Making a Burnisher and
By D. Greco
I've been asked by a bunch of people what process
I use to sharpen a card scraper. Along with that I've been asked
how to make a burnisher out of those carbide bits that were
included with the "special offer" scraper sets. So this past week
I was on a mission to document as much of the process as possible
so that I could write a somewhat comprehensive article on these
Lets talk about the burnisher first. These scrapers (like many
that are out there) are made from spring steel with a Rockwell
Hardness of 48 to 52. If you are not familiar with that hardness
rating, don't worry. Suffice to say that this is pretty hard. In
order to draw a burr on this you need a burnisher that is harder
than the steel. Otherwise the scraper will be digging into the
So you start out with a carbide bit. I have these fully carbide
bits with a 1 1/4" long shank. They don't need to be real long
since you really only use a small portion of their surface. But
using them by themselves isn't that practical. You need something
to hold them with.
Now there are a lot of woodworkers out there who don't have access
to a lathe. So I made a burnisher whose construction was based
around a very simple dowel like piece of osage orange. In order to
simply the assembly, no ferrule was used. In this instance, it's
not really needed. The little twist I added was to include a 10
deg angle (off of 90 deg) to the face. This helps the user to draw
the final burr at the "proper" angle.
So we start off with a nice piece of dry osage orange. This
particular piece had been sitting in my wood pile since I milled
it back in 2008.
After surfacing and cutting to size I ended up with a 1 1/4" x
1-1/4" x 6" long blank. I used a shoot board to get the ends
perpendicular to the sides and then marked off the center of one
end for a 1/8" dia hole. I then used my old pen blank drilling jig
to drill the mounting hole for the carbide bit.
I then laid out the 10 deg angle on the blank and was going to cut
it by hand. But in a moment of weakness I used my tablesaw to make
an template for me to follow. I just tilted the blade over 10 deg
and then used my miter gauge to hold a piece of hickory. With this
template in place I could start the cut MUCH easier and with a
heck of a lot more confidence in the outcome. I started the cut
here and then realized that I needed a piece of scrap under the
work piece. Other wise I'd risk cutting into my bench top.
After I established the face it was a simple matter to chamfer and
then round over the corners of the work piece in order to make it
more comfortable to hold. I sanded it to about 220 grit and then
set the work piece aside.
Now far be it from me to EVER make just ONE of something. So
here's how I made some turned burnisher handles.
Once the work piece was roughed to a cylinder I drilled the hole
using a steady rest.
I'll be honest with you here, this was overkill. The bit is so
thin that it STILL wandered a tiny amount. I could have drilled
these at the drill press with the same results.
Once the hole was drilled I just turned a profile between centers.
I used a piece of thin walled steel and a piece of copper pipe for
the ferrules. I sanded them to about 300 grit. Just because I hate
it when wooden tool handle tool gets dirt in the grain, I Applied
several coats of TruOil (to seal them) and sanded the work piece
between coats. In the end I buffed them with a Beall Buffing
Now it comes time to pay some attention to the carbide bit. You
don't HAVE to do this. But I found that by polishing the bit, you
can tweak a bit more performance out of the burnisher. It'll slide
over the end of the scraper easier and give you a better edge.
I gripped the carbide bit in the end of my drill chuck at my lathe
(but you could hold it in the end of an electric drill just as
and proceeded to sand it using Micromesh.
If you've never used this stuff before, think of it as a super
fine cloth backed sandpaper. It's used by pen turners to put a
polished surface on acrylics and hard woods. If you wanted, you
could probably use some 1500, 2000, or 2500 grit wet dry
sandpaper. You are not sanding as much as you are polishing, or refining
the surface. I worked my way up from 1500 to 20,000 Micromesh.
Then I used 3M Finese-It Car polish to polish it a bit more.
And here is the end result.
After the handles were buffed, I epoxied on the ferrules and then
carbide bit. Here's that they ended up looking like.
Sharpening a Scraper
Now this is the process I use. I didn't develop this. I merely
found a process I liked and stuck with it. If you want to see how
others do it, I would highly recommend going on YouTube and typing
"Scraper Sharpening" in the search box. You will get a nice amount
of relevant links. My favorite ones are from Lie Nielsen.
First off you will need some very very simple tools. I have a flat
mill bastard file, a 2" x 10" x 1" thk block of wood, and a
Sharpie. And of course, your burnisher.
I hold the scraper in my face vise and then I like to mark the
edge with the Sharpie. That way I'll know when I'm removing
That 2" x 10" x 1" thk wooden block has been milled so that
it's face and sides are perpendicular to each other. This block
also features a kerf cut along it's length. This kerf is just
thick enough to hold my flat mill bastard file securely. Once
installed the file will sit perpendicular to the face of the
block. That means I can use it as a gauge to get a nice flat edge.
Using that file and block assembly, I file the top of the scraper.
Once I have a nice consistent edge filed, I move on to "stoning"
the edges. Basically this means that you polish the edge and end
up with a nice even burr. However, it you just want to remove some
paint, or want to work on coarse material removal with your
scraper you can move to drawing the burr right from here.
I like to work on the faces first. Here you can see me using my
old Scary Sharp set up to polish the faces. But I assure you, it
works just as well with waterstones. I start at the coarsest grit
(in this case 80 grit), and polish each side of the face.
I then work my way along and polish the face at the higher grits.
Until I've made it to about 400 or 600 grit.
Then it comes time to polish the edge. Here's where the block
comes in handy again. I remove the file and use it to help me hold
the scraper upright.
And then I repeat the process of polishing the edge
It's always a good idea to lube the burnisher a tiny bit. I like
to use a drop of mineral oil.
After that is done I need to "draw the burr". First I lay the
scraper on it's side and run the burnisher across the top. Not a
lot of pressure here. I think Charlesworth says, "No more than
buttering bread." and I think that fits perfectly.
Do this on both side and then clamp the scraper in your vise
Using a 10 deg angle, (or if your scraper has that handle angled
face, use that as a helper!) draw the burr.
Do this on both sides, and then you're ready to give it a try!