What is scraping in woodworking? 5 Reasons

Card scraping in woodworking is very valuable for some unique reasons. why it’s better than sanding in most cases and what kind of surface it leaves when done. There’s a few differences between sanding and scraping and why you should consider giving it a try.

card and cabinet scrapers are a lot like hand planes in that they both remove wood fibers pretty much the same way. There’s also a monetary advantage of wood scraping vs. sanding.


What Are The Differences Between Sanding And Scraping?

The difference between sanding and scraping wood is sanding abrates the wood grain or wears it down in other words.

Sanding can leave scratches in the wood where the scraping technique works much like a hand plane where the ends of the wood fibers are sliced through.

If done right the surface of the wood will be scratch free and even the grain will have a nice sharp look compared to a sanded surface.

Sanding does excel at smoothing out odd types of molding that has a concave. You can make or buy card scrapers to fit that molding but they can be more difficult to keep sharp, but it is possible. That’s where I would probably use sandpaper over a card scraper.

Hand scrapers and cabinet scrapers have been around much longer than sandpaper. 

Card scrapers vs. sanding

Card scrapers vs. sanding, which is better? Card scrapers are very popular for numerous reasons. Often they provide a cleaner and smoother surface than sandpaper. 

They also don’t leave behind fine saw dust that gets into the pores of wood like sanding does. Scraping can either cut down on the sanding time significantly or eliminate it altogether.

In the long run card scrapers cost much less than sandpaper. The scraper’s cutting edge can be resharpened over and over again. Sandpaper on the other hand is considered to be a consumable. Once it wears out, you end up having to buy more.

Card scrapers are quiet compared to an electric or battery operated sander. There’s something satisfying about using scrapers. Maybe it’s watching the fine ribbons appear as the scraper scrapes across  the wood. 

Scrapers can remove unwanted glue from surfaces better than a sander. They also smooth out imperfections left behind from electric hand planes that might have a ding in the blade.

Card and cabinet scrapers won’t clog up with sawdust like sandpaper does.

How To Use A Card Scraper

What’s Faster a Scraper or Sander?

Is a card scraper faster than a sander? The answer is a solid yes, the card scraper is faster than sanding. The important thing to remember about scrapers is the edge must be sharp. As long as you keep that in mind you’ll be guaranteed to have quicker results. 

As you know, to properly sand something down smooth, you have to run through a series of grits. Changing grits on a sander or sanding block takes time. 

The card scraper eliminates all of that so you can concentrate on making projects and less time sanding. Done right the surface that’s been scraped will be smoother without having that fuzzy texture that’s left behind from sanding.

Hand Scraper vs. Scraper Planes

Hand scrapers and scraper planes are similar pertaining to the job they do. Scraper planes work very well when a good amount of wood needs to be planed down. Such as a table top that’s been glued up. 

You could use hand scrapers of course but it will more than likely take longer. Also using hand scrapers does tend to put a strain on the hands after prolonged use.

Scraper planes do have a problem with getting into hard to reach places. That’s where hand scrapers come into play. Sometimes using a hand plane on end grain can cause tear out. If you think that might be a possibility, then the hand scraper would be the better tool to use. 

By using the hand scraper you apply as much or little pressure needed to smooth down the end grain of a project.

Card Scraper vs Cabinet Scraper

Many people think that the card scraper and cabinet scraper are the same thing, they’re not. 

The card scraper can come in many different shapes such as square, rectangular and some are round. they’re made from thin metal, (about the thickness of a hacksaw blade) with a bur that runs the length of the cutting edge and are very flexible. They also have no handles like the cabinet scraper. 

The flexibility gives you control on how much you want to shave off. The more of a bend in the center of the card scraper the more aggressive the cut will be in the center. 

The cabinet scraper is a tool that’s more like a hand plane. Like the hand plane it has a sole and handles. The handles are positioned differently than a hand plane though. They’re positioned on the sides for easier pushing the scraper across the wood.

The cabinet scraper does exactly the same thing that a card scraper does. It just makes life easier when scraping wide and long boards. It’s faster than a card scraper for larger projects. 

Plus using a card scraper for a great amount of time you’ll find that your fingers will begin to get hot because of all of the friction coming from the card scraper. Using a card scraper is also physically strenuous on the hands. Taking breaks often is recommended. 

Like card scrapers there’s more than one type of cabinet scraper ranging in size. 

The most popular one is the number 80 made by Stanley. It’s small and easy to use. The scraper comes with an adjustable nut so you can get the right bend in the scraper that you need, just like you do with the card scraper.

The only difference here is you don’t have to use your thumbs to maintain the bend in the scraper like you do with a card scraper.

Scraping, Sanding or Both?

Some people swear that they don’t sand after scraping. Then you have the ones that do both methods. A lot of this boils down to a few things such as the type of wood you’re working with. Hardwoods tend to not need sanding or very little after a card or cabinet scraper has been used.

Another question is one only you can answer. How much of a perfectionist are you? Do you want that glass smooth surface before putting on your stain, paint or other finish? Then sanding might get you to that next level.

Personally, I hate sanding. It’s boring and tedious having to run through a series of grits to get my boards to the smoothness that’s satisfactory to me. It’s also noisy and dustier than using a card or cabinet scraper. 

I just like watching the fine shavings appear from using a card scraper. For some reason it entertains me so I don’t get bored with the process.


stump shows how to use a card scraper