Floats are tools that cut in a similar way as a file in removing wood, but have straight teeth and can be sharpened with a file like a saw. Because the teeth are only on one face of the tool, they will not cut into adjacent surfaces. These are essential tools for plane making, but have many other uses also, such as sizing tenons and working in pockets. Our floats are based on designs that had been made by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, which were in turn based on floats designed by Old Street Tool. Both have been supportive of our efforts to reintroduce these tools.
Our floats are similar to the no longer made Lie-Nielsen floats with a couple of significant differences. First, we opted to make ours of O-1 tool steel instead of S-7 tool steel. O-1 is easier to sharpen with a file and leaves a cleaner cut. The other difference is that the blade on our floats extends the entire length of the handle. This is a more robust design and gives better balance to the tool. Handles are maple held in place with brass rivets.
There are 10 teeth per inch on all floats. Importantly, both the edge floats and side floats taper to a quite narrow tip to ensure they will extent all the way through the mouth of a plane when working from the top of the mortise. The small cheek floats taper to about 3/8″ wide at the tip.
The blades have been hardened professionally to Rc 50-52, giving them good wear resistance while also making them easy to sharpen. (The black finish is a result of the heat treating process, and is easily removed from the teeth when sharpening.) While they can be used as is out of the package, we suggest sharpening before use for optimum performance. We recommend a 5 or 6 inch double extra slim taper file, the same type used to sharpen hand saws. These files closely match the shape of the teeth. Sharpening instructions are included with our floats.
We are starting with three types of floats:
- 1/8″ edge float. Used to cut the bed and breast surfaces in side escapement planes, and to work abutments and open the mouths of bench planes. Can also be employed in mortise work, primarily on the end grain surfaces.
- Side Float. Used to flatten and smooth the sides of plane mortises.
- Small cheek float. Used for sizing wedge mortises when fitting wedges. Also very useful for opening the wear surface and setting the mouth opening of planes. They can find many uses such as fitting tenons or opening up mortises.
All float types come in both push and pull cutting configurations. Push floats can be used more aggressively by tilting the float upward slightly and using the first tooth as a scraper. Pull floats tend to give better control when removing small amounts of wood. When making a plane, both styles are helpful to ensure the stock can be approached to cut with the grain.