Woodsmith last issue Woodsmith current issue

Keep up to date with

Sign Up for Our FREE Newsletter

Give a Gift FREE Issue
Share Page:

Shop Secrets To A Smooth Surface

By: Ted Raife
Forget the sandpaper. Take a look at a couple of scraping tools that take the work out of creating a smooth surface on your projects.

A hand-held scraper is a great tool for creating a perfectly smooth surface on a workpiece in preparation for finishing. But flexing and holding a hand scraper at the correct angle in order to smooth a surface can be tiring and uncomfortable, especially for long periods of time. For smoothing large areas, there are a couple of other scraping tools that get the job done quickly and with a lot less effort.

5363063 snip 1548824507828 new

A scraper plane or a cabinet scraper, like those in the photo at left, can dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend sanding your projects. They work especially well on highly figured woods that are prone to tearout from planers, jointers, and other power tools. And as an added plus, these tools are a lot more comfortable to use than a traditional hand scraper.


Cabinet scrapers are among the simplest of scraping tools. For years, the standard for cabinet scrapers has been the classic Stanley #80 scraper. Essentially, it’s nothing more than a holder for a hand (card) scraper. It features two wingstyle handles and a simple clamp to hold the scraper blade in place. A thumbscrew is tightened to flex the blade, saving wear and tear on your thumbs (photo at right).

Although Stanley still makes this tool, in recent years other manufacturers have come out with their own versions, improving upon the original design. The cabinet scraper shown in the photos on the opposite page is made by Veritas. (See page 51 for sources.)

Aside from preventing fatigue, one of the advantages of a cabinet scraper over a hand scraper is that it has a flat sole. This makes it easier to control the scraper and maintain a consistently flat surface as you’re smoothing a workpiece.

Cabinet scrapers are designed to hold the scraper blade at a single, fixed angle. This is fine for most scraping tasks. But for a little more versatility, you might want to take a look at a scraper plane.


If you do a lot of scraping, or frequently work with figured woods, then you’ll probably want to consider a scraper plane. Scraper planes come in a few different sizes and designs. The large plane shown on this page is the Lie-Nielsen #112, based on another classic Stanley design. ( Veritas also makes a similar scraper plane.)

With traditional knob and tote handles, a scraper plane looks and feels more like a conventional bench plane. But unlike a bench plane, a scraper plane holds a thick scraper blade instead of a plane iron.

The blade is nearly 3" wide, allowing you to work even large surfaces quickly. Combined with the mass of the plane, this tool works almost effortlessly, making it the perfect choice for tasks like smoothing a large tabletop.

SCRAPER BLADE. Unlike hand scrapers and cabinet scrapers, the thick blade of the Lie-Nielsen scraper plane isn’t designed to be flexed or bowed in use. Instead, the large brass thumbscrew simply clamps the blade in place.

In addition, the blade can be sharpened with or without the customary burr on the edge. It’s actually a little easier to control the scraper plane without the burr. Once you have a feel for the plane, you can add a burr to the edge for a more aggressive cut.

The goal when using a scraper plane is to take thin shavings. To set the blade depth, just loosen the thumbscrew slightly and slip a sheet of paper under the front of the plane. Then tighten the thumbscrew against the blade (photo at right).

ADJUSTABLE ANGLE. The biggest advantage of a scraper plane, however, is the fact that the blade angle is adjustable. Depending on the task at hand, the blade can be set anywhere from a vertical position to leaning forward 25°. (See the How-To box below for more.)

Whether you choose a cabinet scraper or a scraper plane, I think you’ll find either of these tools a big step up in performance from traditional hand scraping. 

How-To: Set the Correct Angle for the Job

One of the best features of the large scraper plane shown below is the ability to change the angle of the blade for different tasks.

At the factory, the blade is set so it angles forward about 15° from the vertical position (left photo below). This results in a smooth cut with short, paper thin shavings. I use this angle for cleaning up machine marks on straight-grained wood.

Tilting the blade forward even more will take a deeper cut (center photo). This angle will produce long curls, almost like a low-angle plane. You could use this angle for smoothing an uneven surface, like a glued-up tabletop.

Setting the blade to a vertical position decreases the depth of the cut (right photo). This will produce fine scrapings, almost like sawdust. I use this setting when smoothing wood with highly figured grain.



