Noel Liogier is a quiet, unassuming French
toolmaker – the present generation in a long line of Liogiers
making hand-stitched rasps and rifflers.
LIOGIER workshop is located south west of Lyon, in
Saint-Etienne, France. Noel Liogier continues the
century-old family tradition making high quality hand-stitched
(hand cut) rasps, and has been the largest producer in Europe
for many decades.
Liogier was recently awarded the elite status of
‘Ambassador of French Excellence’ by the French government,
representing the nation’s finest craftsmanship and joining an
elite group which includes Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
For over a century the area has been rich in
coal-mining and hence steel production. With access to very fine
steels, Saint-Etienne became a centre for forge-based tool
Even after WW2, there were well over 100 makers of files and
rasps in the region, as well as some renowned gunsmiths. In fact
Saint-Etienne has been to France what Sheffield is to England or
Wupperthal to Germany… the center for tool-making.
There are reasons why Europe has been and remains the World’s
great producer of hand-stitched rasps, but no one seems clear
why France specifically – the 2 remaining and best known makers
are both French: Auriou and Liogier.
In mainland Europe rasps and rifflers (more of those in a
moment) have been as widely used as chisels by woodworking
craftsmen for many years. It seems the ways of working are
different there and a lot of fast stock removal and shaping is
done with rasps.
In Europe, rifflers are as popular as rasps –
Liogier sells as many rifflers as rasps in Europe. Yet in the UK
and The States rifflers are far less widely used. It’s probably
down to what we are used to and what went before.
The dramatic decline in forges since the mid
20th Century is partly due to the arrival of low-cost
machine-made equivalents. But a further big factor is the acute
shortage of skill needed to make them.
Noel has trained 8 stitchers (as they are known)
in his life. It takes around 18 months to train, working daily…
and not all succeed. I recall Noel telling me once that it
actually takes the first 12 months to discover if the trainee
will ever be any good. Of the 8 Noel has trained three failed,
two have now retired, and the remaining 3 work with Noel today.
What makes hand-stitched better?
Anyone who picks up a fine hand-stitched rasp
for the first time is normally surprised. They are very quick
and intuitive to ‘learn’; the speed of stock removal is
remarkable; and the quality of finish is far better than you
We have all used rasps and files of various
types before so using a hand-stitched rasp comes naturally. But
the performance is entirely down to the fine differences that
hand-stitching brings. Machine-made rasps have a uniform tooth
pattern which will result in furrowing of the surface.
the key skills in hand-stitching (but by no means the only one)
is the semi-random placing of the teeth over the tool’s surface
and right up to edges and the tip. These teeth have to be very
sharp, of uniform height and pitch… and of course placed with
The result is a very versatile tool which fast
becomes one of those core tools you pick up far more often than
you ever thought you would. Many users will say it changes how
you do certain things, and a good rasp or riffler will make some
tasks far easier, faster… or just make them actually possible.