Making a Spokeshave Scraper

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Established Member
22 Oct 2003
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Up the proverbial creek
Or Chairmaker's Scraper. Or Gunstock Scraper. Or... well, there's apparently a million names for one simple tool, take you pick. I've been wanting to make one for simply ages, ever since I saw one in Classic Hand Tools and more especially Brian Buckner's example. Mine isn't as elegant as I'd have liked, but it does work and I thought I might as well do my usual over-blown step-by-step account of the process in the hopes that someone might find it useful. Plus I get you lot to proof-read it for my website and try out this new iPhoto thing (I think I've gone a bit too red on the pics... :-k )

The beauty of this is you use such small pieces of wood you can go to town on the exotics without breaking the bank. So why I just fished out what was handy in the off-cuts box is anyone's guess... :oops: Anyway, a piece of something very hard, tight-grained and definitely exotic (and predictably unidentified) 19mm (3/4") square and about 355mm (14") long provided the body, with a scrap of maple for contrast to make the blade clamp/toe. Really a bit of boxwood or bone would be better still, 'cos that bit gets a lot of wear, but I didn't have anything harder handy - or pale enough. Yeah, aesthetics played their part, I'm ashamed to say. Incidentally the finished body length will end up about 305mm (12") long; you'll see the reason for the extra length in a mo'.

Working on the same principle as the spokeshave kits I started by marking a line round the middle of the body.

Then I marked off lines a set distance from either side of that centre line. Now here's where you can start to do as you fancy straight away. This is going to end up as the area where the toe goes, so it needs to be wide enough to take two screws plus the width of the blade plus some spare at the ends so the toe piece will still be structurally strong enough. Sounds too complicated? Just do what I did then and measure off 35mm (1 3/8") each side... :wink:

Now I used the extra length to bore a couple of screw holes so I could fasten the body to my simple T-shaped jig. A more galootish way would involve saw, chisel etc, but I have the jig and this is the kind of thing the 'Rat's so good at. If it helps I split my pencil lines by eye and didn't use any stops. Okay, don't throw things at me...

And the finished erm, notch? Housing? Wear? I dunno. Finished anyway; 6mm (1/4") deep.

So now the toe piece/blade clamp. Rather thicker than it'll end up eventually, but sawn more or less to length. But woe is me, it doesn't fit. :(

Times like this I feel really sorry for woodworkers who don't understand how useful planes can be. I dread to think what the Normite solution to this is, but mine is, naturally, a shooting board. The key is not to enjoy yourself too much and make it too sloppy a fit. DAMHIKT...

A couple of goes of offering it up, going back to the shooting board and taking another one or two shavings, offering it up again, and a perfect fit. I love it when a plan comes together (tm The A Team)

Right, orf to the drill press. I use the complicated method of "that looks about right" to decide where to put the holes for the screws. The blade clamp is always going to be the weakest link, so don't be tempted to cut back too much on how much space there is between the hole and the blade clamp ends, or you'll be sari. Er, I mean sorry. Oh all right, the centres are 10mm (3/8") in from the ends and that's for 6.5mm holes. You could probably use M5 machine screws instead of M6 but I think M4 might be just a little too small. Imperial, you're on your own... The snug fit of the blade clamp meant I risked it and didn't tape or clamp it in place - I don't advise you do the same. Erm, "tape removed for clarity"? :whistle:

The key thing here is to bore through just far enough to make a nice clear mark for the tapping holes, but not too far.

It's then very easy to follow up with the right size hole to subsequently tap. Bore them right the way through; there's a reason.

If your timber doesn't lend itself to tapping, threaded inserts can be used instead with no trouble. If you're using the usual flanged Trend ones then silly you; 6mm ones are much, much cheaper from Screwfix. Ha hum, but what I should be saying is: first drill a shallow counter bore for the insert flange, then the right size hole for the body of the insert, then a clearance hole for the rest of the screw (the latter not needed if your machine screws are short). Here's an example just to prove it works.

Well you know me and tapping holes; I see a tool, I tap a hole in it... :oops: This particular wood takes a really clean thread which makes tapping an excellent option. This where the through hole comes in too. Unless you're a tapping genius, chances are the first few threads will be less than perfect until you get it all square and flowing nicely, so start from the back and get all that dodgy tapping done where it doesn't have to hold the screw anyway. A light chamfer of the entry and exit holes helps keep things crisp too.

Once that's done, test it and make sure it all fits, then turn your attention to the blade. In this case I used a "proper" scraper 'cos I had a tiny one that was no actual use hand-held anyway. Alternatively cream crackered saw blades are a favoured galootish source. Such a small blade is required you could probably use a length of defunct steel rule of the wider sort too. Whatever you fancy, measure up what'll fit between the screws and mark up your blade stock.

An oft-suggested method to "cut" saw blades into scraper blades is to score a line and snap it off in a vice. I've never got it to work and usually rely on Dremel or angle grinder instead. This time I clamped it firmly to the bench top with a thick piece of wood on top, the desired score line lined up with both edges, scored down the line with the tip of a file, bent it up and down and eureka; it worked! Well, almost. Always best to allow a bit of extra to file it down square and neat... Also wear some eye protection, just in case something pings where it shouldn't.

Once you've got the blade sorted, you can use it to mark out the reverse of the blade clamp. Whatever you do don't chisel out an area as wide as the blade, 'cos it'll just fall through. Hence the very careful and deliberate hatching across the waste. I allowed about 5mm/3/16" either side to actually bear on the blade to hold it. Ack, you'll see what I mean in a bit.

I gauged off a depth of about 3mm (1/8") to remove...

