Files Files Files!
Files and Rasp - the unsung heroes of shaping, leveling and making things fit!
As woodworkers, we have a lot of choices when it comes to shaping wood. Planes, chisels, spokeshaves, scrapers, sandpaper and many other tools are often chosen to get the job done. Files certainly deserve to be on the list. Files are available in an enormous range of shapes, sizes and intentions, with many types coming from other trades. Metal work, auto-body repair and plastics are just a few examples of work that often requires the use of files. These files often work great on wood and add another method for shaping, fitting and flushing the surfaces we often run into. Store them in a way that keeps them from contacting and damaging each other and clean the teeth with a file card as needed.
Here are a few personal favorites that are particularly useful.
The Simonds Vixen Whizcut file cuts very quickly and leaves an extremely smooth finish. I usually have a layer or two of blue tape wrapped around the tip so that I can use the Whizcut for flushing up edge bandings and overhangs without cutting into the neighboring surface. It has safe (uncut) edges allowing it to be used up against another surface, like the shoulder of a tenon, without doing any damage.
Very similar to the Whizcut is the Iwasaki 150mm, flat fine-cut file. This is an extremely sharp file with 2 safe edges and arc-shaped teeth. It also is used for flushing edges and removing material quickly while leaving a very smooth finish. This is a good alternative to the Whizcut, which can be difficult to find.
The Sandvik Oberg file is useful for general woodworking, shaping and smoothing. The teeth are cut with a subtle "wave" shape along the length, so that teeth are not lined up from row to row. One edge is safe and one has a cutting edge.
Similar in use to the Oberg is the Simonds Multi-Kut, which has an elongated diamond pattern cut into the teeth. Like the Oberg, it smooths surfaces quickly without leaving any tracks or grooves. Both edges are cutting surfaces.
Warding files are helpful in that they're thin, tapered, fine toothed and come in small sizes. They have cutting edges and can fit into tight spots. The two pictured are 6" and 4" files.
Auriou rasps from France are famous for being hand pulled and are excellent at shaping. Truly a beautiful shaping tool. The half-round profile really adds to it's versatility. Pictured are the 11-stitch, medium rasp and the smaller 14-stitch, fine toothed model maker's rasp.
Files cut on the push stroke only, so in use, the file needs to be lifted as you return to the starting position. Being a straight cutting tool, they do a great job of shaping and leveling without leaving surfaces unintentionally rounded or taken out of flat. Oh yes, files can be sharpened! File sharpening services use an acid bath to resharpen the cutting edge. So pick up some good files or dig those out that might have been set aside. They're really useful tools for a wide range of woodworking needs!