Scraper Planes

Text + Photos: Jerry Blanchard

Gear  |  Long before electric sanders in all their handy types even existed, scrapers were used to smooth wood. Planes were, and are, used whenever possible, since a planed surface is smoother than a scraped one, but many pieces of wood are too wild in the grain to be planed without tearout. Scrapers can handle wild grain easily, though the going is slower. 

Card scrapers work well, though they cannot easily maintain a flat surface. This is where scraper planes are wizard. They combine the control and accuracy of a plane with the scraper's ability to smooth wood without tearing it. 

I have my father's old Stanley No. 112 scraper plane with its beautiful rosewood tote and knob. Stanley made this plane from 1885 to 1944. I use it when I need to smooth wood surfaces while keeping them flat. When I made our big cherry wood dining table,  I did the final surfacing of the top with this scraper plane. 

Stanley 112 scraper plane being used to smooth out flats on a cane.

In the photo you can see the Stanley scraper plane being used to do the final shaping and smoothing of facets on a cane of Macassar ebony. I used my Stanley No. 5 jack plane in the photo to rough in the facets as close to size as I dared, then switched to the scraper plane for the final sizing with no risk of tearout. 

For success with scraper planes the blades must be sharp, and perhaps even more important, they must be set for a very thin cut. Sticking the blade out a bit too much will produce serious chatter marks in the wood. 

At one time in addition to their model 112 Stanley made quite a selection of scrapers, and several models had cross handles, often used for surfacing floors. The very desirable Stanley model 212 was a smaller scraper plane discontinued in 1934.

Stanley no longer makes their great scraper planes, but you are in luck, because other companies do. One of the finest is Lie-Nielsen Toolworks of Warren, Maine. Lie-Nielsen is dedicated to bringing back many of the very desirable and discontinued hand tools of earlier days. One of my favorites is their model 212 small scraping plane, which is based on the old Stanley model 212 but made of manganese bronze instead of the original cast iron, a wonderful improvement.

Modern Lie-Nielson version of the classic scraper plane with a bronze body.

In the photo you can see me using it to run the facets on two cocobolo rosewood canes. It has a blade of superior A2 steel, and the workmanship is even better than the old Stanley models. It is a heavy little gem of a tool, and when I am not using it, I keep in on my desk just because it beautiful to look at.  I ran 32 facets on four 3 foot long canes of hard cocobolo rosewood with it without having to sharpen the blade. Here is a photo of three of the finished canes with heads I made of hand engraved sterling silver. 

Three canes made by the author with engraved silver heads. Two of them are set with semi-precious stones.

Lie-Nielsen also offers toothed blades for their scraper planes, popular with folks doing veneer work. The little model 212 plane is available with a 1 inch wide by .003 inch deep groove in the center of the sole. This option is popular with makers of bamboo fly rods, since the edges of the sole can ride on steel guides when doing final sizing of bamboo strips. 

Lie-Nielsen makes a close copy of the Stanley model 112 large scraping plane. They also make a wide variety of hand planes in all the sizes, and variations of blade pitch. They make a wonderful block plane of their own design.

This article is mainly about scraper planes, but check out the many fine hand tools and supplies made by and sold by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. Christmas is coming, and they have some really fine things to go under the tree.