Rarely needed yet useful

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Review by JuniorJoiner posted 02-07-2009 08:27 AM 9920 views 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Rarely needed yet useful No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I have had a set of the Lie-Nielsen Joinery floats for a few months now, and unbelievably i have even found uses for them.
When i first saw these tools advertised on their site, I actually called my wife over , and showed her. Not from amazement or anything like that, but to tell her to never get them for me.
Apparently she pays as much attention as i would to her new shoes, because just short weeks later they arrived.

Smiling and being thankful, I put them all in the tool roll, and tossed them in the bottom drawer of my bench.

But, against my prejudice, i have used them and found them useful.

What these Joinery floats are, is basically a coarse single cut file , that cuts either on the push or pull stroke.
they are sized precisely in Sae, and have a fine fit and finish that you would expect for the lie nielsen price.

what they are intended for is precise fitting of mortises. Which is why i thought they were a strange choice of tool. usually doing mortise and tenon, you make the mortise first, then fit the tenon to the mortise. voila, no need to ever fit a mortise. and if you did, why not use the chisel you made the mortise with in the first place. or even a file or ironing rasp if you wanted to get fancy.

well, their use, as i have discovered, is to get good results without getting fancy, or spending alot of time on marking and setup.

Normally when i would make a through tenon, i would precisely mark the mortise location on both sides of the mortise piece, and carefully inscribe the back side of the mortise piece before i started pounding with the mallet for fear of blowing out a chunk of wood i wanted to stay there.
then , spend more time trying to trim everything precisely with my chisel against a guide block.

anyway, the problem with those actions is that you are trying to work end grain, or edge grain. neither of which is very forgiving. These tools are built just for that purpose, and work well. sized for many different mortises, you can use them to trim the mortise sides, and since they only have one cutting face, you can work them without fear of damaging the surrounding hole.
I have found that in use, i can have mortises looking alot better with alot less work, and usually without the need to do tons of paring with a guideblock.

So, in conclusion , Lie Nielsen built a really good, useful tool. that most woodworkers would never buy or reach for. they have made my work better or at least more efficient.
Now if they would just make the tool I reach for the most, A panel saw.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

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497 posts in 4323 days

6 comments so far

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19697 posts in 4559 days

#1 posted 02-07-2009 08:50 AM

Good review.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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540 posts in 4671 days

#2 posted 02-08-2009 01:19 AM

Great review. I just got 2 of these face floats for Christmas. I am excited to try them out. BTW, I have heard rumors of a LN panel saw in the works. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View johnjoiner's profile


160 posts in 4777 days

#3 posted 02-08-2009 05:32 PM

Nice review.

Is there one or two floats you’d recommend to those of us not lucky enough to have a spouse who will buy us the whole set? :-)

-- johnjoiner

View JuniorJoiner's profile


497 posts in 4323 days

#4 posted 02-08-2009 08:45 PM

If i had to recommend two , it would be the 1/2 inch mortise float, and the offset face float(pull)
the reason for this is, the mortise float is really handy when making mortises larger than you have mortise chisels for. My largest mortise chisel is 1/2 inch, making bigger mortises requires more trimming which these floats do well. Besides, smaller mortises are more easily worked with chisel alone.
the offset face float(pull) would be my second choice because it is the most versatile. the pull motion allows you to work the back of the mortise towards yourself (edgegrain). this allows you to widen a mortise without blowing out the back side. The offset I find handy for keeping the mortise true.
hope this helps

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4628 days

#5 posted 02-09-2009 01:17 AM

I’ve been looking at these, but the question I have: did you use any kind of files before you got these? I’ve been using flat, bastard cut files for working mortises for many years. They work fairly well, not to coarse, so the sides of the mortise stay very smooth. At a third of the price, I’m having trouble selling myself on buying the floats. If it works better than the files, then it’s something I would use constantly. If not, like you said, it would be one of those tools that rarely comes out of the tool box. Thanks for your input.

View JuniorJoiner's profile


497 posts in 4323 days

#6 posted 02-09-2009 05:47 AM

I have about a dozen files and rasps i keep on my bench, and more special purpose ones i keep elsewhere.
these floats cut faster than most of them, and all fit mortises better.
their real benefit is the speed of cut, and the safeness over a file.
worth the price? thats debatable. if you commonly cut a mortise sized to one of these floats. then i would.
for my work they are a rare use item.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

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