On 8 Jan 2005 14:08:24 -0800, "Never Enough Money"
They don't. They're excellent, but they're different.
Microplanes are best on soft timber, but they're also usable for
harder timbers and some plastics. They do have a slight tendency (like
all machine-cut rasps) to leave tramlines.
Overall they're more like a spokeshave than a file. They're happiest
making light cuts to form awkward freehand curves. If you're working
into a narrow corner to make something fit, then use a file or a
Dreadnought rasp. Gunstock carvers love them.
They come in two tooth sizes and a range of shapes and overal lengths.
I often use the smaller ones, just to get the smaller teeth. The
smaller microplanes, particularly the half-rounds are a little fragile
and an over-hard push while they're slightly twisted will cause one to
collapse in a twisted mess.
A moment's use on plaster will blunt the teeth!
Files aren't a great deal of use for wood, so the number you have to
hand will largely depend on how much metal you work. For wood, rasps
and their variants are generally more useful. Woodworkers typically
do work metal, but generally only in small sizes, such as tidying up
hinges or filing a key for a new lock.
Files come in around three sizes. Bench files are 10" or 12" long.
These are usually kept in just the "hand file" and "half round"
shapes. Warding files are smaller, about 6" long. If you have a range
of shapes and cuts, it'll be the warding files. Swiss or needle files
are small skinny things, and usually bought in sets anyway.
You should have some bench files. One day you'll need to deal with big
iron. A bastard cut and maybe second cut hand or flat file, and a
bastard cut half round will sort you out. The main reason for smooth
files rather than bastard cut it that you'll want to work the edge of
thin sheet, where coarse teeth will skip and jam.
Warding files need a wider range of styles, as these are the ones
you'll probably use most often. I suggest two sets of warding files in
second and smooth cut. The shape should include hand or flat,
half-round, also round and either square or three square (triangular)
for working into corners.
A cheap set of Swiss files is also a bargain worth having, and buy
extra top-quality ones as you need them.
The best makes are Vallorbe or Grobet and the second-rate ones are
very much second-rate. There might be a US equivalent, but I don't
know a brand (anyone ?). For bench files, it's definitely worth
getting a good brand. The cheap Chinese files aren't anything like so
good and will not retain their teeth.
Another odd file you'll want is a saw sharpening file. This will
typically sharpen six saws, one on each edge, so keep it just for saw
work and look after it.
As to rasps, then there's also a wide variety and even more of a price
variation. I find the "Dreadnought" curved tooth rasps invaluable - a
big flat one especially. They're an excellent tool for shaping harder
plastics, such as Lucite/acrylic or Tufnol/phenolic. You can find
these at engineering toolshops, or a car bodyshop will supply the
flexible form that are used in a turnbuckle holder. These are
generally used for filler work, but they're also good for major
carving, such as cabriole legs.
Punched tooth rasps are available cheaply, but these are best left to
hoof trimming. If you really need one (those cabriole legs again) then
you might spend as much as $50 for a hand-punched Italian cabinet
rasp, which really is the only way to shape a cabriole or almost
anything on a Chippendale or Hepplewhite chair.
Microplanes are useful tools, but no substitute for rasps. They're
excellent, but best suited to softer timber. I find the smaller ones
most useful, because they have finer teeth than the larger ones.
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