Cast Scratch Stock

A simple, effective tool for adding beads, flutes, reeds, and grooves.

Cast Scratch Stock

Cast Scratch Stock

An easy way to enhance your woodworking projects is with subtle embellishments – custom moulding, banding, stringing, inlays, and decorative edge profiles. Shaping the edges of table tops, aprons, drawer fronts, table legs, and the like with beads, flutes, reeds, or grooves can take your woodworking to a whole new design level.

Options for edge treatment

One of the most common methods of profiling an edge is with router bits. But, it's not the only way. A Scratch Stock (aka Beading Tool) – essentially a small profiled scraper blade (aka the 'cutter') held in a metal or wooden assembly – does the job quite nicely. You can embellish an edge, producing a smooth surface that is ready to finish in no time flat. A side benefit is that, like all manual hand tools, scratch stocks make for a quieter, more relaxed way of working wood.

Scratch stocks do have their limitations. They work superbly on face grain, but poorly on end grain. And, starting or stopping a profile before either end of a board requires extra work to clean up the ends of the profile with chisels or sanding.

Make or buy

Scratch stocks aren't difficult to make – all you need is a block of wood, and a bolt to secure the cutter in place. While the cutters are easy enough to sharpen, shaping their profiles is another matter, and one reason that woodworkers – particularly those new to the craft – often choose to purchase a commercial scratch stock, for which a variety of pre-shaped cutter profiles are generally available. It's the easiest, and quickest way to get started with edge profiling. However, if you do want to take a stab at making your own, read Rob Brown's article on Making a Scratch Stock.

Preston No 1393 S Reeding Tool
The 'original', an Edward Preston #1393S, circa 1909

Over the past few months I've been using the Lee Valley Cast Scratch Stock, which is based on the Edward Preston and Sons #1393S Reeding Tool. The Lee Valley model looks to be a faithful reproduction, albeit cast in stainless steel with a black powder-coat finish. 

A wide cutter selection

The Lee Valley Scratch Stock comes with three cutters – a blank that you can grind to a custom shape (or use as a mini card scraper), and a 3/32" single-point and 1/8" bead (A). The straight ends of the profiled cutters can also be custom shaped if you're so inclined, which will give you a total of six profile possibilities. 

Optional fluting (B), beading (C), and reeding (D) cutters are also available, and at an average per cutter cost of $3 they're a real steal. 

Easy Assembly

Installing a cutter is straight forward – simply butt the cutter against one of the shoulders and it's guaranteed to be square to the sole.

Pressure where it counts

You'll notice two sets of ridges – one on the cap and another on the bed. Together they provide sufficient clamping pressure to keep the cutter from moving about once the cap screw is installed.

Perfect projection

Once the cap screw is installed you'll still need to fine-tune the projection of the cutter. Aim to have the lowest section of the cutter profile in line with, or a hair's breath above, the sole. It does take a bit of practice to get the projection right.

There are two mounting holes for the fence on either arm of the tool – which means you can mount the fence on either side of the cutter. Maximum travel is about 1-3/4". 

Curves all over

Not only is the sole curved, so too are the fence and level cap, which means you can use the scratch stock on both flat and curved stock. And, by tilting the scratch stock forward in use you'll remove very small shavings during each pass reducing any risk of chip-out.

Clean the cutters

The tiny points on the cutters do tend to trap shavings, which can be quickly removed with a small brass cleaning brush, conveniently available from Lee Valley.

You'll note in the photo above that I replaced the lever cap screw with a brass knob and bolt assembly that I cobbled together. I find it a lot quicker when removing the cap than using a screwdriver.

A pleasure to use

The Lee Valley Cast Scratch Stock is a real pleasure to use. Getting the knack of using it doesn't take very long, and I think you'll be surprised at how quickly you can shape an edge. I rounded over both edges of three 36" lengths of mahogany stock for some cock beading in well under five minutes. It would have taken me no less time to set-up and mill the stock on the router table. 

A welcome addition to any shop

Not only is the Cast Scratch Stock an efficient tool for small runs of beads, flutes, reeds, or grooves, it's a pleasurable tool to use. Novice woodworkers will be up and running with it just as quickly as seasoned woodworkers. And, at just under $50 ($75 with all the cutters), it won't break the bank.


  • Tool Size: 1-15/32" x 5"
  • Cutter Size: 1/32" x 5/8" x 1-1/4" 
  • Body: stainless steel with a black powder-coat finish
  • Convex sole and fence
  • Maximum fence travel: 1-3/4"
  • Includes: 3/32" single-point, 1/8" beading, and blank cutters

COMPANY:Lee Valley Tools
MADE IN:Canada
SOURCE:Lee Valley Tools

Carl Duguay
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