraper at one angle only , 90�°. The Stanley 112 adjusts to an infinite number of angles. And the craftsman-made tool has an odd knob in front of the tote that adjusts the scraper iron up and down in the mouth.

Carl bought the plane years ago (and said he paid too much for it, by the way). And when he started using the thing on hardwoods he found “it didn’t work worth a damn” no matter what he did. So the thing sat on his shelf.

Years passed. And the one day Carl had some tear-out problems on a piece of pine around a knot. Scraping pine is generally a difficult proposition, but for some reason Carl’s hands reached for this tool and he took a couple swipes. Like magic, it scraped the tear-out smooth and also scraped the knot to perfection. Since then, this tool has become Carl’s go-to plane for softwoods.

So today we did a little experiment: We set up his Stanley 112 with a bit of a forward pitch and scraped some white pine. We could pull a decent shaving, but it left an unacceptable and wooly surface. Then we planed the pine with the oddball plane. It left a perfect surface, ready to finish.

Carl said that he can set up his Stanley 212 scraper plane with a perfectly vertical frog to somewhat imitate the oddball scraper plane, but he said it takes a lot of fussing to get everything working right , both the pitch and the projection. The oddball plane is super simple: Just drop the scraper in, turn the knob and go.

The plane was surprisingly well made in many respects. The sidewalls were welded to the sole and it had evidence that it was once zinc-plated. The one apology for the tool was that the front knob was too close to the mouth of the tool, and shavings would bunch up behind the knob. But beyond that, I was very impressed.

“Someone,” Carl said, “might want to think about making one of these tools for sale.”

Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 5 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz


    It’s beveled, like the blade on the No. 112. The flat, unbeveled face it toward the toe, just like in the No. 112.

    Carl said he relieved the corners of the iron a bit to minimize the tracks left in panel work.


  • Bill Owens

    What’s the edge of the blade in the mystery plane look like? Beveled, square, ?


  • Christopher Schwarz


    One of the things I’ve been thinking about trying is making a simple "plane" with a thick scraper iron secured vertically to a block of wood. That might work, too.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Call me "hopeful" — the tool worked great. I’ve been trying to tune up my scraper plane to imitate this one with little luck.


  • Mike

    I’ll expect to see an LN version shortly then. Call me Cynical 🙂

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The left sides of the cherry pieces above and below this caption were covered while the right sides were exposed to full sun for eight hours. The difference: The sample board below was first treated with boiled linseed oil, which we decided gave the most pleasing results.