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What are pillar, equalling and square edge joint files?

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Image of a pillar file, an equalling file and a square edge joint file Pillar files, equalling files and square edge joint files are machinist’s files used for finishing and shaping inside square or rectangular slots, such as key ways or mortises.
Wonkee Donkee explains that although pillar, equalling and square edge joint files look similar, the differences between them will be explained
A DIYer using a square edge joint file to make a groove in the head of an electric guitar These types of file feature safe edges, which allows for the creation of grooves that are fixed at the same width as the file. This can be particularly useful for professions like instrument making, where the sizes of such slots may need to be kept standard.
Image to show that the equalling file earned its name for its ability to equal out rectangular slots The ability to file inside rectangular slots and level out any inconsistencies is what earned the equalling file its name, as each edge could be made equal by the file.

What are the characteristics of pillar, equalling and square edge joint files?

Diagram of a thick rectangular cross section

Cross section, profile and cut

Pillar files have a rectangular cross section that is narrower but thicker than a hand or flat file.

Image to illustrate the way in which a pillar file's cross section resembles a pillar The tool earned its name thanks to its cross section. As it is thicker than flat or hand files, when it is turned on its side it bears a resemblance to a pillar.
Image showing the cross section and outline of a pillar file They are tapered in thickness and cut on both faces (double or single). Both edges are safe.
Image to show the cross section and outline of an eqaulling file Equalling files are also machinist’s files. They are blunt and rectangular in cross section. They are usually double cut on both faces and single cut on both edges.
Image showing the location of the safe edge on a hand file However, it is possible to find equalling files that are only cut on one side. This allows the user to work on just one edge of a slot without having to worry about cutting into another.
Image to show the cross section and outline of a square edge joint file Square edge joint files are blunt and rectangular in cross section. They are cut on the edges, but their faces are safe.
Image of tongue and groove floorboards with the groove facing the camera. The groove can be filed using a square edge joint file The location and type of cut are what determine the purpose of these files. Square edge joint files can be used to file the narrow edge deep inside tongue and groove flooring, as their safe faces prevent alteration of the height of the groove.
 A DIYer using a machinist's file to smooth down the edges inside a slot Pillar files can be used for accurate finishing when turning round drill holes into square slots, as their safe edges allow the DIYer to file close to the corner of the square and only remove material from one side.

For a step by step guide, see: How to square a round hole with files

Image to show the different sizes of narrow pillar files including demi-narrow pillar, narrow pillar and extra narrow pillar

Size

Pillar files are available in narrower widths, which are labelled as demi-narrow or semi-narrow, narrow and extra narrow respectively.

Image of a wooden hard drive case with a hole in the front. Due to the restrictive size of the hole, a narrower file is needed for smoothing work. The narrower the file, the smaller the space it will fit into.
An indication of the range of lengths in which pillar files are usually available

Size

Pillar files are usually available in lengths from 100mm (4 inches) to 300mm (12 inches).

An indication of the range of lengths in which equalling files are usually available Equalling files are often smaller, normally ranging from 125mm (5 inches) to 197mm (73/4 inches).
An indication of the range of lengths in which square edge joint files are usually available Square edge joint files are usually 150mm (6 inches) long.
American and Swiss flags, illustrating that this type of file is made in either American or Swiss pattern

Swiss or American?

Pillar files can be either Swiss or American pattern.

Flag of Switzerland - home of the Swiss pattern file invented by F. L. Grobet in the 19th Century Equalling files and square edge joint files are Swiss pattern files.

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