Finishing tools buying guide
Joan, Young art-school graduate, Cardiff5 guides
- Wood chisel
Which finishing tool should I use?
How to choose a rasp
- Fine—removes less material, used for smoothing and finishing.
- Medium—commonly used, a good all-purpose rasp. Not ideal for removing a lot of material or for finishing work, but acceptable at both.
- Coarse—use with caution because coarse teeth remove a lot of material and can create deep grooves in the wood.
- Flat—designed for flat surfaces and sharp corners.
- Round--also called ‘rat tail’. For creating or expanding notches and rounded shapes.
- Half-round—sometimes called a ‘bastard’. One side is flat, the other is rounded.
How to choose a file
- Up to 1 mm—removes a lot of material. Should be chosen to roughen the surface and for removing a lot of material. This is why they are sometimes called a coarse file.
- From 0.3 to 0.5 mm— an all-purpose file by definition. Best for everyday use, known as a medium file.
- ≤ .2mm—best used exclusively for finishing, called soft file.
After choosing the type of grooves you'll be working with, choose the profile. The profile is selected according to the shape of the surface you're working on:
- Flat—designed to flatten and make sharp angles
- Round—called a ‘rat tail’, intended to retouch notches and round shapes
- Half round—called a ‘bastard’, has a flat profile on one side and a round profile on other
- Square—to adjust an angle, a notch, or a groove
- Triangular--for sharpening saw teeth or sharp angles
- Diamond—for sharpening the saw blades as well
How to choose a plane
Hand scraper or jack planer
A rabbet is a plane made of wood or metal with a very narrow iron. It is used, among other things, for carving a groove. These planers are the precursors to the router, or even a chisel, which you might use if you have outstanding dexterity.
Drawknife or two-handed knife
How to choose a pair of scissors
Composed of a wooden or composite handle, the cutting edge of the chisel is sharpenable. The blade is maintained by sharpening it regularly. You can return its cutting edge with a sharpening stone made of silicon carbide or with a natural stone. Higher quality steel requires less frequent sharpening which extends the longevity of the chisel.
The most damaged blades may need to be sharpened on a grinding wheel to create bevel of about 25°.
The size of these blades varies from between 5 and 35 mm.
The widest wooden chisels, called cape chisels, are used for creating mortises and may have an integral handle. That is to say, that the handle and blade are made from a single piece of steel. They are also called carpenter’s chisels.
Gouges are used to create rounded shapes thanks to their convex blade. Rather than tapping on the handle as you would with most chisels, you use a digging motion to remove material instead.
To help you sort this out, choose your chisels based on these criteria:
- Your work—whether it’s grooving, mortising, sculpture, or something else.
- The frequency of use—are you an amateur or a professional, a novice or a master?
- Size of the blade—are you working over a large space or carving a shallow groove?
- Steel of the blade-- hardened steel is a must, but different alloys have different benefits, chrome, vanadium, or high carbon.
- Handle Material—made of wood for comfort and shock absorption (and charm), or a composite material for better ergonomics and durability.
How to choose your sandpaper
Their use determines the granulometry (number of grains). Depending on the number of grains, certain abrasives are better suited to roughing, smoothing, or finishing. A coarse grain number (80) indicates a highly abrasive paper used for roughing, while a fine grain (400) is used for finishing such as auto-body sanding.
Remember that the higher the number, the finer the grain.
Type of abrasive
Hand sanding or sandblasting?
For large projects with flat surfaces, try using a sanding pad. Made of wood, cork, foam, or rubber. Available with or without a fastening system, the sanding pad adapts to your sanding jobs.
Foam wedges tend to wear out prematurely at the corners.
People who can’t stand the dust generated by sanding can use a suction pad or a protective mask
How to sand a wood or metal surface
Sanding should be done with respiratory protection and protective gloves are recommended as well. Sanding with a power sander is efficient and often offers better results.
The chips formed by planers and/or wood chisels are a matter for a vacuum cleaner, which would be very practical in your workshop and will quickly become indispensable.
Investing in a carpenter’s bench for wood working is recommended. Metalworkers will prefer a metal bench which is more resistant than wood.
To read more about the finishing tools, consult the guides of our editors:
- How to choose your rasp and file
- How to choose your sander
- How to choose your workshop sander
- How to choose your hand planer
- How to choose your electric planer
- How to choose your abrasive paper and sandpaper
- How to choose your abrasive paper and sanding sheet
- How to choose your carpenter tools
Joan, Young art-school graduate, Cardiff 5 guides écrits
Much of the work I do comes out of my passion for DIY. I've always been interested in making art from found objects or recycling materials to make something totally new.
I like to spend time carefully considering my next project - there is a clear logic to my creative process, even though the end result might seem to appear out of the blue. For me, DIY is about innovation. For example, I recently built a mobile greenhouse so I can take my plants on the road and last year I invented a water purifier constructed from recycled cans.
DIY is for everyone. You can move at your own pace and learn just as much from your mistakes as your successful outcomes. I like to experiment with breathing new life into used items, whether that's re-threading worn screws or making furniture from scrap metal.
It doesn't stop there - I enjoy sharing what I've learned with others and am happy to give advice on innovative ways to tackle any DIY challenge!
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