Chapter 4: Tools
You need a tool that removes a lot of wood, and one that removes just a little bit. I like to use a drawknife and card scraper, but you can also follow this entire build along with just a rasp and a file. There’s always a way to improvise, so use the tools you have or the tools you like, you don’t have to use the ones I do.
I really like drawknives, but they can be risky on boards. Sticking to a rasp is much safer and cheaper. You can buy a basic set of rasps and files for around $20. Most will have everything you need except the sandpaper and string material.
The full beginner kit I’d recommend is sandpaper, a heavy rasp, a file, a scraper, and a thin needle file or a chainsaw file.
Farriers rasps and Shinto saw rasps are great options for the heavy rasp. A common half round file is an excellent bow making tool too, but you can’t beat a card scraper with a sharp burr (aka cabinet scraper.)
It’s also nice to have some thin rasps and files to carve the nocks. A rattail rasp, needle file, or chainsaw file would be ideal, but you can also use a knife or the skinny edge of a half-round file. In that case it might be easier to carve pin or diamond style nocks.
Some other tools I like to use but you don’t need are spokeshaves, drawknives, carving axes, and assorted needle files.
Putting a burr on a scraper
Card scrapers are just about the simplest tool, but the one I use the most. All they are is a piece of tool grade steel. If you don’t have one you can make a great scraper out of any sheet of tool steel, such as an old knife or plane blade.
If you’re setting up a brand new scraper, skip to the next step. If you’re resharpening an old one, get rid of the old burr with a file or some sandpaper.
To start off, you want 90 degree edges on your scraper. Flatten the sides until you have nice clean corners.
To form the burr itself I use a burnishing tool which is just a rod of extra hard tool steel. Its easy to find a replacement if you don’t have one of these. You can also use the base of a chisel or any other piece of hard steel.
Start off by rubbing the burnisher at about a 90 degree angle, until the edge of the scraper starts to look smooth and polished. Then we can start to apply more pressure.
Eventually the edge will begin to mushroom over. As that happens, you can start to slowly increase the angle of the burnisher. This will draw out a sharp burr from the mushroomed edge.
Once you’re done, work the opposite edge, and then flip your card over, and work the two edges on the other side. That’s 4 useable edges from one simple tool.