Professionals and Amateurs Together

Scraping vs Sandpaper

Question

On numerous occasions I have heard the advantages of using a cabinet scraper in place of sanding. I find it hard to believe that scraping can provide a better result than progressively sanding with finer and finer gritted sandpaper using a random orbit sander and following with ultra-fine wet (oil) sanding. Please explain. – David Steller

Answer

Jon Siegel replies: The current issue of Fine Woodworking (#180) has yet another article which explains that there is no advantage to sanding beyond 220. When you use finer grits, you may think you see a difference in the surface of the wood, but once the finish is applied, actual tests show that there is no difference. There is certainly no advantage to “ultra-fine wet (oil) sanding”.

The advantages of scraping over sanding are these: scraping smooths projecting defects such as those caused by a nick in a planer blade or a spot of glue better than sandpaper; scraping smooths planer knife marks faster than sandpaper; scraping is essentially free while sandpaper is consumed and costs money; scraping creates very little dust in the air; scraping makes very little noise; scraping consumes no electricity. In short, scraping is an aesthetically pleasing activity, while sanding with a machine is a noisy, messy chore.

Can you get smoothness with a scraper that is indistinguishable (after the finish is applied) from that of 220 sandpaper? The short answer is yes. Some people sand with 220 after scraping, and offer the opinion that wood which has been scraped is still fuzzy, and only sanding will eliminate the problem. Of course this occurs because you normally sand in both directions (reciprocating or random directions) while most people scrape in one direction only. You cannot eliminate the fuzzies going in one direction only.

Someday, when time and space permit, I will write an article about how to use a scraper in a reciprocating, back and forth, motion (like sanding) and how to sharpen it in four seconds.

Tags: Finishing, Sandpaper, Scraping