...and used a chisel to remove it, finishing up with a fine file just to ease the passage for the shavings. Also, very carefully I removed a sliver or two either side where the blade clamp actually bears on the blade. It's not necessary, but it gives a neater appearance. Whatever you do, don't make it as deep as the blade is thick, or it won't grip! #-o

That's the last finicky bit. From here on it's just the artistic stuff shaping it. Like a fool I didn't make myself a pattern but eye-balled it instead - so it's not exactly symmetrical. :oops: As long as you leave a bit in the middle with a flat sole you can do practically what you like. I took off the worst with the bandsaw.

Then some more shapely hogging with a shave before finishing with scraper and abrasives. Of course what I really needed was a scraper like this to make the scraper. :lol: The bolts are there 'cos I'd yet to find the machine screws I needed at the time, the large penny washers helping to prevent the heads dinging up the face. Made shaping a bit of a challenge though...

While the shellac was drying, I ground a bevel on the blade, removed the corners and turned the burr.

A coat of beeswax polish, courtesy of Adam's bees, and all the parts ready to go. Best not to put wax on the areas where you want some grip, incidentally... Finally sourced the M6 slot headed countersunk machine screws in brass, for a fancy finish.

Time for a trial. Pushing or pulling, whatever works best.

Whispy shavings all present and correct; s'working fine.

Doesn't look too bad either, say it I shouldn't. Maybe I'll cut down the excess blade, maybe not.

Above it is a Chair Devil or Spindle Scraper, for use on round section (like, er, spindles. D'oh!) Same principle, just a larger body to accommodate the curve (about 29mm (1 1/8") square), the curve in the sole and blade of course, and turned handles. The curve in the sole looks complicated, but simply done with a forstner bit once the blade clamp is fitted. A drum sander makes quick work of the blade too. Don't make the curve a perfect semicircle though, or the corners are apt to ding the work.

Anyway, maybe someone'll be moved to have a go. It's a useful little tool and once you've made one the principle can be used for different sizes and shapes. Plus I think they look really cool... 8)

Cheers, Alf

P.S. Even though it's not a round, spinny thing, this one's for Trev - I made all the notes of dimensions and so forth with one of his pens, so why not?
Good stuff - another nice piece of work. Better go read the blog now, to get an update.

Very nice indeed Alf - very inspirational - and the photos (and end product) look like something out of FWW. Well done.
The normite "equivalent" to an end grain shooting board is (AFAIK) a large disc sander.

One technique to tapping straight is a piece of scrap. You tap the scrap, getting a nice thread going. You then clamp the scrap "in place" over the real workpiece, and the tapped hole in the scrap guides the tap into the real work. Once it's nicely "working" in the workpiece, back it out, remove the scrap, and continue.

Engineers use a fancy gadget that look a lot like a drill press.

It's hand powered, and no feed (since taps MUST be self feeding)

Alf":1odwn7cq said:
Then some more shapely hogging with a shave before finishing with scraper and abrasives. Of course what I really needed was a scraper like this to make the scraper. :lol: The bolts are there 'cos I'd yet to find the machine screws I needed at the time, the large penny washers helping to prevent the heads dinging up the face. Made shaping a bit of a challenge though...

Nice to someone who's noticed at the singular convenience and handyness of the 'umble #63 (very small, round bottomed spokeshave of tight radius).

Mines a real sweetheart (tm ;-)

nice one alf, looks pretty. \:D/
as has been mentioned the easiest way to tap holes vertically in
any material including metal, is to start it in a pillar drill. =D>

you must of course make sure the drill is not connected to the mains,
then you can turn the chuck by hand, and it will lower itself into
the hole. depending upon the depth of the hole, it may be more sensible
to use a taper tap first, but sometimes you do not have enough

another possibility is a router, or even one of those new
triton drill with the built in guide.

i would normally try a 360 degree first thread, then back off 180, put
a little lubricant on the tap, and then go another 360, back off.
then after three complete revolutions remove the tap completely,
remove any shavings, and then go back.

you can either put the tap in the chuck, or support a tap wrench
by pushing the chuck down to press it onto the material. in either
case, you ensure that the taps are vertical in both planes.

anyway Rob, your sales are safe with the rest of us not being
as brave as alf. :lol:

so the next question is i have a couple of old wooden
spokeshaves that have the blades kind of spiked into
them, ?how do i get the blades off, and what is the best
way to sharpen them???
I have nothing to add to this thread but my congratulations.

So, congratulations; it's a beauty :)
There you are, if proof were needed that I'm not in LV's pay, I'm busy undermining their sales before they've even started... :lol:

Just to clear up the tapping issue, it's really not difficult and doesn't need jigs or guides or drill presses unless you really want to. It's just you get a better job still if you can start tapping from the least-used-threads end of the proceedings. Don't let these engineers wrap tapping in mystique and difficulties. :wink:

And yes, the #63 is unfairly over-looked among spokeshaves. It's a fairly new discovery for me too, but I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Mine's a Sweetheart too... :) I think I've given all the bulky adjuster-fitted shaves, bar the Veritas and Preston, the elbow now but shaves are so hard to keep track of don't you find? Or is that just another specialised form of tool madness to add to my troubles... :oops:

Anyway, glad you enjoyed it.

Cheers, Alf
Alf, it is a beautiful and useful tool and I have wanted one ever since I first saw it. Thanks for the great how to.
at least one engineer would complain, :lol: but you are right
alf it is not too difficult to tap wood or metal. i was only
trying to show that by using something you know is upright,
it is easier :lol:

so when are you going to make them for sale alf :lol:

paul :wink:
engineer one":29tjnsal said:
so when are you going to make them for sale alf :lol:
Ah, I fear the cost of my labour would make them commercially unviable. Unless I changed my name to Karl and started making them on a CNC machine... :wink: :lol:

Cheers, Alf

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