Card Scraper Advice

Card scrapers are an effective tool for preparing a wood surface for finish. The tricky part is sharpening. March 26, 2013

I have some quartersawn red oak with some great figuring in the wood. I had read that using the metal scrapers would be better than sanding the wood, especially where the wood is glued up. I have never used a scraper before. Does anyone have any advice/information to share?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
I've used handheld card scrapers a fair bit (as opposed to ones that are mounted in a cast body similar to a hand plane), and they do work well for small areas. It takes some practice to sharpen them, however. I read about how to do it in an old Fine Woodworking article, but couldn't get the hang of it until I saw a demonstration in person. Scrapers leave a very nice surface without tearout, but they dull quickly so you'll be touching up the edge every few minutes during use. It's a worthwhile skill, but there's definitely a learning curve.

From the original questioner:
So it sounds like I should practice with the scraper first before trying it out on the red oak? The oak is fairly hard so do you feel it would work well even on hardwood?

From contributor I:
I agree with Contributor J. There is a learning curve, especially when it comes to sharpening them. Once you learn how to sharpen them, though, you can get some really nice surfaces without all the dust. The video below is the resource I found that finally tuned me in on the sharpening part. Getting the scraper edge to curl just right - you have to have the touch.

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From contributor D:
The card scraper is a great tool. I have two and use them all the time. One has the edges filleted and I use it to smooth spray finished surfaces between coats. It provides a much better surface for the next coat and cuts the time preparing the surface between coats way down.

There is a learning curve for sharpening. One thing I've found is that when the curl starts to disappear you can flatten the curl and create a new curl in about 30 seconds. You can do this five to six times before you have to go through the whole sharpening operation again. That's why I have two scrapers instead of one. Itís a really good tool for figured woods.

From contributor I:
To contributor D: What are filleted edges?

From contributor D:
They are slightly rounded so you reduce the chance of scratching something with the sharp 90 degree scraper edge. I put a 1/4" fillet (round) on each corner. My second scraper has no fillets - just 90 degree angles. It lets me get in to tight corners.

From contributor M:
You don't want an aggressive burr when scraping sealer or finish either. It does work incredibly well on both with a proper burr.

From contributor D:
Contributor M is correct. For my finishing scraper I start with a sharpened scraper. I sharpen with a 6000 grit stone. I then use only six strokes of the burring tool to put the burr on the edge. This seems to be a good number for me and it leaves a really smooth surface.