Tools for Making Atlatls: The Shinto Rasp and Horseshoe File

If you sculpt wood for whatever reason, you’ll tend to need a tool that takes off a good amount of matter and can also navigate slight angles.  When I make an atlatl, I start with cut blanks that I glue together and end up with zero right angles.  I swear by the shinto rasp, horseshoe file, and a heck of a lot of sanding to get these forms.

The Shinto Rasp

Shinto Rasp

This wood carving tool, named after the indigenous spirituality of the Japanese people,  is perfect for making/shaping atlatls.  (I’ve had a few spiritual moments with it, myself.)  It consist of many hack saw blades welded together in a network.  It has a coarse side and a fine side.  A Google Images search for “shinto rasp” will reveal many pictures of it in various forms and two sizes — big and small. This is a good way to find one to buy, as well…

Note:  I buy only the replacement blade and not the whole rasp/handle combination. I find the handle to be clumsy and something of an overkill. If you have tender fingers, wear a glove.

The replacement rasp should be available for around $20.00,  they last for a long time.  The only thing better than a shinto rasp for taking off wood in a hurry is a horseshoe file. However, I find that the shinto rasp is more maneuverable on round or small projects.

The Horseshoe File

Horseshoe File or Horseshoe Rasp

I use the horseshoe file (or “horseshoe rasp”) to file down atlatl shafts to make them flexible. You can find them for sale on or Google Shopping.

They last a long time even if you are thinning harder woods like Purple Heart, Rosewood, Osage, Hickory, or any other “dense, heavy, fine-grain, needs-sharp-tools” kind of wood.

You can get a handle for these things, but why bother?  Got tender fingers?  Awww… Wear a glove. After you have worn this thing out, get a charcoal grill, an anvil, and a heavy hammer and make a sword out of it.