Blanket Chest – Drawing a Bead With a Scratch Stock


In the midst of finishing up the four chest frames, I decided to take a detour to the bottom.  I started with 3″ wide boards 3/4″ thick, and did a simple shiplap using the dado blade on the tablesaw.  However, I didn’t like the overly plain look, even if it was the bottom, and would rarely be seen.  What I really wanted was a beaded edge detail to dress things up just a bit.  However, I didn’t own a beading bit for the router.  What to do?

I had recently seen a Fine Woodworking video of Garrett Hack making and using a scratch stock, and decided to give it a try.  My first stop was at the box store for a long thumbscrew and a thread tap and drill bit set to match.  Then, I got to work.

Scratch Stock Holder 1

I cut a small piece of white oak to a size that was comfortable in the hand.  I laid the thumbscrew on top, and marked a line around the block just up from the end of the screw.

Scratch Stock Holder 2

I used the tap’s pilot bit to drill a hole into the end of the block stopping after I passed the line.  This would allow the tap to cut threads all the way to the slot-to-be.  I then took the tap, and carefully cut threads all the way to the end of the hole.  This long column of threads gives the screw more support, with less chance of the metal screw stripping out the wooden threads.  Marc Spagnuolo has a great video of this process available on The Wood Whisperer’s website.

Scratch Stock Holder 3

After tapping the screw hole, a saw kerf provides a slot for the scratch stock blade.

Scratch Stock Holder 4

I rounded the edges and corners slightly for comfort, waxed the screw, and ran it into the hole.  With that, the blade holder was finished.

Scratch Stock Blade 1

To make the blade, I took a small square of old saw blade and dressed the edges smooth and square.  Then, using the appropriate size of file, I cut a semicircular profile into the blade, and then smoothed the concave surface with sharpening slip.

Scratch Stock Blade 2

Actual sharpening is done by honing the surfaces of the blade to a mirror finish, much like flattening the back of a chisel or plane iron.  I’m a diamond hone fan, but any sharpening system will work.  Repeating this process will usually restore the blade to cutting shape without having to touch the profile itself.

Scratch Stock Adjustment

I mounted the blade in the holder so that the inside curve ends just at the surface of the wood.  If you were to move it outwards a bit, you would have a flat step on the outside edge – certainly an option if that is what you want.  A twist of the thumbscrew locks it in place.  I apologize for the blurry pictures, but it took five tries to get one this good.  You get the idea.

Scratch Stock Use

To use the stock, simply move it back and forth along the edge of the board being shaped.  Often, it will cut better in one direction than another.  In the picture above, the cut is being made towards me (away from you).  Notice that I’ve got the scratch stock angled slightly – it’s important that the cutting edge trails somewhat until the last gentle pass or two.  Think about the way you use a card scraper, and you’ll get the general idea.  The rest is a matter of feel and patience – don’t try to cut too fast.

Beaded Bottom Boards

These are the completed bottom boards, and you can see how the beads really dress up the otherwise plain shiplapped edges.  When I attach them to the bottom of the blanket chest, I’ll use a couple of finish nails or brads to space them so that the actual gap is the same as the groove beside the beads.  Not only will this give a good look, but will allow for expansion and contraction.

The scratch stock is an amazingly simple tool, and cost me all of $1.40 for the thumbscrew.  The thread tap and drill bit were about $4.00, and will surely come in handy adding screw threads to other projects.  The saw blade was just laying around in the way.  While it’s certainly not as fast as a router, it allows you to duplicate existing profiles easily, especially for smaller projects or restorations.
And, it won’t break the bank like a collection of router bits.  For the price, it can’t be beat.  Give it a try.

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6 responses to “Blanket Chest – Drawing a Bead With a Scratch Stock

  1. Some of the photos are showing up as broken links. I don’t know if it is my browser or is a problem on your end. But I really want to see those pictures of the finished beads.

    I have cut a number of threads in wood and have found that end grain does not hold threads well. So if they ever strip out, you can repair the job by installing a transverse oak dowel and drill and thread it for your thumb screw. However, I hope you never need the fix.

    Interesting post, and I look forward to being able to see the complete set of photos.

    • I was also worried about the threads going into endgrain. That’s why I used the longest thumbscrew I could find. I reasoned that more threads engaged would reduce the risk of stripping. Also, I made sure the threads were well waxed to minimize abrasion. Of course, if they DO strip, I can make a replacement in 15 minutes. Like you, I’m curious to see how it holds up.

  2. Ok, this time the photos loaded, so there was no problem on your end.

  3. Great post, Robert. I may need to make one.

  4. The beads look great. I’ve long been a fan of using beaded boards to dress up a plain surface. I’ve always had concerns about doing them on the “tongue” (show side) of the shiplap and do them on the edge of the edge of the rabbet on what becomes the “bottom” piece (does that make sense). Seems the former runs the risk of weakening the “tongue.” Beading the other edge extends the side-projection of the scratch iron but a longer handle on the scratch stock seems to take care of that. The overall effect though is the same and I certainly can’t argue with the look of yours.

  5. Stanley Powers

    You are correct Frank. The bead should not be on the tongue side for exactly the reason stated. Adding a spacer before scratching will give additional support!

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