Poor man’s burnisher
The poor man’s ticket to burnishing
Two weeks ago I discussed another Fine Woodworking article, which I thought complicated sharpening, burnishing and setting up the #80 type cabinet scraper to create a keen blade edge and indeed we showed that many erroneous statements soon become accepted as absolutes when no one counters what’s being said and the real absolutes get cast aside by a careless statement. You can read what was said here if it’s of interest.
There are a few burnishers out there for you to consider and some are well designed and practical. In that article, Fine Woodworking mentioned that you could buy the burnisher for $65 and for some that will be a lot to pay for a burnisher. Take a look in your tool box. You most likely already have one of these. No, it’s not so pretty but it is surprisingly truly functional and very effective for turning the edge on both the card scraper and the #80 scraper blades. This one is a Stanley brand and is a fairly large nail punch (set USA), about 1/8”. I also tried a 1/16” punch and that worked well too. My first thought was that this poor man’s burnisher would drag because of the diameter size, but that wasn’t the case at all. It burnished just as well as the nice handled type, felt safe in the hand and takes up no room in the tool chest till.
I can’t imagine that this tool ill cost you more than a couple of dollars if you shop around.
Straight off the cricket bat (can’t wait to watch it on the village green) this tool delivers the goods. I could imagine losing one of mine by slipping it into a turned handle of rosewood with a brass ferrule, but that’s just another blog.
Thanks for keeping it real Paul. Yes, $60 for a burnisher would pretty much keep my scrapers (somehow I wound up with two cabinet scrapers from “granddad’s tool box” purchases) inside the “too be fettled” box. I was planning on using a screwdriver shaft to see if the Rosewood Handle on the “official” burnishers made all that much difference in anything but the price.
It isn’t the handle, but the hardness of the steel that makes the difference. If your scrapers are old, a screwdriver should probably work fine. What’s changed is the hardness of the scraper (new ones are harder), requiring a harder burnisher. I made mine from a piece of 1/4″ carbide rod ordered from amazon for less than $10, and inserted it into a $2 file handle that had been drilled to accept it. Works just fine.
Good point I think. Mine do appear to be fairly old. Maybe WWII vintage but I don’t know the telltales of scrapers like I do bench planes. I’m just judging by the layers of grease/dirt/rust they showed up with.
When I recently made my first attempt at sharpening my first card scraper, per Jospeh’s video on the subject, I knew I would have to come up with a substitute burnisher, lacking a dedicated one. I settled on one of my butcher’s steels, of which I own several, as a chef by trade. I selected one which has a smooth surface as opposed to an abrasive one and which is impregnated with diamond. It was the hardest thing I could think of anywhere in the house and so I figured I’d give it a try. It worked so well that I doubt I will buy a burnisher ever. As a warning, however, do not try to use a steel that has an abrasive surface; I tried one like that as well out of curiosity and it was a miserable failure.
I didn’t pick up on card scrapers for some time because all the burnishers I saw in catalogs were too pricey. Eventually I got a piece of HSS rod and made my own handle. Recently, I’ve been using a bit of 3/16″ carbide rod stuck in a homemade handle, and it works even better. I think the whole thing cost me two dollars.
I’m not sure how well my own nail sets will work as burnishers, as they seem a bit soft, but I may try them out just for fun.
I’ll often just reach for a long drill bit, a 3/8th or 1/2″ bit and just use the end that goes in the chuck. It works just fine and I have more than a few laying about the place.
Never mind the burnisher, what can I use to make the scraper? I’ve been trying an old, square putty knife (used for auto-body filler) but the edge I get doesn’t give me shavings. I assume the steel may be too soft. I thought about trying a barbecue spatula or some other utensil but I’ve never used a card scraper so I have nothing to compare with. And I know the real thing isn’t that expensive, but I’m having fun trying to see what I can do with junk.
I am sorry but no one is saying don’t have fun, experiment, research for yourself, but you are indeed asking others to give you suggestions when the answer might truly be to put your hand in your pocket, fork out $5 or £5 and you have something for life. The scraper is probably one of the cheapest lifetime tools you will ever come across. Go on, splash out!
Got me! I confess part of the problem here in regional Australia is often the postage charge which can sometimes triple the purchase price – so it’s become a habit to dismiss mail order as an option for somethings. I’m not aware of any hardware shop anywhere near where I live that would carry card scrapers and “card scraper” isn’t turning up what I expect on eBay so I’ll have to do some Googling. As always, thanks for your blog and videos. They’ve opened up a whole new world to me.
I just bought a very nice new Austrian Stubai cabinet scraper off ebay for $13 (free delivery). I’m based in Victoria.
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