Hand Tools Archive

Re: Files, rasps, floats, rifflers, etc

Derek Cohen (in Perth, Australia)
Can someone help me grasp the difference between (woodworking) files, rasps, floats, rifflers and other metal blanks with toothy protuberances? I use files for filing metal, and have a big ol' rasp in my tool cabinet that probably hasn't been used in 30 years. Other than that, I'm clueless.
I do see that wood carvers use them, but do folks find uses for them in more mundane forms of woodworking?

Hi Josko

Files may be used for both metal and wood. I keep a separate set for each. The ones for wood are great for fine smoothing. However, they work very slowly, which is why one would rather use a rasp for more rapid removal of waste.

Generally, the teeth on a file are made by machine, and even in size and position. They are different to the teeth on a rasp, where the better ones are formed by hand and act like tiny planes. Forming them by hand (called stitching) creates irregular spacing, and this acts to avoid tracks forming - consequently, one can achieve a fairly smooth surface from coarse teeth.

Generally, one side is flat while the other is round. They come in many different teeth size (referred to as "grain") ...

The tooth sizes (grain) are numbered from 1 to 15, with 1 being the coarsest, and 15 the finest. In practice, only the sizes between 4 and 14 are commonly used.

A riffler is essentially a small rasp, used for detail work (in wood or stone). The heads may be made in different profiles to aid in shaping.

As with rasps, rifflers are available in different grains.

A different type of rasp is the Japanese Shinto, which is a series of hacksaw blades joined together ...

Floats are are a cross between a file and a saw. They have teeth shaped in profile like a rip saw, but have wide teeth (say, 1" across). They are sharpened the same way as a saw, and are used to plane wood. Planemakers use them for creating (for example) a bed, and cabinetmakers use them when truing joinery ...

A joinery float ...

This one is used on tenon cheeks ..

Regards from Perth


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