Published: June, 13 2019
Topics: None
Share Page:

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

WSM eTips Landing Page Ad_Sub Promo


Related Articles


Best Socket Sets For Day-To-Day Needs

Create Strong And Robust Interlocking Dovetail Joints With The Best Dovetail Jigs

Best Carpenters Tool Belts For Easy Storage Of Essential Equipment

The Best Dewalt Wrenches To Topple Every Project

Add the Best Vise Jaws to Your Workshop for Added Workpiece Stability

The Best Sawzalls; Cut Through Anything. Anywhere

Best Dewalt Tool Kits For DIY Home Project

Make Stapling A Breeze With The Best Pneumatic Staple Gun

Add The Best Dewalt Impact Drivers To Your Tool Kit

Effortlessly Thread Neat Screws With The Best Die Sets

Measure with Accuracy: Best Angle Finder

No More Cracks: Best Wood Filler

Enhance Your Woodworking Projects With The Best Plate Joiners Of 2021

Make Your Sanding Jobs Easier With The Best Spindle Sanders Of 2021

Best Scroll Saw For The Finest Cutting Results

See Through Walls With The Best Stud Finders

The Best DeWalt Drills and More For Your DIY Needs

The Best Drill Press Of 2021

The Best Wood Planer To Complete Your Woodshop

Make Every Cut Ideal: Best Router Table Fence

The Best Router Base For Furniture Manufacturing

The Best Allen Wrench to Get the Job Done!

Make Your Projects Effortless With The Best Ball Peen Hammers

Brushless Drills: An Incredible Addition to your Toolbox

Keep Your Cuts Clean With The Best Radial Arm Saw

Best Tap Sets For Your Workshop

The Smoothest Experience With The Best Random Orbital Sander

Carve and Create With The Best CNC Routers

Upgrade Your Workshop With The Best Benchtop Jointer

Deal with Logs with the Best Wood Chipper

Blast the Tunes with the Best Woodshop Radio

Best Compact Bandsaws For Easy Cutting

Best Finishing Nailers For Durability

Best Mini Air Compressors To Buy

Our Team’s Review of the Best Propane Torches

Best Wood Carving Sets For Hobbyists

Best Wood Lathe For Beginner

Use The Best Edge Sanders To Smoothen Any Wooden Surface

Seamlessly Cut And Chop Wood With The Best Hatchets

Woodturning Essentials: The Best Roughing Gouges

Best Shop Fans: Top 7 High-Velocity Heavy-Duty Fans for Garages, Worksites and Workshops

Preserve Your Valuables With The Best Linseed Oil

Best Rubber Mallets For Woodworking

Best Wrench Sets That Makes Work Easy

The Best Wrench Racks To Organize Your Tools

The 7 Best Calipers For Accurate Measurements

Best Marking Gauges For Professional And DIY Woodworkers

Best Folding Stools To Fit into Compact Spaces

Get The Perfect Flush Cuts Every time With The Best Edge Banding Trimmers

Best Deck Screws For Pressure Treated Woods To Make A Perfect Deck

Best Miter Saw Stands To Mount Your Cutting Tools On The Go

Increase Your Sanding Efficiency With Zero Effort Using The Best File Belt Sanders

