Fun with Scratch Stocks

Up to this point, the furniture I’ve made has tended toward the Shaker aesthetic.  I have preferred chamfers to moldings, straight lines to contours, and figured wood to textured surfaces.  But after reading Make a Joint Stool from a Tree, I have been experimenting with more ornament.

The more I thought about adding texture to smooth surfaces, the more it seemed that the cheapest way to add moldings and/or beads was to make a scratch stock.

I pestered Dominic at TGIAG Toolworks into making me some scratch blanks, and then I made a couple stocks for them. One is a dirt-simple stock: an L-shaped piece of hardwood (pecan in this case) with a slot and screw for the scratch. The other is modeled on a French marking gauge: essentially a marking gauge with a slot in the arm and a screw for tightening. It’s cherry with a pecan face.  I used wing nuts for each, which work okay as long as I remember to finish tightening them with the wings parallel to the work surface rather than perpendicular. Otherwise, if I tilt the stock too much, the wing nut hits the surface and makes the tool jump. Otherwise, both designs work well.

To use a scratch stock, simply drag the sharpened cutter across the board repeatedly until you reach the desired depth.  Keep the fence tight up against the reference edge at all times.

This scratched molding is then embellished with some quick gouge work.

Shaping the scratches is a pretty simple affair if you’re confident with a metal file.  It took me a couple tries to gain confidence here.

A saw vise worked perfectly for clamping the scratch. I drew out the desired profile on an index card, cut it out carefully, and then taped it to the metal blank.

Then I slowly filed down to the paper.  After shaping a few, I got a bit faster at it.

This is my first project using scratched moldings. (It’s also my first real attempt at relief carving, but I’ll save that for another time.)  It’s a simple pine box made in the style of the 17th century “Bible box.”

The box sides are rabbeted and nailed together, and the battens double as hinges by having a single finishing nail driven into the carcase at the back corner.

This 17th-century style could grow on me.

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3 Responses to Fun with Scratch Stocks

  1. Steve,

    Nice looking box. I, too, like carved boxes.


    P.S. I just read a post by Paul Sellers on making a file handle in two minutes. I believe you have him beat. How do you like your version? Do they hold up well?

    • Haha! The wine corks work okay, as long as the file’s tang isn’t too sharp. On my saw files, the long, thin tang tends to push all the way through the cork, which isn’t so nice on the palms. But on other files, it works really well. I especially like champagne corks, which have a handle-like profile to them.

  2. Marilyn says:

    Cool! I really like what you did! Very creative.

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