I remember using some rasps that my grandfather had in his shop, back when I was a young kid. I’d always wonder when I’d use such coarse tools, as they just seemed to mess up my wood, rather than really seeming useful. Through the years, I’ve tried quite a few different brands, and even bought a few, but they still lived in the deepest, darkest places of my tool area.
What happened next is still not completely clear, but it somewhat reminded me of mad dash purchasing events from the past. (One specific instance involved a little toy called the Furby, when suddenly everyone with kids seemed to be on a crazed mission to obtain them for Christmas presents. Everyone who had kids back then likely gets this.)
So, all of sudden in late 2007, I was reading how a French company named Auriou was likely going out of business, and after the current supply, these wonderful Auriou rasps might never again be available. I had read many woodworkers describing how these rasps were like no other, and the resultant surface was truly amazing. Even with my previous negative rasp experiences, I decided to jump in. I was scouring any and all websites; both those in English and foreign languages. I felt quite lucky, after numerous rejected orders, to finally obtain a couple of different sized/grain Auriou rasps. I figured I’d put them to the test, and if they didn’t work for me, I could sell them to another woodworker. Well, they turned out to work just as well as others had described. I was (and am) stoked to have these great tools.
Fast forward close to a year, and as luck would have it, Michel Auriou was able to find a way to again make rasps. They are now made under the company name of Forge-de-Saint-Juery. Not all styles of Auriou rasps that were made in the past, are available at this time. Michel continues to assess the marketplace and woodworker’s needs, and has plans to add other styles as his company can tolerate, which is always a balancing act. The new rasps are made exactly the same as those before, which will likely keep all the craftsmen continuing to work as they have for years. The new rasps are works of art, just like their predecessors.
After the “re-opening” I was able to fill in a couple of gaps in the sizes of rasps I owned, which brought me to four. Three of the Auriou rasps I purchased, are each flat on one side and curved across the width on the other, which are called Cabinet Makers (except for the smallest, which is called a modelers).These have stiched teeth on both flat and curved sides. The rasps are available from Grain 1 to Grain 15, with 1 being the most aggressive and geared more for stone work, and 15 the most fine. My first is a Grain 5 for initial hogging off of wood, second a Grain 9 for getting close to the final shaping, and then a Grain 15 that cleans up many signs of any rasp usage. I love the control these rasps afford, and with the range of aggressiveness, I can determine where in my process I want to put them to work.
Now I did say I bought four, didn’t I? Well, the fourth is a bit more specialized, but one that I’m glad to have. This one is Grain 13 and used when making handles, like those on a handsaw. Oddly enough, this rasp didn’t come with a handle, so I turned one out of some wood that came from bushes that died in front of my house. The wood had been sitting for about 6 months or so, but still decided to check dramatically, after some of the turning. Luckily, I had ample amounts of super glue around, so I could keep it together. Even with the checks, this wood seems to add extra character to my rasp, but I could always replace it with a store made handle, if it doesn’t last the test of time. This rasp has teeth on one side, while the opposite is completely smooth, with the toothed side similar in shape to the curved side of the Cabinet Makers rasps. It also has a curve at the tip of the rasp, along the length of the rasp, so it makes it easier to get to areas on the piece you are working, while the lack of teeth on the opposing side limits any damage from accidental contact.
The Auriou rasps are hand stitched, which is to say a skilled craftsman takes a blank of metal, held down on a very special work bench, and using a special barleycorn pick and a heavy hammer, work their way across and down the blank. It is truly amazing to watch their skill in this process. I was lucky enough to have Michel Auriou give me a demonstration at our Open House in July 2010. If there had been a little bell sound, at the end of each line, I might have mistaken the tap-tap-tap sound of the stiching process as that of an old manual typewriter.
With this method, the raised rasp teeth from each line don’t form a straight line with the teeth above and below, as they will in most machine made rasps. With this, there is little chance to find a spot where the rasp leaves behind multiple parallel lines, rather than the intended complete consistent coverage. The teeth are stiched all the way to the tip, and across to both edges. Auriou rasps are available in both right and left-handed versions, and with the orientation of the stiched teeth, work best when the correct version is used. This is due to the teeth being stiched at a small angle relative to the length of the rasp. On right-handed versions, the rasp is held with the handle to the right and the tip to the left. This engages the teeth properly and most effectively. Left-handed versions are exactly opposite. All Auriou rasps come with a hardwood handle, except for the smallish carving type examples.
I hope to see some of you at our upcoming Lie-Nielsen hand tool events, as listed on the Lie-Nielsen website. Stop by and say hi. You can reach me via email at LeeLairdWoodworking@gmail.com .