In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Best wood rasps

At Woodworking in America I made an offhand comment during a lecture that has come back to haunt me 100 times since September.

I was passing around the English Layout Square I built for the December 2010 issue to the class I mentioned that the ogees and details on the square were formed with rasps.

“Rasps,” I said, “give you superpowers.”

Since then, my e-mail inbox has been stuffed with people asking me questions like this: You mentioned a tool that will give me superpowers. What was that tool?

I use and am very fond of Auriou rasps, which are made in France and beat the pants off any other rasp I’ve tried, vintage or modern. You might disagree with me, but I’ve made my choice.

Whenever I mention Auriou rasps, woodworkers begin to feel a tingling in their wallet region. Yes, they are more expensive than the rasps you’ll find at home centers. A lot more expensive. But what if I told you that you could buy three Auriou rasps and pretty much be set for life?

I think that most furniture makers need only three of these tools. Here’s my short list.

1. A cabinet rasp with fairly coarse teeth for stock removal. I use the 9″ Auriou with a 10 grain.

2. A modeller’s rasp with fine teeth for refining shapes. I own a 4″ Auriou with 14 grain, which I don’t think the company makes anymore. I’d get the 6″ with 15 grain, which is offered.

3. A rattail rasp for coping inside corners and dealing with tight, radiused details. I have a 6″ Auriou with 13 grain.

Aurious are available from a variety of sellers, including the source in France, Forge de Saint Juery. Here’s a list of where I have purchased them in the United States:

Tools for Working Wood. It actually was Joel Moskowitz at TFWW who introduced me to these tools, for which I am eternally grateful.

Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, which fits their Aurious with nice maple handles.

Lee Valley Tools.

Highland Hardware.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 5 comments
  • ocd

    I have used really cheap rasps (Harbor Freight) and Auriou. Obviously, the Auriou was spectacular in comparison. When using the #14 tangentially going with and parallel to the grain, the surface was as good as 220 sandpaper. Only when using this grain orientation, though. They should be sprayed with Camelia oil every now and then to prevent rust, and may be “chalked” before using so the teeth will clean easier. You can’t use a regular “file card”, a special stiff brush is available from Auriou.

    They are wonderful for shaping wood. Auriou has some very small ones that are great for carvings.

    I would only use where a significant amount of stock is to be removed because to get the scratches out (which, even with Auriou used correctly will still be present) you have to use progressively smaller teeth, which takes more wood off.

  • dreamcatcher

    I like the statement “rasps give you superpowers” and wonder what your interpretation of your own statement is? I read it as meaning the use of a rasp allows one to quite easily and without much skill perform woodworking task that look like it was made by an old master. In my experience, rasping seems like magic as the tool removes as much or little wood as I want it to with little effort and makes the shape I need it to without much skill. I don’t need to really care for a rasp or sharpen it and it’s about the least dangerous tool in the shop.

    So, yes a rasp is like a superpower – or maybe like magic


  • ocd

    I have not tried many of the other rasps, but Auriou are great. Even so, there are a few tricks to keep them from clogging and lasting a long time. I can still get individual scratches as I go across the wood unless I use them correctly.
    When going down the tangential surface, paralled with the grain, of the wood with a #14, the finish is as good as 220 or higher sandpaper.

  • geppetto425

    What about the Iwaski Carving Files? The teeth are milled and then chemically etched to super sharp. And priced between 17.99 and 37.99. Any experience with these files??? Thanks. And you are awesome by the way, I’ve been a subscriber for some time now.

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