Way back in October of 2006 I wrote about the heavy Santa Ana winds felling one of the Californian Pepper trees at my place of work and how I would take a section of that timber and air dry it to use at a later date for a small project. Since then it has been drying for a period of fourteen months and I have split a section of that limb to be used in producing a cabinet scraper. This cabinet scraper design is from an article produced by Fine Woodworking and I thought it would be a small enough project to see how the grain of the timber would carve and how it would look when waxed and also it wouldn’t be too much of a loss if it didn’t pan out at the end of the day.
I had noticed during the drying process that the end of the log had started to split and by that time it was too late to think about coating the end to stop the quick evaporation. What I should have done in the first place was to coat both ends of the sawn log with some spare latex paint to even out the evaporation and this may have reduced the amount of cracking. I would estimate that the cracks had penetrated a full one inch into the log at this time. The project that I wanted to do called for a piece eleven inches long by three inches by two and a half inches which would be marginal with what I had to work with. With the hardness of the timber unknown to me I had decided to use a base made from one inch thick figured oak that had been lying around and I knew this material would give a base that would be hard and durable.
My first task was to cut a flat on the tallest side and with a few stubs left over from branches that had been trimmed off, this provided the stability needed to run it through the bandsaw. I had also placed a wedged piece of pine along the length to stop any grab from the blade as an extra precaution and feeling confident I took the first step to cutting a flat on that side.
With that first freehand cut I was pleased with the flatness and could then cut another length off at right angles to give me a square face for marking out the blank. I set the fence of the bandsaw at three inches hoping to get the overall width that I needed and cut off the excess strip. I found there were only a few inclusion of bark and I felt confident that most of this would be lost during the shaping process. I had already decided to use the figured oak block for the sole of the cabinet scraper so the thickness for this blank could be reduced to one and a half inches. This face would be the one that I would glue the oak block to as there would be no inclusions just solid wood. I was well pleased with the drying out process, the wood cut cleanly with no grab from the bandsaw and the surface was dry to the touch.
Now with the blank cut out I will sand the faces to flatten off and glue the one inch of figured oak to the face that would be the sole of the scraper. I’ll use a couple of wooden none marring clamps to glue the chunk of oak on so as to keep a minimal glue joint, once cured I would cut and sand the block to the size required.
I had photocopied the layout from the magazine as a quick guide to laying out the design on the block of wood, firstly, so that I would not mess up the magazine and secondly, as a working drawing it was bound to end up grubby. With these plans I then enlarged the photocopy to fit within the block size that I had and with both front and plan views enlarged I could scribe on two controlling lines on to the wooden blank. These lines would be the centerline of the cabinet scraper and a longitudinal line or the line that would cover the breadth of the tool. This would allow me to center up the photocopy and also control the placement of the photocopy for the outer edges of the tool. On each of the photocopies I notched out on the centerline and on the longitudinal line that would correspond to the scribe line on the block of wood for ease of placement.
With the photocopies prepared and the scribe lines in place I sprayed each with a Super 77 contact adhesive by 3M so that the paper would stay in place while the profile was cut on the bandsaw. Each profile is cutout but the resulting offcut is not discarded but re-taped into position so as to provide a stable platform for the next operation. This method was used for the top and front face profiles removing all the excess timber leaving a rough shaped blank ready for carving.
To shape the handles I mainly used a three quarter inch paring chisel rounding off the edges so the feel was good between thumb and forefinger. The shape of the handle nestled nicely in the palm of my hand giving it an overall feel of good balance and control.
To further shape the handles I used a wood rasp to fine tune the radii and cleaned up the shape with various grades of sandpaper. Where the wood had cracked during the drying process I filled with a five minute epoxy resin. This enabled me to go back in and reshape without having to wait too long. The resin worked well with the coloration of the wood and the various gray tones that ran through the grain, stabilizing any further shrinkage and possible disaster should the handle splint in two. I know I went into this project with a “It doesn’t matter attitude” but now that I’m enjoying the results I want it to work.
Once I had the shape I further shaped with a garnet based sandpaper which is as coarse as it gets to take out any lumps from the resin.
