Tools - Planes, Files and Rasps

Finishing is usually the last step in building a project. The finishing tools are designed to smooth a project to its desired finished state.


Planes are for removing very thin layers of wood, for trimming and smoothing, for straightening edges or beveling them, and even for adding a groove.

Block plane. This plane is about 6" long and is used for small smoothing and fitting jobs.

Trimming plane. Use a trimming plane for more delicate work. These are only 3 1/2" in length and have a 1" blade.

Jack plane. At 12" to 15", this plane smoothes rough surfaces with its 2" blade.

Smooth plane. This smaller plane runs from 7" to 10" long with a 1 3/4 blade. It is also used to smooth rough surfaces.

Scrub plane. If you desire a hand-hewn effect, a scrub plane, about the same length but with a blade of 1 1/4", works fast for those rough cuts.

Fore and joiner planes. At 18" to 24" in length, these are your best bet for straightening edges.

Rabbit plane. This will cut recessed grooves along an edge.

Grooving plane. This plane will cut a long slot.

Tips on Proper Planing

  1. Plane with the grain of the wood whenever possible, to avoid catching and lifting chips of wood.
  2. Prevent splitting the corners on material you are planing by clamping scraps of wood on either side of the corner and at the same level.
  3. Always keep blades razor sharp.
  4. When it's not in use, rest your plane on its side to avoid dulling the blade.
  5. When starting cuts, apply more pressure to the front of the tool; when completing, apply more pressure to the rear.

Files and Rasps

Files are used for shaping. You will find files that are round, half-round, flat, square and even triangular. Single-cut file teeth run in one direction; double-cut teeth run in opposing directions. The latter will cut more coarsely, but quicker.

Rasps differ from files in that the teeth are formed individually, not connected to one another. In general, a longer file or rasp will have somewhat coarser teeth than a shorter one. Files will cut smoother than rasps, but when used on wood, files will work much more slowly and are susceptible to clogging.

Tips on Filing

  1. Files are easier to use with an attachable handle.
  2. Secure your work with a vise or clamps: at elbow height for general filing, lower for heavier filing, and nearer to eye level for delicate work.
  3. Keep files clean with a file brush.
  4. Store files in a rack or protective sleeves to keep from dulling the teeth.

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