Have you wondered why a round nose scraper is useful for turning wood bowls? I know I did.
Scraping is not usually considered an excellent finishing procedure, but when done correctly, using the round nose scraper’s secret powers, the round nose scraper can do a fantastic job of smoothing out trouble areas on the inside of a wood bowl.
In this article I’m going to share with you how I had a total change of heart about the round nose scraper, from a brutal wood plowing tool to a delicate instrument of finesse.
Keep reading because I’m going to show you how to hack your round nose scraper and make it a goto tool, in the right situations.
Scraper Good Or Bad?
Using a round nose scraper, sometimes called a bowl scraper takes a little time to get used to. I can tell you when I first started, I wasn’t too fond of this tool.
The main reason I didn’t enjoy using the round nose scraper was that I wasn’t using it to the best of its ability. Instead of making a nice smooth finish, I often created ugly tear out of the end grain which caused nasty barking sounds on the lathe.
With a little practice and some guidance, I was able to convert the round nose scraper from a tool of dread to a joy to use.
Let me show you what I learned about the round nose scraper. And at the end, I will reward you with a round nose scraper secret move you may not already know.
Why Use Round Nose Scraper
The round nose scraper is excellent at quickly removing high spots or tool marks. With practice and a bit of finesse, this scraper can delicately grade and smooth an area to perfect a bowl wall thickness or help make perfect bowl interior bottoms as well.
While turning the interior of a bowl, it is easy for the continual cutting path along the inside bowl wall to vary in thickness a bit. In some regions of the wall it can be problematic to “repair” these areas with the bowl gouge.
If the bowl gouge starts a cutting path and gradually increases the depth of cut in a bowl wall curve, the attempted “repair” becomes a bigger problem.
There’s a saying with some wood turners, “just one more cut.” Well, that phrase has many meanings, one of which is “one more cut” can ruin your turning.
When To Use Scraper?
I treat the round nose scraper as a specialty tool that I only use when the situation calls. I do not use this tool for every bowl.
When I’m stuck with an issue that appears difficult or unsolvable with a bowl gouge, it is a great relief when I recall the abilities of the round nose scraper.
I use the round nose scraper when I have an area of the bowl inside that is not cooperating usually because I wasn’t paying attention to the depth of my cut and I’ve made the wall too thin in an area.
Also, if I’m turning a rim that curves inward, I will use the scraper to fine-tune the thickness of walls after I’ve done as much as possible with my bowl gouge.
As I’ve said many times, nothing is etched in stone, and you need to do what works for you.
I don’t currently know of any wood bowl turners that solely use a traditional round nose scraper to turn an entire bowl, but why not? It might not be the most efficient method, and somewhat extreme, but it could be done.
In wood bowl turning there is a tool hierarchy. The bowl gouge is the king of wood bowl turning tools.
Immediately after the bowl gouge, scrapers are the next most used tools. For me personally, the round nose scraper is the main scraper I use for fine-tuning interior surfaces when needed.
Types of Round Nose Scrapers
In this article, I’m covering traditional round nose scrapers, usually made of high-speed steel (HSS), and not carbide scrapers. Carbide scrapers are in an entirely different category.
The round nose scraper, as you might have guessed, has a rounded cutting head. This cutting area has a continuously curved bevel under the cutting edge.
Round nose scrapers can have a half circle symmetrical cutting edge or an asymmetrical edge which is focused on one side or the other.
Round nose scrapers come in a variety of widths and curve sizes and are usually made from a thick bar of high-speed steel or other hardened metal.
I’d highly recommended having a few different sizes available because each turning situation usually calls for a particular sized area to match.
I use four different round nose scrapers, 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, 1-1/2 inches, and 3 inches.
Scrape Vs. Cut
The action of scraping versus cutting is dramatically different.
Scraping the surface of a wood bowl is just like the word says, scraping. The scraper comes in at a more steep angle with a blunt solid edge to the wood grain and tears the fibers away with more or less a controlled colliding action.
Cutting with the bowl gouge incorporates angles that are not as severe to the wood grain, and the cutting action is more like slicing instead of tearing.
Our ultimate goal is to ease that abrupt force of the round nose scraper and make it act more like the cutting action of a bowl gouge.
One way to detect the different properties of cutting versus scrapping is to listen. Usually scraping is much louder and violent compared to cutting. On the other end of the spectrum, shear-scraping, which shaves away little blemishes, is almost silent.
Sharpening Round Nose Scraper
The round nose scraper is one of the easiest tools to sharpen.
You will need an adjustable flat platform on your sharpening grinder. The Oneway Wolverine Grinding Jig System includes this flat adjustable platform. Or an individual adjustable grinding platform like this one is another possibility.
With the grinder off, lay the scraper flat on the platform and adjust the angle until the contact to the grinding wheel is flush, then lock the platform in place.
Turn on the grinder and gently pivot the scraper along the wheel maintaining constant contact with the bevel to the wheel.
When a continuous smooth surface appears along the entire bevel, the sharpening process is complete.
Honing The Edge
When the sharp edge of the round bowl gouge fades, you do not need to return to the grinder, unless the edge is in desperate need of sharpening.
Instead, use a diamond edge hone to return the bevel of the scraper to a sharp condition. Using the hone will prolong the life of the scraper because it removes very little metal material.
Firmly hold the scraper in place and glide the hone up and down the bevel edge making sure to maintain flush, flat contact with the scraper’s bevel. Work all along the edge from left to right.
Gently run your finger or thumb over the front top edge of the bowl scraper. You should feel a very slight lip or burr on the edge of the scraper.
If you feel this and that edge is even across the tip, then the scraper is sharp and ready to use. If you’re not feeling the burr or it is uneven, continue honing the edge.
