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What is a rasp?

What is a rasp?

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A horse rasp with set edges, meaning there are no teeth near to the edge of the tool A rasp is a very similar tool to a file, in that it is a shaped metal bar with teeth that shape or smooth a surface through abrasion.
A close up image of rasp teeth However, rather than having teeth cut or etched in linear patterns, rasps have each tooth individually punched into the body of the tool with a triangular punch.
Image of a blacksmith hand stitching a rasp. This process involves punching teeth individually into the cutting face of the rasp with a triangular punch This can be done by hand or by machine. The process is known as ‘stitching’.
Wonkee Donkee explains how cutting teeth into the face of a rasp got the name "stitching"
A DIYer using a rasp to shape wood This type of configuration of teeth is suited to much softer materials than metal. Rasps are your go-to tool when working with wood and should always be used instead of files where possible. The only exception to this rule is the use of Japanese carving files, which were also designed specifically for wood.

For more information, see: What is a Japanese carving file?

Image of a horse's hoof, one of the materials that requires a rasp over a file Rasps are also used on materials such as plastic or horse’s hooves, as their individually cut teeth can get more of a ‘bite’ than the uniform pattern of teeth found on files.

Machine stitched rasps vs. hand stitched rasps

Image of a machine made rasp with teeth cut uniformly and in straight rows With most tools, consistency and uniformity are important to ensure quality.

However, machine stitched rasps have all of their teeth set out in neat rows. Each successive tooth is behind another, which means that the rasp effectively carves grooves into the workpiece rather than creating a smooth, even finish.

Image showing the tooth configuration of a hand stitched rasp which is much less ordered than a machine stitched rasp and therefore provides a better finish In the case of hand stitched rasps, the layout of the teeth is not so uniform, meaning material can be removed much more smoothly and the grooving effect is avoided.
Image of a company chairman checking a rasp to ensure it meets quality standards You should be able to tell if your rasp has been machine stitched or hand stitched by looking at the teeth. In some cases, the information may be present in the product specification.
Wonkee Donkee compares hand-stitched and machine-stitched rasps

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