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Choosing a File Overview

Choosing a file: overview

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Image to show the wide choice of file types available to a DIYer With so many different types of file available, you may find yourself unsure of which type would be best suited to the project that you have planned.
Image of a DIYer using a three square file to smooth the inside of a shape cut into a thin piece of wood In this case, it’s worth thinking about the type of work you will be doing. You will want to match the shape of your file to the shape of the area you are filing, or to the shape you are trying to create.
Image of a DIYer who is stressed because of the number of different types of files that they could use for their project To further help you make the choice of which file to use for your DIY project, suggestions are provided in the guides that follow this page according to the material you will be working on, and whether or not you will be sharpening or shaping your workpiece.

Information on finishing and deburring, tasks for which choosing a file is relatively easy, are covered below.

For more information, see: Choosing a file: materials, Choosing a file: shapingand Choosing a file: sharpening

Image to illustrate a substitution being made Remember that you can subsitute one file for another in some cases, so if you need to use a single cut flat file, you might be able to do the same job using one of the sides of a taper saw file.

For more detailed information on each file, refer to the individual file guides.

Finishing a surface

A single cut file with teeth cut in just one direction on the file's face For this task, the coarseness and cut of your file are extremely important.
Image to show that American pattern smooth is the same as Swiss pattern 2 You will need a smooth or grade 2 file, or finer, which will need to be single cut.
Image of a DIYer using a flat file to smooth a flat surface The tool that you use should match the shape of the material you are filing. For example, you would use a flat file for filing a level surface, or a half round file to work inside a concave surface.


A single cut file with teeth cut in just one direction on the file's face For deburring, you will need a single cut file.
A DIYer using a single cut file to deburr a piece of sheet metal As you will only be filing edges, you will find that you can most often use a flat file for material of any shape. This process is known as ‘breaking the edges’.

Read the ‘choosing a file’ and ‘how to’ guides

A knife with a vine pattern filed all the way along the back of the blade and along the tang Some files can be used for purposes that are not immediately apparent. Others might seem suited to a job before you start to use them, but turn out not to be very helpful.
Wonkee Donkee reading a DIY guide on the uses of specific files Each type of file listed explains its intended uses. It’s also worth reading through the ‘choosing a file’ and ‘how to’ guides to make sure you have a good understanding of the types of work that each file is useful for.
Image of a DIYer attempting to make an educated guess The best advice is to make sure you think carefully about what you need your file to do, then make an educated choice based on the information in this guide.

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