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Files Glossary


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Image of a dictionary, containing all the terminology that is relevant to the way a file's teeth are cut! The following terms refer either to how a file’s teeth are spaced, the way they were cut, or whether or not they have been cut at all.


This term indicates a rough surface that will remove material from another surface when they are rubbed together.
Image of the rough side of a sponge, which is used as an abrasive when cleaning An example of a commonly encountered abrasive is the rough side of a sponge, which can be used to wear away stubborn pieces of food from a plate when washing up.

Chisel cut

Image of a cold chisel, which is used to cut the teeth into the face of a file As you might expect, this term describes how the file’s teeth were cut. This type of file will have had its teeth cut by a series of chisel strikes, either by hand, or by machine.


A file cut with curved teeth, known as a vixen file This describes how rough or smooth a file is. Coarse files have teeth that are spaced further apart and remove material quickly from a workpiece but leave a rough finish.
A DIYer checking the finish on a piece of metal that they have filed with a smooth file Smooth files have teeth that are close together. They work much more slowly, but leave a more polished finish.


A DIYer using a single cut file to deburr a piece of sheet metal This is the process of removing unwanted slivers from the edge of a piece of material that have been created through cutting, drilling or a similar process.


Diagram explaining what the diameter of a dowel is The widest possible measurement of a circle through its central point. Chainsaw files are usually measured by diameter so that they can be matched to the right size of chainsaw blade.

Draw Stroke

DIYer showing the direction of the draw stroke in draw filing Pulling the file back towards you. Usually, a file will not be in contact with your workpiece on the draw stroke, unless you are draw filing.

See: What is draw filing?


Close up of the edge of a file, which is one of the thin planes between the file's faces. The corner between two faces on a file, which may or may not be cut with teeth.

See: What are the basic parts of a file?

Etched cut

Image to illustrate etch cutting, the process of cutting file teeth with acid This type of file has its teeth etched into it. This means it has been dipped into a specially prepared acid that has corroded a tooth pattern into its surface. This process is usually used for re-sharpening files.


Close up of the face of a file, which is the part that is cut with teeth The large surface of a file that is usually cut with teeth and used to wear away material from a workpiece.

See: What are the basic parts of a file?


Image of a DIYer using a file to finish a piece of metalworking Working a piece of material until it is smooth to the touch.


A roll of foil, which gives its name to the thin, elongated burr that results from sharpening a knife with a file The thin, elongated burr that results from sharpening a knife with a file. The foil is the same thickness as the cutting edge of the knife and resembles a piece of kitchen foil.
A DIYer removing the foil from the edge of their knife blade which has been created during the filing process This can be removed from the edge of the blade simply by carefully pulling it off. Cutting with the knife with the foil still attached will result in it coating the edge of the blade and making it blunt.

Hard metal

The element chromium which occurs in concentrations of 5 to 7 per cent in chrome-alloy steel A metal with a high score on the Moh’s scale, such as Steel (5.5), Chromium (8) or Boron (9).

See: What is hardness?


Close up of the heel of a file which is at the end furthest away from the work piece and not cut with any teeth The part of the file between the tang and the face, where no teeth are cut.

See: What are the basic parts of a file?

Machinist’s file

A DIYer shaping a piece of metal with a double cut file A file designed to shape an object through the removal of material by abrasion.

See: What is a machinists file


Image of a wooden mortise which can be smoothed on the inside by a pillar file A rectangular slot cut part way into a piece of wood for jointing or the installation of a lock mechanism.


Horse rasp with no tang, which can be described as a plain file or rasp A file made without a tang.


Image of an air file, a pneumatic tool that takes the hard work out of filing This term refers to a tool or device that is operated by air, such as an air file.


The part of the file that points towards the work piece The tip of a file. It might be easy to remember this name because it’s the part of the tool that points towards your workpiece.

Push stroke

DIYer using the proper cross filing technique to smooth a piece of metal Pushing the file away from you, which will result in the teeth wearing away material from your workpiece.


Close up of a file's teeth showing the 40-55° angle The rake of the file is the angle at which the teeth connect to its body.
Illustration of what negative rake looks like on file teeth A positive rake means that the teeth point in the same direction as the motion of the tool. A negative rake means that they point the opposite way.


A file that has been heated in the first part of the tempering process Re-cutting is the best way to recycle files that have become blunt. The file is rehearted (annealed), which softens the steel enough that it can be worked again.
Image of a DIYer grinding the teeth off their file so that it can be recut The old teeth are then ground off, and new ones are cut.
Image of the first part of the tempering process for steel, which is to heat the metal until it is red hot The file then goes back through the heat treating process so that it can be re-hardened for use.
Image to illustrate that recutting a file's teeth is not possible at home This is not something a DIYer could usually do at home and it could be more expensive to send a file away to be recut than it would be to buy a new file.

For more information, see: How to sharpen a file


Close up of the back of a barrette file, which is curved and not cut with any teeth A face or edge that has no teeth cut into it is referred to as safe.
Image of a DIYer using a pillar file to work on just one side of the square hole, taking advantage of the pillar file's safe edge Safe edges allow the DIYer to rest the tool against one surface of the workpiece, while filing another, without damaging the material that the safe edge is resting on. This is particularly useful when creating square holes.

Saw file

A DIYer sharpening a chainsaw with a file A file designed for sharpening blades or other cutting or drilling tools.

See: What are saw files?


A blacksmith cutting teeth into a rasp face with a triangular punch. This process is known as stitching. The process of cutting teeth into a rasp using a triangular punch.

See: How are files made?


A horse rasp with set edges, meaning there are no teeth near to the edge of the tool The term ‘set’ refers to files with teeth that do not reach all the way across its face.
Image of a horse keeper lifting their horse's foot so that their heels can be trimmed Some files are made in this way to allow an even greater degree of safety than just leaving the edges safe. This lends them well to jobs where a great degree of control is needed, such as trimming a horse’s hoof.

Soft metal

A piece of aluminium, a soft metal that can easily clog files if they are not undercut Metals with a low score on the Moh’s scale, such as Lead (1.5), Gold (2.5), Silver (2.5), Aluminium (2.75) or Copper (3). The hardness of a fingernail is 2.5.

See: What is hardness

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