For more information on the #80 Scraper, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

There are many wrong assumptions about scrapers and that’s why so many people abandon them when they arrive brand new. I often hear visitors in my workshop where one of them points to #80 cabinet scrapers and tell their children or spouses that what’s on the workbench is a spokeshave. Look in the spokeshave category on eBay too and and you will always find one or two #80 cabinet scraper in there described as spokeshaves as well. It’s a very common mistake even with woodworkers and especially those that don’t know hand tools.

Without instruction and guidance a new woodworker will have to wade and troll through the molasses of mass misinformation to find the right information for progressing use of the tools made.

Because the cabinet scraper looks very like an oversized spokeshave it is all too easy to think spokeshave, bevelled cutting edge, bevel down, bevel up, push the wrong way, plane type shaving and much more. You must pretty much dismiss all of this. It’s not bevel up or bevel down. How about that for fooling a new woodworker??? I already discussed burr and scraper as total misnomers too, so that takes some thinking outside the box. Perhaps this drawing will give you more of a close up of what happens with card and cabinet scrapers.

So, when the blade is installed into the body of the scraper you will see that the cutting edge is not presented like a plane edge, a chisel or a spokeshave at all. That is, bevel inclined and pushed, edge first into the wood. Nothing like it. This is what foxes those new to woodworking. Edge tool into the wood makes great sense. A turned edge makes no sense at all, at least at first.

Because we describe the edge as a burr we can be forgiven for thinking this is just some kind of rough edge resulting from filing that is then used scraper fashion to scrape the wood semi smooth. This is definitely not at all the case so don’t think just rough filing an edge is the desired goal because you would do better just using sandpaper and abrading the wood. This tool relies on a highly developed cutting edge that is totally different than just sharpening a bevel as with a plane. The edge or bevel is ground, honed through various grits and consolidated too using a burnisher. This is simple enough to understand and to do. Not too much different than say sharpening a plane blade really. It’s the next stage that changes the dynamic of the tool’s cutting strategy. Once the bevel has been established and honed we do something we call ‘turning the edge’. It’s not hard to do and it is not always easy to do. Turn the edge too much and the edge fractures or fails to reach the wood altogether. Turn it to little and the edge fractures leaving the wood feeling like 80-grit sandpaper. Get it right and the surface will feel as smooth as silk. The tool will level adjacent surfaces to an indiscernible level and very light sanding with with worn 350-grit abrasive paper then makes the surface feel like glass. You’ll love it.

I think the drawings will help you to see just what the strategy is. This is the only tool developed for a cutting edge that cuts wood this way.


  1. Giles on 6 January 2016 at 11:47 am

    I can’t see the pictures?! Sounds useful though…

    • Steve Wood on 6 January 2016 at 12:54 pm

      I think the pictures are on the previous blog post

      • Giles on 6 January 2016 at 1:07 pm

        Ah, that makes a bit more sense. Thanks Steve.

  2. david os on 6 January 2016 at 12:08 pm

    the no.80 is definitely a favourite of mine ,only yesterday i had an oak panel with some awful knotty reversing grain that my reliable stanley no.80 tackled with absolutely no effort whatsoever .i know of no other tool that could tackle this situation except moving through grits on and orbit sander which i have done and doesn’t come close to the finish achieved with a cabinet scraper (i hate sanding).even the sharpest plane low angle or whatever cannot compare to this little gem .i must admit it was trial and error when i first got it to turn an edge just enough to cut pristinely.but with perseverance i can do it now by touch in minutes.i love it .PERFECT

    • Michael Ballinger on 6 January 2016 at 12:45 pm

      It took me a good while to get the hang of turning a good edge on any scraper, it wasn’t till I learnt the method of consolidating the steel first with the burnisher that it all came together for me. Such a good feeling being able to reach for a tool and it works beautifully.

  3. SteveM on 6 January 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I bought a #80 without blade on eBay and a new Veritas blade. Following the techniques in Paul’s first book I prepared the new blade, but then I had no idea which way to insert the blade into the body of the #80 and it took a long time to find out how to do so. The drawings of the previous post would have been very useful and I hope they are in the new book.

  4. George wilson on 6 January 2016 at 2:32 pm

    What drawings?

  5. Scott Chensoda on 6 January 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Read above George.

    My #80 came with a sole shaped like an inverted pimple, actually more like a boil ready to pop, and it was so bad I had to revert to an orbital sander to flatten it. As for the cutting edge, that was where I discovered (after a few fails) it only takes one swipe with my carbide burnisher to turn an ideal cutting edge. Much simpler than a card scraper edge.

    The one downside (if downside is not being too critical), a card scraper is more forgiving angle-wise if you do happen to over turn the edge. You can lean it to a shallower angle to pick up the cutting edge, providing you haven’t turned it too far of course.

    Talking of card scrapers, I must thank young Mr Sellers for that “Lazarus pick up your bed and walk” moment when he showed how to hand-heel the plate. Boy, has that saved me some work since.

  6. Scott Chensoda on 6 January 2016 at 6:15 pm

    For those struggling to find the sketches please look here.

  7. Don Garrett on 12 December 2016 at 4:29 pm

    I’m a little behind on this, but I just bought a Stanley #80 on eBay. It’s an older tool, but looks like it has never been used and certainly never been sharpened. You can still see the tool marks on the edges from the factory grinding. One edge is straight, but the other is slightly convex with the center being nearly 1/16″ higher. Was this done on purpose and if so, why? Or was it an error in grinding.

    I can’t begin to tell you Paul how you have influenced and inspired my woodworking. You are a fantastic teacher and so generous with your material. Keep it up.

  8. Claudio Romero on 24 May 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I bought a stanley #81 cabinet scraper. When I first saw the picture I thought it was the same that a #80 but with a different design, I then realized it was very different (sadly, after the purchase).

    It doesn’t have a mechanism to adjust the blade, I do however asume that I could set it with a hammer (or maybe just by hand?) like an iron of a tipical wooden plane, but the thing that intrigues me is that the screw to hold the blade is way too far from the sole of the scraper. I think that makes a difference in the bending that is needed, but I’m not sure.

    • Paul Sellers on 24 May 2017 at 1:32 pm

      No hammers, please! This is nothing at all like a plane or a spokeshave.

      • Claudio Romero on 25 May 2017 at 12:49 pm

        My bad, I thought that the function of that pair of screws in the #80 was to adjust the sides of the blade, now I realize they are not.

        Excuse me Mr. Sellers, Do you know the #81 cabinet scraper? I still don’t understand why the holding screw is so distant to the sole, do you think that makes a difference?

        Thank you for your response, and please forgive for my horrible english.

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