Fix-It Chick: Cabinet scraper a handy tool for average homeowner

Look into a woodworker’s shop and you will most likely find a host of amazing tools that the average homeowner or fix-it person would seldom use in a lifetime. Yet nestled among those specialized tools are a few gems that deserve to be brought to the forefront of common knowledge. The cabinet or card scraper is one of those tools. When it comes to refinishing hardwood surfaces, cabinet scrapers are a great alternative to sandpaper.

Step 1: Cabinet scrapers come in variety of shapes and sizes, but the most versatile and easiest to use is a rectangular shaped “card” scraper. Start with a smaller scraper that is stiff, but can still be bowed when held with two hands.

Step 2: Use two hands to hold the cabinet scraper perpendicular to the piece of wood to be finished. Place both thumbs on the center of the scraper and pull the edges of the scraper back slightly to create a small curve with the blade.

Step 3: Scrapers can be used by either pulling or pushing them along the wood surface. Pushing the blade away is typically the easier motion. Keeping the scraper slightly bowed, tilt the top edge forward and push the scraper forward.

Step 4: Slide the scraper along the wood at a comfortable angle adjusting the pressure to produce a fair amount of small wood shavings. If the scraper creates sawdust, rather than wood shavings, the edges of the scraper will need to be sharpened before proceeding.

Step 5: Continue making small, uniform strokes along the surface of the wood. Unlike sandpaper, which scratches the surface of the wood, a cabinet scraper actually cuts the wood, like a plane; creating a smooth, glasslike finish.

Step 6: Continue to adjust the pressure, angle and curve of the cabinet scraper until the entire surface of the wood has been smoothed to a glasslike finish.

Once done, the wood surface can be finished like any other wood surface, but without sanding.

Cabinet scrapers also work well for removing dried-on glue and for smoothing out wood filler.

The natural friction created when using a cabinet scraper produces a fair amount of heat. Place a thin refrigerator magnet on the back of the scraper to help, or better yet, switch back and forth between multiple scrapers to get through any size of job unscathed.

— Have a question? Email Linda Cottin at