Old woodworking files reappear
8-in. Milled-tooth float files
I usually carry a four-in-hand file in my tool belt. It’s a combination tool (fine files and coarse-cutting rasps, each with both rounded and flat profiles) that’s terrifically handy for occasional stock removal and touch-ups. It also offers a fine illustration of the problem with files and rasps: The coarser the cut, the faster the work goes but the woolier the result; the finer the grade, the cleaner the surface but the faster the files clog (so the sooner they need cleaning).
That’s why I was happy to see the reintroduction of float files. They’ve been around for at least a century but went under the radar around 20 years ago. In their current incarnation, they’re available in two styles: both sides flat (shown here) or with one flat and one round side. The latter also has one safe (untoothed) edge, so you can work right into a corner without marring an adjacent surface. Each style has the traditional extremely sharp teeth whose curved edges automatically impart a shearing cut. While the float files require a firm hand, they cut faster than other files and leave a smoother finish than rasps. They’re also far beefier than Surform or Microplane-style rasps.
I find these files to be great for fine-tuning scribe cuts on baseboard, brickmold, or filler strips for built-in cabinets. They reach where a block plane can’t while producing a similar finish in a similar amount of time.
Photo by: Krysta Doerfler