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What are the basic parts of a file?

What are the parts of a file?

The basic parts of a file include the point, the face, the edge, the heel and the tang. In our helpful guide, we explain what all the different parts of a file are and their functions.

File Tang

Most metal files are forged with a long spur at one end with no teeth cut into it. This is called a tang.


The tang is the part of the file that fits inside the handle. However, files with tangs are quite often sold without handles.


It is recommended that files should always be fitted with handles both for comfort and the prevention of injury.


Files with no tang are referred to as ‘plain’. These files are held by their body, in a similar way to an emery board.

File Heel

The heel, also called the shoulder, is the part of the file closest to the tang where the actual body of the file begins. No teeth are cut into the heel.

File Face

This is the term used to describe the wide, flat area of the file that usually does all of the work. It may also be referred to as the belly, or the side.


Depending on the shape of the file, there may be multiple faces, or just one.

File Teeth

Cut into the surface of a file’s faces or edges, teeth are the part of the file that give them their abrasive quality.


The way the teeth are cut has an effect on whether the tool is classified as a file or a rasp. File teeth are created by cutting long lines into the file blank, whereas rasp teeth are punched individually.


Rarely, a file will have no teeth on one or more of its faces or edges at all. The term ‘safe’ is used to describe these surfaces.

File Back

Barrette files are made with one convex side opposite the face of the file, which is not cut with teeth. This part of the file is referred to as the back.

File Edge

The thin surfaces between the faces on a file are called edges. These may or may not be cut with teeth depending on the intended purpose of the file.


Edges without teeth can be rested against a surface while the file is being used, without wearing it away, which may be a desirable feature when working in close quarters.

File Point

The end of the file opposite to the tang is called the point, or the toe. While it may seem strange to have the heel and the toe so far apart, remember that your own heel and toes are at opposite ends of your foot!


While ‘point’ is the most common term used for this part of the file, it is not always pointed and can be completely flat. An easy way to remember the name is that it’s the part of the file that points towards your workpiece when in use.

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