When most folks think of scrapers, they visualize a tool used to scrape paint, like the red-handled tool in the photo. But woodworkers use a variety of scrapers to efficiently smooth and shape wood. Scrapers are primarily used on hardwoods and don’t work well with softer woods. To smooth this leaf bowl, I use mainly the square card scrapers, but I reach for my homemade round scraper for tight curves.
To perform correctly, you need to roll a burr on the edge of the scraper so it cuts. You must prepare the edge of the scraper before you can roll a good sharp burr.
Step 1: Prepare the scraper. Hone both sides of the scraper with a fine grit stone. I use a 1200-grit diamond stone. Then hone the edge. Hold the scraper perpendicular and avoid rocking the scraper from side to side. You need a sharp corner that is not rounded over. Hone the sides of the scraper to remove any burrs.
Step 2: Compress the steel on the edge. Run a burnisher back and forth along the edge several times to compress the steel along the edge on both sides of the scraper. I use a commercial burnisher, but you can use the round shank of a large drill bit.The steel in the burnisher must be harder than the steel in the scraper.
Step 3: Roll the burr. Clamp the scraper between two pieces of wood in a vise. Apply firm downward pressure with the burnisher as you make several passes flat across the top edge of the scraper. Tip the burnisher and make several passes with firm downward pressure until the burnisher forms an angle of approximately 10° to 15° degrees on the edge of the scraper.
Step 4: Check the burr. Lightly rub your thumb across the burr to make sure it protrudes enough. Sometimes you need to go back and make a couple more passes with the burnisher and a little more downward pressure.
Step 5: Smooth the wood. The amount of downward pressure you apply and the angle at which you hold the scraper determines how much wood you remove. A sharp scraper makes shavings, but a dull one only makes dust. When you see dust, you will know it is time to sharpen the scraper.