Finishing a Hand-Scraped Wood Surface

      Finishers and furnituremakers discuss the fine points of scraping and hand-planing, and of applying finish to a hand-worked wood surface. February 15, 2015

Question (WOODWEB Member)


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I have a customer that has asked me to make a table, the top for which is going to be 44" (two pieces 22") wide African mahogany. Since he wants a rustic appearance I am considering hand scraping. I'm familiar with scraping but want to know if anyone has any experience finishing a hand scraped piece without sanding.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
We did hand planed items and we just used 220 paper to put a light scratch in them before finishing. Scraping is akin to burnishing and you may end up with finish failure if you don't sand a bit. It has to be hand sanded, not orbital.


From the original questioner

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Contributor L - sounds like good advice. I've seen table tops that were apparently scrub planed only but I never knew whether they were sanded after planing or just finished without sanding.

From Contributor M

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I've had excellent results using hand scraping and hand planing. The trick is really in the wood species and finish schedule. Hard maple with an oil stain or thick finish is going to have adhesion problems. However if you were to use a water based dye stain sanding isn't required as the water will open up the pores enough for a wash coat of sealer to get excellent adhesion. Once you have that you can do anything using correct application procedures. For a clear finish I have had good luck as long as I use a wash coat to get penetration, I would do an adhesion test though just to be sure. It is definitely worth it on figured wood. The clarity difference is amazing.

From the original questioner

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The wood species is African mahogany. My thoughts are to use an aniline dye. He wants a light brown color (figure walnut and yellow). I've looked at the boards yesterday and there is not any ribbon striping typical of A. Mahogany (a concern for chipping) though the customer tells me he does not mind a little chip-out if it happens. This is something I've wanted to try for a long time but never had a customer tell me this was his preference. Contributor M - what kind of plane did you use? How do you avoid gouging from the blade edges?

From Contributor M

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I just use the cabinet scraper for a large surface mostly, but I have used my hand planes as well. If they are sharpened properly and you very slightly round the very edges of the iron you should get a nice smooth surface. I use a standard card scraper and I also picked up a Stewmac Ultimate scraper which I really like.


From contributor B:
You can buy rounded hand planes that are great for distressing. Plane a bit, scrape a bit and then sand a bit (5" random works great) and you'll have a really nice rustic look.

From the original questioner

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I will definitely get a Stemac. Good info. I've looked at the Lie Nielsen Scrub plane which has a 3" radiused blade. The boards are 22"w - too wide for my 18" planer, so I will probably plane by hand. I'll try to find the right combination of planing and scraping to get the right effect.


From contributor B:
If it was my project I'd rip those 22's in half, mill close to my finish thickness and then glue them back up and then hand plane. That new scraper will come in handy for the glue line.

From the original questioner

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If it were my table that is what I would do. My customer is into wide boards and doesn't mind some splitting nor does he mind me doing it the hard way.

From Contributor M

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We did a lot of hand hewn beams when I was doing work for Lake Tahoe and used a scrub plane quite a bit. The Lie Nielsen scrub plane is excellent and has a little wider iron than the Stanley. If you are looking for a more rustic look then that is a great way to go.

From the original questioner

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I will probably order one (scrub plan) today with the Stewmac scraper though I'll have to test using both to see what kind of effect I can get.



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