With all the body form complete apart from a final smooth down with fine sandpaper I next marked out the blade holder which at this moment is still attached to the main body of the scraper. The blade holder has an overall thickness of 5/8 of an inch at the top and would be cut on the bandsaw at an angle of 85° that means an angle tilt of the table of 5° taking off the slice would then make the blade holder. I flattened the face of the body of the scraper with a small block plane and checked with a straight edge to make sure it was flat. The blade holder was flattened by rubbing on a sheet of sandpaper because the minimal thickness made it awkward to hold in a vise. I could have held it down with double sided tape but I still had the photocopy of the blade holder on the outside that I still had to shape to so I opted for sanding.
The blade holder was offered up to the body to make sure that the two faces met squarely without too much of a gap so that when the two are screwed together there will be less material to remove from the bottom of the scraper to realign. I wasn’t too concerned with the faces being completely flush as most of the face on the blade holder would be removed to create the throat and clearance for the wood shavings.
I was now at a stage where I had to make the blade of the scraper, for me this is not a problem. My main occupation involves clay modeling and with this type of job I use many different thicknesses of spring steel to form the resulting clay shapes. I had some spare 0.032″ thickness of blue spring steel and I was able to shear a piece three inches by two inches to give a reasonable size blade ideal for this application.
With the blade size now determined I could scribe a line around the blade onto the blade holder giving me the outline where it would sit. From this scribe line a parallel line of 1/8″ was placed inside indicating the position where the material would be cut away to give clearance for the wood shavings and allow 1/8″ for the blade to seat and be held in position. The throat would taper from 3/16″ at the bottom to 3/8″ at the top giving plenty of clearance for the shavings to pass through, for this exercise I just chiseled the material away from both ends rather than cut on the bandsaw.
With the clearance now cut I then rebated the 1/8″ shoulder that would retain the blade in position once screwed to the main body. Plenty of care had to be taken when I approached this as the depth of cut was only 0.030″ so that the blade would remain clamped tight, if I overcut the depth then I would have to shave the face of the blade holder down so that it would secure the blade tightly. I resharpened my chisel and gingerly cut each shoulder down checking numerously with the blade until the depth was correct leaving the faintest feel of the blade above the blade holder. Satisfied with the result I could now use the still attached photocopy to drill the positions of the screws that would attach the blade holder to the body.
The screws that I used were two 1 1/4″ sheet metal screws easy to find from any hardware store, make sure they’re pan heads though so that they sit on top of the wood once tightened. The clearance hole was put through on the drill press so I had to drill the pilot hole with a drill gun because of the slight angle. The face of the blade holder was at 5° so with the hole being square to that surface there would be a slight change in angle and I needed to keep the pilot hole square to the pilot hole to eliminate any slip once screwed together.
The design called for a 1/4″ thumbscrew by 2″ but I opted for a 3″ bolt instead because it is much easier to find and there will by little resistance when operated to flex the blade so a thumbscrew is not absolutely necessary. The nut I made from a piece of 1/8″ steel plate and tapped in the thread, with the nut being square it will be a lot easier to rebate in with only four sides to be aligned.
The clearance hole for the bolt was marked out on the back face of the main body and this was set at 3/4″ above the baseline and on the centerline. Once the clearance hole was drilled the bolt was inserted and the nut attached so the outline could be marked on ready for rebating. The rebate is easy enough with a 1/4″ chisel and it doesn’t have to be completely flat at the bottom of the rebate, the important thing is to retain the nut in the rebate tightly rather than to be loose.
The final finish for the cabinet scraper is a liberal coat of boiled linseed oil with all excess being wiped off after several minutes and a coat of paste wax. The blade had a 45° angle placed on and a burr to aid in the removal of wood shavings as described by the article. I’m not so sure that this is the best way as I always refer to my clay modeling experience where the steel has to be square with no burrs but I will try it both ways. The thing with placing a burr on the tool is if it is too curled the edge will not cut as the edge has returned on itself whereas a square edge will always remain sharp. I would be interested in anyones thoughts on this but I have tried it out both ways and it cuts like a charm, now all I really need is a good old gnarly project!