Another thing that improves sharpening is to periodically hone, or smooth the top surface of the tool, then hone the bevel edge. This resets the area where the burr forms and makes it easy to return a proper burr edge.
Hone often because that burr will not last long. But remember, we also won’t be using the round nose scraper long, just for touch-ups and smoothing usually.
Round Nose Scraper Angle of Attack
The first hack when using a round nose scraper is the angle of attack. When using the round nose scraper, the angle of the tool is fundamentally important to success with this tool.
First, we need to be working the scraping edge of the round nose scraper at or just below the centerline. You can use the round nose scraper perfectly horizontal at the centerline, but I’ve found that to be too harsh of a scrape and the resulting wood bowl surface is evident.
Instead, I will raise my tool rest just a bit above center and then angle my tool downward at about a 10 to 20-degree angle.
Presenting the tool this way reduces the angle of impact and removes a bit of the impact energy that so easily can rip wood fibers from the surface.
Negative Rake Round Nose Scraper
A negative rake round nose scraper is just like a regular round nose, but it has a second top bevel edge.
This top bevel edge has the same effect as the previous description of the regular scraper being angled downward at an angle.
Because the negative rake scraper is “pre-angled” downward, it can be used at the horizontal position and not have the same harsh effects of the standard scraper.
The negative rake scraper can also be angled downward still to increase the angle of approach if desired.
Never Do This
While you are using the round nose scraper, never lower the handle and point the tool cutting edge upward, above the bowl centerline. This will almost always result in an ugly catch.
Remember the centerline and always keep the tooltip angle at or below the centerline.
At a lowered angle the round nose scraper contact point is dragging away from and not grabbing into the wood bowl surface.
With the tool rest up a bit and the round nose scraper angled downward, contact with the bowl interior surface should be near the centerline point.
Gently move the scraper inward until the most minimal contact is made. Depending on the size of the area, pivot the tool in left and right passes.
Slowly remove very thin layers at a time with each left to right pivot. This will help reduce any tear out and leave a smoother surface.
Deep cuts will most likely result in tear out and can create the nasty barking sound I mentioned earlier. Finesse is key.
Adding Burr To Round Nose Scraper
As we talked about above, when sharpening the scraper a burr will form. That burr can be accentuated and increased.
Here is hack number two. Use a burnishing tool to “pull a burr” along the cutting edge of the bowl scraper.
Hold the scraper firm and wrap your hand, with the burnishing tool pointed upward, around the scraper head with your thumb locked on top of the bar.
Pull the burnishing tool across the cutting edge of the scraper in one smooth motion.
This process will create a new larger burr on the edge of the scraper. It will still appear minimal, but you should be able to feel a difference compared to just honing when you run a finger across the burr.
Cutting With A Scraper
A scraper is a scraper, and a bowl gouge is a cutter, and never the two shall meet.
Well, that’s true sorta.
Now I know this might sound like an oxymoron, but you can cut with a scraper using the burr I just explained how to create.
It Was So Easy
Up until this point, everything was straightforward and pretty easy to understand, I hope. Now we need to be willing to put in a little practice and patience. The results will be well worth the effort.
I learned this technique from a guy in our turning group that showed it to me over and over until I finally got it to work.
To be honest, it was very frustrating watching him perform this technique effortlessly time after time when I could not make it work at first.
Repetition and practice are the keys to getting good at wood bowl turning and everything for that matter. I didn’t give up, and I finally figured it out. You will too.
Round Nose Scraper Secret Power
Ok, here is how to make the round nose scraper secret move.
With the extra burr added to the scraper edge applied with the burnishing tool, raise the tool rest a bit and angle the scraper downward.
And here is the third and final hack when using the round nose scraper. Instead of leaving the bar of the scraper flat against the tool rest, lift up the right side (trailing edge) and leave the left side (cutting edge) in contact with the tool rest.
At this point, there are two angles in play. The downward angle of the scraper’s head and the angle of the bar of the round nose scraper.
Only a small area of the scraper edge will now contact the bowl surface.
Make gentle contact with the scraper to the turning bowl until shavings appear. Yes, you heard me, shavings.
Think about this for a second.
The burr edge is acting like a microscopic curved cutting hook. The downward and sideward angles are presenting the scraper edge more like the angles of a bowl gouge tip.
The scraper is having an identity crisis and acting more like a bowl gouge than a scraper.
The Hard Part
The tricky part to get is the cutting action. Because the burr angle can vary and the angle you hold the scraper handle while turning varies, scraping will probably occur before cutting.
You may need to move the handle around a bit to a slightly different angle before the curved burr connects and begins to cut.
Because the burr was applied to the round nose scraper by hand, it can vary in consistency. You may connect, and make a cut in one area of the nose better than other areas.
When fine curly shavings come off the tip, you are cutting. Dust and debris indicate that the tool is still scraping.
Don’t despair, even if you are scraping, the two angles make the contact point with the wood bowl ideal for the smoothest scrapes.
Keep practicing both with applying a continuous burr to the scraper and the angles you present the tool to the bowl, and you will get the hang of cutting with a scraper.
Round Nose Scraper Summary
The round nose scraper is not a tool used every day; instead, it is the tool that you recall right at the moment you need it.
Think of the round nose scraper more as a specialist and call it into action only when needed.
Use the bowl scraper sparingly and take advantage of its superpowers when all else fails. You’ll be glad you have these gems when the time comes.
Check out these other related articles:
• 6 PERFECT WOOD BOWL BOTTOM – TECHNIQUES
• SCRAPER SHARPENING GUIDE (BEVEL ANGLE, BURR, HOW TO)
• 9 STEPS TO SHEAR SCRAPING PERFECTION BOWL GOUGE TECHNIQUE
• WOOD BOWL TURNING TROUBLE ZONE – DIRTY LITTLE SECRET