Skip to content

A Poor Man’s Raspy Thingy

My reason for revisiting the issue of shaping wood by hand is this: I think that it is very likely that people in general cannot spend a £120 on a rasp to make a project like say a spoon that they do not know if they will like producing more of into the future. We’ve also discussed the reality that many if not most of the four-in-hand rasps work very poorly and do not last at all well. If you need to make one wooden spoon or two, or perhaps a spatula and a cutting board, even the Shinto might well be prohibitive, you cannot really justify the outlay for such minimal use of a tool.

That is not to say that the premium rasps are not worth it, not at all, or the Shinto substitute, just that we have to have or be a solution and especially so in times of need, times of austerity and times of trialing our hopes to become that woodworker we always hoped to become.

Apply and spread the contact cement evenly and let dry to just tacky.

And here too is another reality: now it’s not the same tool, but a coarse 60- to 80- grit strip of sandpaper glued to wooden scraps made into sanding paddles works really well. You can make several pieces for replacing worn out pieces. Create three levels of abrasive and you can take the fineness up to 250 grit with a 150-grit in between. Now see how well they work. I think you’ll like these.

press firmly together

Making them.

You can use double-sided tape on flat surfaces but curved surfaces seem to turn loose more readily and too soon. I use contact cement to stick down the abrasive regardless and so it stays glued. The property of contact cement is that you glue both surfaces and then wait long enough for both surfaces to become slightly tacky so almost dry. Make sure to align the surface to the paddle and press them firmly together. Add pressure if possible and the paddle is ready for use. The advantage of abrasive paddles over rasps and files is that the abrasive ones cut wood in any direction you move the surface over whereas the rasps and files have teeth that cut in one direction on the forward stroke. When the abrasive is too worn to cut, change the abrasive by pulling off the old.

41 Comments

  1. Peter on 4 November 2019 at 7:18 am

    Thanks for this simple, practical idea.
    I have, in the past, been surprised at how long abrasive paper will last, when glued to a sanding-block, rather than being simply wrapped around it, so I’m sure the same thing with a dowel will be equally useful.

  2. John 2v on 4 November 2019 at 7:37 am

    That is just a fantastic simple idea Paul……I’ve used a piece of
    3mm ply, 25 x 100 with different grades and double sided tape to great effect.
    I have a collection of really course paper…..really course…..and never thought of using on a dowel like rasp. Brilliant thanks

    Thanks john

  3. Andrew Wilkerson on 4 November 2019 at 7:42 am

    Nice, I did this years ago then kind of forgot about it, I do have a large board covered in 80g floor sanding belt and been surprised how long it’s lasted. I used to use it a lot to flatten box rims and bottoms but these days I usually just use my plane and it seems to be quicker but it does come in handy for other things, especially if it means not having to use a belt sander or other dust cloud making machines.

    Now I just have to find a local supply of that UHU glue in a tube. Whenever I’ve bought tins of contact adhesive it dries up by the time you go to use it again. Same story for my rubber tire/tube puncture repair glue! My sons bike is still sitting there waiting for me to fix it. I have the kit but the glue tube is now just full of air.

  4. Perry in New York on 4 November 2019 at 10:54 am

    I have been using strips cut from rolls of sandpaper with adhesive backing. It works great.

    Love the blog Paul. I am learning much here.

  5. Richard King on 4 November 2019 at 11:05 am

    I have found that by far the cheapest stockist of Uhu glue is Poundland.

  6. Russ on 4 November 2019 at 11:28 am

    I take belts from a 4” x 18” hand held sander and cut a piece of wood that fits inside. The belt is tightened with a wedge cut at a 3 degree angle forced in on the end. These belts are made for a hand held power sander and last forever as a handle held sanding block.

    • Bill on 4 November 2019 at 1:23 pm

      I just cut a piece of wood when I started woodworking to fit the sanding belt, it had a slight taper on it. When to belt is pushed on it fits great, no need for any complications or wedges. Maybe I was lucky in my sizing – and too lazy to make any improvements- but it works.

  7. Al on 4 November 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Hello Paul. Per your review on the Shinto Rasp I purchased one for myself. It works wonders for me so I purchased one for my son.
    Kind regards, Al

  8. Steve Rosasco on 4 November 2019 at 1:22 pm

    I agree with your assessment about the poor quality of rasps; I will give the Shinto a try.

  9. Samuel on 4 November 2019 at 1:40 pm

    It’s easy to get caught up in inferior tools or waiting for the right tool to appear or acquiring more tools that will further your potential or potency. I got a beautiful 15pt brass back tenon saw in the mail last week, in line with the Common Woodworking tool guide: And a Chinese bevel gauge and Stanley Rabone pattern square and a Sheffield combination gauge.
    In the past I’ve wasted some money maybe attempting the most pragmatic buy and browsed at the most expensive and exotic too. But knowing what is essential And can perform adequately and then starting the skill exercises is the important thing. I’m still mainly dreaming..
    So these paddle sticks are smart.

