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What are aluminium files and lead float files?

What are aluminium files and
lead float files?

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A DIYer filing a convex aluminium surface with an aluminium file to prevent pinning Aluminium files are special tools that have been developed for the shaping, finishing and deburring of aluminium without causing the file to clog.

Millenicut files can also be used on aluminium as they feature a straight tooth cut diagonally on the blade that also prevents clogging.

Why does aluminium clog files?

A piece of aluminium, a soft metal that can easily clog files if they are not undercut Aluminium is a soft metal.
A file with teeth that have been clogged with aluminium chips. This is called pinning. When a file’s teeth drag across aluminium, the soft chips that are shorn off can curl into the teeth of the file and become stuck. This is known as ‘pinning’.
A metal surface that has been scratched by a pinned file

Why is pinning a bad thing?

If a chunk of jammed debris gets big enough, it can start to scratch the surface of your workpiece. If you’re filing to create a beautiful finish then this can be a bit of a problem!

What are the characteristics of aluminium files?

Diagram of a rectangular cross section

Cross section and profile

Aluminium files have a rectangular cross section and are slightly tapered in width and thickness.

Image to aid in understanding of what undercut file teeth are


The teeth on aluminium files are ‘undercut’ – in other words, there is more space between the tip of the tooth and the file body. This makes it much more difficult for debris to get jammed, because the space beneath the teeth is too large.

Diagram to illustrate the way that debris is pushed out of an aluminium file's teeth during filing Even if the teeth begin to clog, repeated use of the file causes the workpiece itself to push the debris out from under the teeth. This process is referred to as ‘self-cleaning’.
An indication of the range of lengths in which aluminium files are usually available


Aluminium files are usually available in lengths from 150mm (6 inches) to 300mm (12 inches).

The American flag, representing American pattern files

Swiss or American?

Aluminium files are American pattern files.

What is a lead float?

A lead float which is the tool best used for filing lead Lead floats, or lead float files, are similar to aluminium files in all respects, except that they have their teeth spaced wider apart. They are used to file lead.
A lump of lead, which should be filed with a lead float to prevent pinning This is to provide added resistance to clogging, as lead is even softer than aluminium.

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