Lee Valley & Veritas Woodworking
Lee Valley 35 Years  
  Volume 7, Issue 5 - May 2013    
From the Collection
Buckhorn scraper
One of the most rewarding aspects of writing these vignettes is the diversity of the items, all of which are part of the Lee Valley tool collection. There are semi-strict guidelines for selecting an object to be a part of the collection. The tool must have a story; it might be an innovation, an exceptional artisanal creation, a specialized patent, a type study for a particular woodworking method, or a celebration of a manufacturer's decorative expression and lasting influence on modern-day hand tools. Including a tool based solely on its "bling factor", to quote the latest expression, is rarely done. This, however, is the most important facet of the tool shown. Its usability was not ever considered, and there was never any question of it not ending up in the collection.

In 1996, Scott Wynn produced a fine monograph in Fine Woodworking on building a buckhorn scraper. Seven years later, Stephen Shepherd reprised that article and included some improvements of his own. His article was also reprinted in 2005. The gist was that you could manufacture a simple wooden-bodied scraper with elongated handles, and it could produce the same result as a more expensive metal-bodied tool. The design also enabled you to form the sole for a specialized application. All of the articles provided excellent drawings and instructions for what was called the buckhorn scraper.
Buckhorn scraper
Now here's the story. Staff members at all of the Lee Valley stores compose a widely educated group with a wealth of varied experiences. In some cases, they are semi-retired part-timers who, through their desire and love for woodworking, gravitate towards employment at a local store. In fact, most in-store seminars are conducted by staff members, not outsiders. If this sounds like an employment ad for the company or an overt accolade, it is not. This is the preamble to the story. The shave was made in 2003 by one Lee Valley staff member and given to another as a gift. Some 10 years later, it appeared on the market and was obtained by an overpaid specialist tool picker who does contract work for Lee Valley. It was clear that there was a story behind it. By chance and some digging, the details came to light. Lee Valley's strict privacy policy forbids the inclusion of any names.

So, you want to know about the shave? There's not much to say. It's made from a piece of firewood! That's right, firewood from the woodpile, lovingly shaped and colored to expose that unbelievable grain. We think it is big-leaf maple, an unusual wood for eastern Canada. The sole is just a piece of lignum vitae from a billet brought back from a holiday in Jamaica. The other nibs and knobs were found at a hardware store. The reason the back is so sculpted is to accommodate the blade tensioning mechanism. Can you believe this? To have the stars so aligned to produce such a thing of beauty is somewhat overwhelming. This tool certainly earned its place in the Lee Valley collection, with no apologies.
Bottom made from lignum vitae
D.S. Orr

D.S. Orr has been a collector, user and student of woodworking and metalworking tools and practices for more than 40 years. Recently retired, he has devoted even more time to these endeavors.
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