Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 5
   May 2012
   What Is It?

What Is It?
What Is It?

More than five years ago, in the first issue of this newsletter, we featured as the What Is It? a plane maker's float, a most specialized tool that has been used in varying forms in many different trades. Today's offerings are also from that family; however, not only is the form different, but, similar to the first version shown, these tools were used by another specialized trade that has lately seen much reduction in the numbers of its working members. These particular floats are primarily the tools of a gun stocker and sometimes have been miscalled cabinet makers' floats. However, that is not to say that cabinetmakers did not have such a tool in their repertoires.

Two sets are shown; both have a combination of flat and convex surfaces. Both sets were collected in England, where there has been a long history of gunsmiths. The sizes range from 1/8" to 1-1/64". Their distinctive method of use dictates that the tools must have cranked handles (not in the same plane as the cutters), thus allowing the user to work in a recess or in close quarters without impediment, a most useful aspect when bedding a barrel. The teeth have been milled into the main body as opposed to being punched, as is found on early rasps and files.

Much has been written lately about floats, rasps and files, and the different methods of manufacture. A file abrades the surface, depending on the relative hardness of the file and the material, producing fine particles, while, technically, a rasp removes small chips. The effectiveness of the cut is totally dependent on the form of the teeth, and their random or non-random placement on each cutting surface (circular, arced and skewed). Today's machine-made files are somewhat uniform in tooth structure, and the quality is dependent on the hardening of the entire file. The modern rasp can be found machine made or hand punched and, again, depending on hardness and grain structure, can be a most useful tool. Last makers use the rasp almost exclusively in their trade.
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  • Folding Workstation for Crosscuts and Dadoes
  • The Reconstruction of a National Historic Site
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