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Buying a set of files vs. buying individually

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A DIYer using a flat file to smooth a concave surface, shape a piece of wood and smooth the edge of a piece of metal Some files are exceptionally versatile and can be applied to a wide variety of different DIY tasks.
Even the best file can't be used for every known DIY task However, one file can’t cater for every job. To answer the question of whether or not you will need a set of files, it’s worth thinking about the project you’re undertaking first so that you don’t end up with tools you don’t need.
Image of a file covering all of the bases when it comes to DIY You may find that one or two specific files will cover all of the bases!

Half round files

Image of a half round file showing outline and cut Half round files are the king of versatility. Their flat side can take care of most of the jobs that flat or hand files can do.
A single cut file with teeth cut in just one direction on the file's face If they are single cut, they can even sharpen other tools.
Image of a DIYer using a half round file to create a curved groove Meanwhile, the round side of the file can be used on pipework, for filing concave surfaces and for cutting semicircular grooves.
A DIYer using a file for a metalworking project If you don’t work with metal regularly, you will probably find that this is the only file that you need.

Sharpening tools

Image of a saw with rip cut teeth If you work with other tools, such as saws or blades, you might find yourself looking for a file so that you can sharpen them.
Image of a taper saw file showing both outline and cut In this case, a taper saw file would be the ideal choice, as its single cut flat sides can be used for sharpening blades, and the triangular nature of the file makes it ideal for saw sharpening.
Wonkee Donkee recommends keeping a taper saw file and a half round file in your tool box

Sets of files

Image of a file set containing a flat file, a half round file, a round file, a square file and a three square file Files are usually available in sets of five, and most commonly include flat, half round, round, three square and square files in a variety of combinations.
Image of a file set, showing that the files are all the same size Files in a set will normally all be the same length. For example, you might buy a 200mm (8 inch) file set, or a 250mm (10 inch) file set.
Image showing that files in a set all have the same degree of coarseness Additionally, the files in most sets are all cut to the same degree of coarseness. For example, the whole set could be second cut.
Image to show what file teeth of different coarsenesses look like On rare occasions, you may find file sets that include duplicates of the same type of file, where one has a finer cut.
A concerned DIYer who is worried that buying a file set will result in them wasting money on tools that they will never use The main issue with buying a set of files like this is that you may find that you only use one or two of them. It’s always better to check what file you will need for your project before you make a purchase.

See: Choosing a file: overviewfor more information.

Hobbyist filing a plastic goblin miniature with a round needle file

Sets of needle files

If you spend your free time making jewellery or models, or locksmithing, you are more likely to need a set of files.

A set of 6 needle files, which are ideal for metalworking hobbies In most cases, you will find that a set of needle files (which tend to come in packs of around 6-12 varieties) will be enough for the jobs you’re looking to do.
Image showing that there is a wide variety of different types of needle file available It’s worth reading the description of these file sets carefully. While all files in the set should be cut to the same grade of coarseness, the types of file included in each set can be quite varied.

Other things to consider

Image to show the wide choice of file types available to a DIYer The big advantage to owning multiple files is that you will have tools not only with different shapes, but with different cuts.
Image to show the progression from a bastard cut file to a smooth file To achieve the best possible results when looking to create a smooth surface, you will want to use a coarse file to begin with, then move through finer files until you reach the finest file – this could mean owning three or four files of the same shape and size!
A large collection of files, stored correctly in a file rack If you’re working with sheets of metal or metal components relatively often then it’s definitely worth having a selection of files to choose from rather than having to rely on just one file to be a jack of all trades.

What’s the verdict?

Image to show that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes down to choosing whether or not to buy a set of files The verdict is that there is no right or wrong answer!
Image to show that you should think about the projects which will need files before choosing what types of files to buy and whether or not you will need a set You should get yourself new files as and when you need them – let the project you are working on dictate which files you need to use.
An ever-growing collection of files that will prove useful for various DIY applications in future weeks, months and years If you think you will have a need for a lot of different types of file then go for the set, although don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking for more files to go with it!
Wonkee Donkee admits to having a file collection that is too big for one workshop

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