Canadian Woodworking

Card scrapers and burnishers


A very simple tool, the edge of a card scraper is pressed against the wood’s surface and moved across it, creating a shaving.

Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill

A very simple tool, the edge of a card scraper is pressed against the wood’s surface and moved across it, creating a shaving. In use, a scraper is flexed by the user to focus the pressure of the cutting burr on a narrow portion of the work­piece. If dust is the result of using a scraper, it’s not sharpened properly. It should cut with relative ease once sharpened. Though a 90° edge can be used for very light wood removal, a burnisher is needed to create a hook on a scraper’s edge. The larger the hook, the heavier the shaving that’s removed. A very large hook on a thick scraper can be used to remove paint. Generally speaking, the thicker the scraper, the heavier the work it’s intended for. Also, the more flex a user applies to a scraper, the heavier the cut. Burnishers are available in a variety of styles, lengths and diameters, depending on the size and shape of scraper you’re sharpening. Accessories can include files (for creating an even, square edge that a hook can be added to with a bur­nisher), hand-held scraper holders (which flex the scraper and are easier on the user’s hands) and jointer/edger tools (to assist with obtain­ing the initial square edge). Hand tools very similar to hand planes and spokeshaves are also available to hold a scraper. Putting in the time to practice sharpening your scraper will pay off down the road. A dull scraper is of no use to anyone.

Price: $5 to $15 (scraper), $15 to $60 (burnisher)
Card scraper thickness: 0.010″ to 0.042”
Card scraper shapes: rectangular, slightly curved edges, heavily curved edges

Get the most out of your card scraper


Sharpening a scraper isn’t at all like sharpening other woodworking tools. Learn the proper techniques and you’ll be well-rewarded.

A dull scraper is useless and maddening to use. Now that you know how to sharpen it, you’ve just got to spend the time when needed to actually sharpen it.

Softer woods don’t react well to a scraper. The wood fibres just flex out of the way when scraped, and the wood’s surface is just compressed slightly.

Once sharp, a scraper should be stored so it doesn’t bang around with a lot of other metal tools, prematurely dull­ing the cutting burr or even damaging the scraper.

Scrapers are often rectangu­lar, though it’s easy to find them with varying degrees of simple or complex curves on their edges for smooth­ing convex and concave surfaces.

Last modified: September 29, 2023

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