Using Files and Rasps

(From the February 15th Meeting)

Chadd Hass distributed a nice handout that described rasps, rifflers, and files, listed 9 suppliers for tools, and some interesting websites.

His philosophy is to use the most aggressive tool that he has control of.  Our challenge is to find something to work on all kinds of wood.  Rasps have big teeth and are used in a forward motion only.  Files have a flat surface with fine cuts, single or double, and are not so aggressive.  Rasps take away unwanted wood (especially on large pieces) whereas files smooth wood.

Chadd’s two favorite rasps are the 4-in-1 with rasp and file surfaces (a leather glove might help the hands), and the Nicholson #50 cabinet rasp (18861N).  Anyone who has studied with famed carver J. Christopher White in Leadville, Colorado knows this Nicholson rasp is his favorite.  It is expensive, but many find it is well worth the ~$50.  It is 10 inches, tapered with half-round and flat sides and a hacksaw edge.  Chadd finds it works well on all kinds of wood.  It should be used in a long smooth forward stroke, then lifted up for another forward stroke.  Pulling it back over the wood will dull the rasp.  The Nicholson #50 rasp can be used in different angles, with the smaller angle for finer use.  Cheaper rasps with widely spaced teeth are not good for our wood.

Another favorite tool is the Swiss-made Scorp (~$46 at Woodcraft) which he demonstrated to quickly remove bark and decay.  It has a curved blade that is pulled toward the user, and is great when going with the grain.  (Arline suggested if you buy one, ask Woodcraft to sharpen it for you.)  It is important to keep the Scorp sharp – Chadd uses a fish hook sharpener; Julie prefers a conical diamond sharpening tool.

Microplane and Stanley make very useful rasps for our use.  Stanley’s long round one and the Surform Shaver are heavier duty.  Microplanes come in various shapes and lengths.  These are great for shaping wood.   Keeping all these tools clean is important.  Chadd paints on alcohol, and uses a nylon brush after 2-3 minutes.  He also uses a small blue file cleaner.

He passed around examples of the rasps and files he uses.  Riffler files come in many shapes and curves to shape and smooth the many curves and angles of our wood.  Needle files are straight, and not so useful in our work.  Chadd likes to break the rifflers in half (securing it in a vise and chopping at it will break the brittle steel) and insert them (with glue if necessary) into a piece of ½ inch dowel for a handle.  Another rasp he likes is the old-fashioned rat tail.  He passed around information on a round rasp with point on one end, round pointed file on the other that he is going to order.

Chadd advised that we try out someone else’s tool before purchasing it.  He demonstrate the 4-in-1 tool on his Texas Longhorn piece – first the rasp, then turned for file use.  The small section of bad wood was removed in jiffy time.   He also showed how his Scorp removed bark quickly from twisted juniper.  Chadd works always in his lap, even with big pieces, sometimes using his legs as a vise.  Julie pointed out that a vise can secure a big piece while you work two-handed with a rasp.

Chadd pointed out a curved angle on his Texas Longhorn piece with “rainbow” grain (sometimes called stretch marks or shadow grain).  He once found a piece in a pile of redwood that was all ‘rainbow’ – which triples the value of the wood.

He was asked about sanding.  He begins with 100 grit, using the new Norton XXX paper-backed sandpaper which he finds very pliable and more efficient.  In Marysville they use popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, stirrers, and 4 sizes of hose to wrap sandpaper around for better efficiency.  Chadd buys foam-backed sandpaper in sheets from Fisheries Supply in north Lake Union.  These and all sheets he cuts into 9 even pieces.  Sometimes he wraps sandpaper over the foam pieces.

He asked if anyone had ever gotten a splinter from driftwood…no one had!  He suggested that browsing about wood and tools on the web can be lots of fun.

The folks who were present certainly had a lot of fun and learned a lot as well.  Many thanks, Chadd!!

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