Best Table Saw Fence 2021 for Smooth Cuts and Shapes

Sharpen And Shape With The Best Bench Grinders

Best Metal Clamps for Your Craftsmen Needs

Best Cordless Impact Wrenches for All of Your Mechanical Needs

Best Biscuit Joiners to Help Easing Your Woodwork

Best Estwing Hammers For Your DIY Needs

Use The Best Wood Moisture Meters To Separate Healthy And Damaged Wood Pieces

The Best Rail And Stile Router Bits: The Staple Of Hassle-Free Woodworking

Best Adjustable Wrench For Hassle-Free Work

Best CNC Router Bits For A Hassle-Free Woodworking Project

Achieve Precision with the Best Glass Cutter

Keep Things Sharp With The Best Sharpening Stones

The Best Sandblaster To Get Your Job Started Strong

Best Forstner Bits To Add To Your Woodworking Tool Kit

The Best Jointer For Every Type Of Woodworking

The Best Track Saw of 2021

Our Team’s Review Of The Best Spring Clamps

Best Rasp Files – A Versatile Woodcarving Solution

The Best Veneer Edge Banding: A Perfect Finish To Your Furniture

Catch The Dust Before It Catches You With The Best Dust Hoods

Best Depth-Gauges: A Staple For Woodworking Enthusiasts

Construct Your Projects On The Best Workbenches Available

Smooth Out Your Work Using the Best Sanding Discs

Best Caster Wheels 2021

The Best Furniture Levelers: Bid Farewell to your Furniture Woes

7 Best Flush Cut Saw That Could Change the Wood Cutting Game

Level-Up Your Portals With the Best Door Hinges

Organize Your Lifestyle With the Best Pegboard Hooks

The Best Magnetic Toolbars For Easy Storage And Organization

The Best Vise: A Staple In Every Workshop

Our Team’s Review of the Best Rolling Tool Chest

Organize With Ease: Best Pegboards

Make Better Cuts With The Best Table Saw Push Block

Cut And Shape With Ease: Best Router Table

The Best Plywood Jigs For Every Need

Reviewing The Best Taper Jigs This Year

Hit The Nail On The Head With The Best Hammers

Make Every Cut: Best Angle Grinder

The Best Wood Stain For Every Project

The Best Overhead Storage Rack For Convenient, Safe Storage

The Best Double Sided Tapes That Won’t Damage Surfaces

The Best Saw Dust Catchers For Shop Safety

Toolbox Essentials: The Best Sandpaper

Start Your Next Carving Project With The Best Scorp

Seal, Coat, and Craft With the Best Epoxy

Finding the Best Circular Saw in 2021

Reviewing the Best Drill Bits of 2021

Best Ratchet Wrenches for Quick and Easy Repairs

The Best Table Saw For The Everyday Handyman

Reviewing the Best Router Leveling Jigs

Tackle Screws Effectively With The Best Screwdriver Sets

Best Shop Vac For Those Heavy-Duty Cleaning Tasks

Best Tape Measures For Professionals and DIYers

The Best Handscrew Clamp For Gluing, Painting, and Building

The Best Wood Mallet For Your Next Carpentry Project

Revamp Your Outdoor Space With The Best Deck Stain

Smooth Out Edges With The Best Spokeshaves

The Best Carpentry Square For Precise Measuring

Protect Your Outdoor Entertainment Space With The Best Firepit Cover

Get The Right Measurements With The Best Framing Square

Best Wood Chisels For Impactful Wood Crafting

The Best Bird House Kits For First-Time Builders

The Best Wood Glue To Complete Your DIY Projects

Our Top Picks Of The Best Wood Burning Kits This Year

Reviewing The Best Moving Dollies This Year

Best Wooden Box Puzzles For Challenging Fun

Get Organized With The Best Racks For Firewood

The Best Landscape Edgers To Beautify Your Space

Endless Fun With The Best Wooden Puzzles

Our Top Picks Of The Best Blueprints This Year

Reviewing The Best Benches This Year

Never Lose Out On Warmth: Best Water Heaters

Make Cutting Easier With The Best Band Saws

Easy to Use and Efficient: Best Sanding Blocks Reviewed

Reviewing The Best Axes Right Now

Cordless Precision Possible: Best Compact Routers

Work Smarter with the Best Canvas Aprons

Convenience And Reliability: Best Tankless Water Heater

Create Clean Slices using the Best Low Angle Block Planes

Craft Wood Effortlessly with the Best Carving Chisels

Make Storage Seamless With The Best Extension Cord Reel

Review: The Best Cordless Drills

Don’t Let Handtools Slow You Down: Best Drills

Get Your Home Looking Sharp With The Best Wall Paints

The Best Table Saw Stand For Easy And Clean Cuts

Keep Your Tools Running Smoothly With The Best Lubricant Oil

Review Of The Best Hacksaws Right Now

Strong and Soft: Best Shop Towels

Stay Sharp With The Best Electric Pole Saws

Get Up-Top With the Best Step Ladders

The Best Deep Toolbox For Maximizing Your Space And Time

The Best Porch Swing Will Sweep You Off Your Feet

Tackle Any Project with the Best Chop Saws

Review of the Best Portable Generators

Secure Woodworking with the Best Bench Vise

Precise and Durable: Best Measuring Tape

Enhance Your Cuts Using The Best Miter Saw

Keep Your Work Organized: Best Toolboxes

The Best Electric Log Splitter For Great Cuts