What is a Rasp?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A rasp is a type of woodworking tool which is used to remove wood from a project. Rasps are typically used to roughly shape a project before fine-tuning it with a fine file and sandpaper. Many hardware stores carry rasps in an array of shapes and sizes for different tasks, and they can also be ordered from companies which specialize in woodworking supplies.


Essentially, a rasp is a type of file which has teeth, instead of fine ridges. The teeth make the rasp more coarse than other files, allowing it to grip and remove a large chunk of wood with each stroke. Typically, the bulk of the wood is removed on the initial push stroke away from the user, while the pull stroke to bring the rasp back simply skims the wood. Using a rasp does not require a great deal of skill, but it is important to remember that rasps can create deep gouges in wood, so they need to be handled with a light hand.

A typical rasp has four main parts: the tip, the body, the tang, and the handle. The tip of a rasp is pointed, flaring out to meet the body, which is the section of the rasp with the teeth. At the bottom of the body, a flat section known as the tang meets the handle. Some rasps have a handle on either end to make fine control of the rasp easier. Stainless steel is a common construction material for rasps, since it holds an edge reasonably well and it will resist corrosion.

The body of a rasp can come in a variety of shapes. Some rasps, for example, are entirely round, while others are formed in demi-circles, and some are flat. These different shapes can be applied to different projects; a half-round rasp, for example, is good for making gentle sloping curves in a woodworking project. It is also possible to find more unusual rasp shapes, like triangles, which are designed for very specific projects.

Rasps also have different grains, ranging from very coarse to more fine. Many woodworkers keep several rasps to ensure that they will have the right tool for the job ready to hand. Some companies also make rasp kits which include a selection of rasps; sometimes purchasing a kit is more cost-effective than purchasing individual rasps.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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