  10. Edward J on 4 November 2019 at 1:52 pm

    I’ve done this in miniature many times by using double sided tape on a popsicle (U.K. ice lolly) stick and fine sandpaper for my auger bit files and fine detailing files. Custom sizes, shapes, and “ safe edges” are very easy to make..

  11. Chris Harmston on 4 November 2019 at 3:36 pm

    I too have used this technique for many years. Although I find that tube based contact adhesive is hard to control thickness, leaving globs and bumps or ripples which translate to the sanding surface. I have had these interfere with projects in the past. What I use instead is 3M Super 77 Multipurpose Spray Adhesive or similarly a DryWall Taping spray adhesive. I find these apply much more uniformly and consistently and leave a smoother sanding surface. These adhesives are essentially the same as contact adhesive although not quite as easy to peel off.

    • Paul Sellers on 4 November 2019 at 5:26 pm

      I avoid sprays of any kind where possible. Can’t recommend them generally. And the glue I used spreads very easily and leaves no bumps so not all cements are created equally.

    • Bill Skinner on 11 November 2019 at 10:25 pm

      Try using double sided carpet tape. Works great and you don’t have to worry about the glue drying up. No high spots either.

  12. jay on 4 November 2019 at 4:11 pm

    There is little more satisfying than using a tool you built. Even more satisfying is coming up with a “new ” tool to solve a problem at hand. Building a tool gives you insight into how the tool is made and a sense of independence. Building a new tool makes you think. There is also the connection between you and the tool that is not describable but very real.

    Thanks for all your insights!

  13. Joe on 4 November 2019 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks Paul. I know you are fond of the Bacho files. Have you ever tried their rasps?

  14. Steve Treat on 4 November 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks for the good idea Paul. I really like your blog and YouTube postings.

    You are definitely making a positive impact on this world. Thanks for everything you do!

  15. John Carruthers on 4 November 2019 at 5:07 pm

    the way we did it was to put 2 or 3 lines of double sided tape on a
    sheet of paper, wrap it round a bit of broom handle or bit door stop batten, then tear off the worn section to reveal fresh abrasive as required.

  16. Marvin McConoughey on 4 November 2019 at 5:07 pm

    Now, that is a beautiful, evocative, statement: “…to become that woodworker we always hoped to become.” I keep trying, everyday.

  17. David Fabijan on 4 November 2019 at 5:52 pm

    Speaking of rasp-related tools. There is one I’m wondering about, called the float by some sellers (https://www.fine-tools.com/liogier-floats.html) not quite sure if that’s even the real name. It looks sort of interesting, but haven’t managed to find much about it’s use. It says on the side it’s most commonly used in plane making, and while that is something I’d like to try my hand at some time (soon), it’s a quite specific. Has anyone had any experience with this tools in more general woodworking? What would be a good use cases for it, ones where it’s a major upgrade compared to a rasp or sandpaper on a holder?

    • Paul Sellers on 4 November 2019 at 7:35 pm

      Only used in plane making and pattern making that `I know of. Highly specialised but can’t think of a single used for them that I can’t do with the tools I have already but somehow the engineers making them that don’t actually work wood seem to think we need them.

      • David Germeroth on 5 November 2019 at 1:52 am

        Paul,
        I wholeheartedly agree with the first part of your response, but the last part strikes me as a bit harsh. Yes a float is specialized and it does things that can be replicated by other more generalized tools, but does that mean it is a tool without merit? A skillfully used chisel can usually replace a spokeshave. Should I ditch the shave and learn to be more skillful with a chisel? Of course not. If one makes a lot of casework joined with wedged through tennons, a float can be used to quickly and accurately slope the mortise walls. The utility of a specialized tool is dependent on the task at hand and the manner of the work.

        That all said, I generally agree with your general stance on this. There are manufacturers trying to foist unneeded products on us woodworkers (factory made winding sticks! ) Sadly, that is the plight of all hobbyists – take a look at a fishing catalog sometime. So, keep up the good fight and forgive this slight disagreement.

        • David Fabijan on 5 November 2019 at 5:56 am

          Thank you both for your answers. I was kind of suspecting it’s a very niche tool myself, but I’m glad to hear the opinions of much more experienced woodworkers.

        • Paul Sellers on 5 November 2019 at 9:09 am

          No one demerited the tool. Just putting it squarely where it belongs in the highly specialised zone and far from an essential tool outside of that. Cheeks of mortises are best refined with a chisel not a specialised tool like a float. I would hate for anyone new to woodworking to think that this tool is much needed at all. You build a straw man by introducing two commonly used and equally needed tools into the consideration here. Whereas you say that you “agree with my general stance here”, I’m not too sure that that matter really, you are entitled to your opinions. I could never advise anyone to buy a float or three based on your opinion as given, and especially someone new to woodworking. You see it is all about finding the balance. Some people just like to buy any and every tool that comes out and especially those that look ‘nice’.

  18. Loxmyth on 4 November 2019 at 6:05 pm

    U have inherited a few abused, worn-out rasps it’s tempting to just apply the dandpaper trick to _them,_, if I can’t clean them up…

    • loxmyth on 11 November 2019 at 2:21 pm

      Darned touch screen keyboards….

