The CDC issued a warning against using metal wire brushes on a grill due to the risk of ingesting a wire as it falls off the brush and attaches itself to an unsuspecting burger. It sounded farfetched, but it’s actually real.
The natural solution for any woodworker is to make a grill scraper out of wood. Sure, you could simply use a scrap board to clean your grill, but why not show off a little and incorporate a box joint and some cool hardware? This will be much more appealing to the discriminating grill master on your shopping list. The cool part of the design is that you actually use the heat from the grill itself to custom form it to your specific grill, which allows the scraper, through continued use, to gradually “wrap around” each rail for thorough cleaning.
You can use any hardwood that you want for this project. If it will be stored outside without being covered you might consider using a water resistant species such as white oak. I made mine out of walnut and cherry which are not rot resistant so it will need to be stored under the grill tarp. I like the idea of using two different species so that the contrast showcases the box joint. I chose two darker species for this project because the scraper will get exposed to a lot of black crud on the grill which will stand out less against a backdrop of darker wood. (Kind of like buying a sofa the same color as peanut butter when your kids are at a certain age).
The design uses a simple box joint jig which you can find instructions on how to make and use here:
Let’s get started…
Cut the parts. The body is made from a board that measures ¾” x 4-1/4” x 8”. I chose this size because it allows the scraper to span four rails on my grill grate, and is wide enough to provide a nice heat shield for my hand as I am scraping. The scraper piece on my design is made of walnut, and to remain safe during the box joint milling operation, start with blanks that are at least 5/8” x 4-1/4” x 5”.
Mill box joints. Following the instruction on this video, mill box joints on one end of the body and one end of the scraper blank. If the box joint doesn’t come out perfectly even on the trailing edge, simply trim both the body and the scraper piece to remove the imperfection.
Rabbet the body. Mill a rabbet on each end that is 1/8” x 5/8”. This provides additional strength to support the glue joints as they withstand torque from scraping back and forth, and also adds to the visual appeal of the piece.
Glue the ends onto the body. Use water resistant glue such as Tightbond III to glue up the box joints.
Round over the back corners. Using a belt sander, round over the back corners of the body to soften the appearance of the piece.
Round over edges. Using a table mounted router, ease the edges of the piece with a ¼” roundover bit.
Mill end of scraper to a point. Use a band saw and miter gauge to cut the end of the scraper to a 70 degree point, milling the scraper to a total length of 2-1/2”. Bringing the scraper to a point is important because it makes it easier to get the shape of the grates burned into the scraper, which allows the scraper to clean the grates more completely.
Attach the handle. Attach a cabinet pull that is large enough for a hand to comfortably fit inside. The size of the opening is important, as the user will want to maintain a good grip on the scraper by inserting four fingers through the handle.
Finish. Because of the regular exposure to heat, avoid using finishes such as poly urethane that can be affected by the high temperatures. I coated mine with food safe mineral oil to accentuate the contrasting woods, but it would be fine to leave this project unfinished as well.
Custom form to a grill. (Skip this step if you are giving this as a gift, as the recipient will want to do this themselves so that it forms to their grill rather than yours.) Heat the grill using its hottest setting. Set the scraper on the grill grates, carefully centering it on as many grates as it will completely span. Slowly pull the scraper back and forth across the grill grates allowing the grates to burn into the wood, forming grooves. As the grooves begin to form, it will be easier to keep the scraper in its proper position because the grooves of the scraper will ride on the rails of the grate. Through continued use the grooves will become deeper and the scraper will clean more deeply on the grate.