  19. Mark on 4 November 2019 at 7:50 pm

    Love it

  20. Jerry S. on 4 November 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Good advice, in my opinion.

    I use sanding boards like this all the time. I have several configurations and grits. I keep them close to hand.

    I also have a good selections of rasps and files, but sometimes these are perfect for the task at hand. Cheap, too.

  21. Steve D on 4 November 2019 at 10:15 pm

    The sandpaper idea is good but requires paper with hand deposited grit that comes from an outdated factory in France. The modern paper doesn’t leave a proper scratch pattern.

    • Paul Sellers on 5 November 2019 at 9:11 am

      What are you talking about when you say,”The sandpaper idea is good but requires paper with hand deposited grit that comes from an outdated factory in France.”?

      • David Germeroth on 5 November 2019 at 11:40 pm

        My guess is that Steve had a sense of humor that, at times, runs a bit snarky.

  22. Don Hummer on 5 November 2019 at 12:39 am

    I do the same thing for curves, I take the cut out part of the curve, smooth it with a file and then glue on some abrasives and I have a poor man’s compass plane!

  23. Tom Bittner on 5 November 2019 at 12:56 am

    I bought some rolls of PSA paper made in Sweden a few years ago called “siaspeed”, I think I got it on Amazon.
    I peel off what I need and stick it to whatever shape I want for the work at hand.
    I have grits in 80, 120, 180, 220 and 400, I found that I could get quite a polish on wood if I work through the grits. I take a pencil and gently rub it on the wood I’m polishing, when the marks are gone I repeat for the next grit and so on until I get to the surface finish I want. As you progress through the grits it takes less time to remove the marks. It’s amazing how wood can take a polish, yes you can plane it and yes the more you polish the less a stain will penetrate but sometimes it is a solution for the work at hand. I refinished my oak butcher block kitchen table and clear coated with lacquer, it came out just amazing, better than the factory finish.

  24. Terrence OBrien on 5 November 2019 at 12:59 am

    I paid $15.46 for the Shinto on Amazon. I love it. It can eat wood like a wood chipper, and then do surprisingly detailed work.

  25. Michael Michalofsky on 5 November 2019 at 10:35 am

    One minor correction pls
    You don’t put the pieces to be glued when the glue is tacky
    You should wait until each side is dry
    Then put them together

    Thanks michael

  26. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe on 5 November 2019 at 10:52 am

    Don’t forget a worn-out pair of jeans to clean out the sand paper. Works wonders! 🙂

  27. Andrew Churchley on 5 November 2019 at 11:04 am

    I made a temporary sanding tool for a special job. A rectangular strip of wood was end-bevelled at 45 deg and covered with garnet paper using Evo-Stick. The shape assisted getting into tight corners. From time to time it has been found useful for differing tasks. It’s still going strong, with no change of abrasive paper, after about 20 years!

  28. Max™ on 5 November 2019 at 7:52 pm

    Ah, the iwasaki’s have some pull and some push cutting models, and are also ridiculously inexpensive for how well they work. I got a half round 150mm push medium and curved half round 100mm pull fine for around $50 US I think?

    More like an arrangement of tiny little planes complete with chip breakers than a rasp or file really, I go straight from my pointy tip medium coarse cheapo rasp to the medium > fine iwasakis and end with a scraper and 400 grit on a dowel.

    • Max™ on 7 November 2019 at 12:20 am

      For clarity: I meant $50 for both iwasakis total, as they range from $20 to a handful of $50 or so models.

      They also make an edge and side float which I currently can not justify as a purchase but would most certainly see a range of uses if I had them.

      A less obvious benefit of having a side float handy is tenon cheeks, though the main thing I’d want an edge float for is saw blade slots and I had to make my own from a bit of a saw I cut down anyways, otherwise they’re too thick.

  29. Stephen Dwyer on 5 November 2019 at 10:14 pm

    I have some herdim hand stitched rasps from Dictum in Germany which were a little cheaper than Auriou. I don’t know how they compare as I’ve never used an Auriou but they seem fine to me. I wonder if Paul has tried them.

  30. Robert Brunston on 6 November 2019 at 2:30 am

    Very good Paul! You always have very practical solutions Thank you.

Leave a Comment





  • Landon Vaughn on Two OppositesGreat read! Thanks for you wisdom and all you do!
  • Jeremie G. Doiron on Two OppositesBravo! I love these musings. As always, your generosity in sharing wisdom is a spacial gift to those listening.
  • Paul Sellers on Vlog 015 Up!I remember you clearly, Mike, two daughters, I think, a hope that they too might adopt woodworking into their lives n some way. All is well here, enjoying life all the more but mis…
  • Mike Starks on Vlog 015 Up!Paul, I first heard you discuss the importance of stepping off the conveyor belt in I think 2011, when you were teaching at the New Legacy school in upstate New York. It is nice to…
  • Samuel on All in a Day’s WorkoutGood morning
  • Salko Safic on Vlog 015 Up!That was quite enjoyable to watch Paul.
  • Samh on All in a Day’s WorkoutMagnifique
Scroll To Top