What are the different types of file?

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 Image to illustrate that choosing the right file can be a difficult choice without guidance 

There is a plethora of different types of file. As a result, it can be difficult to know which of the myriad options is the right one for your DIY project.

 Wonkee Donkee reading a DIY guide on the uses of specific files 

To provide you with an overview, a list of the different types is listed below. Each of these types of file is explored in much more detail in the individual file guides.


Further recommendations, broken down into categories according to the type of material that you are working on or the task you are trying to complete, are provided on the page: What types of file or rasp should I use?


Wonkee Donkee explains that although the list of different file types is long, it contains information that will help you to choose the right file


Saw files

 A DIYer lining their mill file up so that they can work at a shallow angle to sharpen it 

Mill files

Mill files are most often used to sharpen other flat bladed tools and to level the teeth on saw blades.

 Image showing a veneer knife file's cut and profile 

Veneer knife files

Veneer knife files are designed specifically to sharpen veneer knives.

 DIYer sharpening a rip saw with a taper saw file 

Taper saw files

These triangular files were made primarily to sharpen saw teeth.

 A double ender saw with a separate handle to show that the file had not tang or handle during the forging process 

Double ended saw files

Double ended saw files are interesting files that resemble two taper saw files stuck together. They are long-lasting tools that can be used to sharpen saws multiple times before becoming too worn to use.

 Image of a cross cut file showing cut and outline 

Crosscut files

Crosscut files are used exclusively to sharpen crosscut saws.

 Image showing the sloping, or canting, edges of a cant saw file 

Cant saw files

Cant saw files cater for most saws that have irregularly shaped teeth (with an angle between them that is not 60°), for example saws with M-shaped teeth.

 Image of a web saw file showing the outline and cut 

Web saw files

Web saw files are diamond-shaped and suited to sharpening the rotary blades of web saws.

 A DIYer sharpening a chainsaw with a file 

Chainsaw files

Chainsaw files can come in a variety of shapes, but are most often round. They are designed to fit into and sharpen the cleft in chainsaw blades.

 An auger bit file alongside an auger bit 

Auger bit files

These files are used to sharpen auger bits, a specific type of drill bit that is used on wood.


Machinist's files

 Illustration of cross filing 

Hand files

Hand files are flat, general purpose files that can be used for a wide range of purposes, including deburring, shaping and finishing.

 A DIYer filing a convex surface to leave a smooth finish 

Flat files

Flat files are also versatile tools and are generally interchangeable with hand files.

 Image of the different cuts on a handy file 

Handy files

These files are designed for convenience, and are made with coarser teeth on one side than the other. This allows the DIYer to use one tool for both shaping and finishing their material.

 Image of a warding file, showing the outline and location of cut 

Warding files

Warding files are thin files that are used for working in thin slots, such as the warding on locks.

 Image showing the cross section and outline of a pillar file 

Pillar files

Pillar files have safe edges, and are useful when filing rectangular slots and grooves.

 A DIYer using a machinist's file to smooth down the edges inside a slot 

Equalling files

Equalling files can be used in a similar way to pillar files, and are cut differently on their edges than they are on their faces. This allows the same tool to be used for evening out inconsistencies in rectangular slots.

 Image to show the cross section and outline of a square edge joint file 

Square edge joint files

These files are only cut on the edges, making them ideal for creating or deepening rectangular grooves.


Image of a wooden hard drive case with a hole in the front that has been enlarged to the correct dimensions by use of a square file


Square files

Designed with material removal in mind, square files excel at enlarging square holes and rectangular slots.

 Image of a DIYer using a three square file to smooth the inside of a shape cut into a thin piece of wood 

Three square files

The triangular cousin to the square file, three square files are best suited to filing internal angles and creating triangular grooves.

 Image of a knife file showing cut and outline 

Knife files

Resembling a knife due to their super narrow 'blade', knife files can create V-shaped grooves, and are able to work in tight internal angles.

 Image of a pippin file showing cut and outline 

Pippin files

Combining the blade of a knife file with a rounded back, pippin files are often used by locksmiths to create keys.

 Illustration of an auriform fille which can often be deained by the transfer police. 

Auriform files

Similar to pippin files, but with one convex face, auriform files can restore screw threads, work on concave surfaces or file internal angles.

 Image of a half round file showing outline and cut 

Half round files

These files are well suited to descaling pipes or working to shape or smooth concave surfaces. They can also be used to substitute for hand or flat files in some cases thanks to the fact they have one flat face.

 Image of a DIYer using a ring file to file the inside of a ring 

Ring files

Ring files are very similar to half round files, but narrower. This is so that they can fit inside rings.

 Image of a marking file illustrating the safe flat face 

Marking files

Also similar to half round files, marking files are safe on their flat face. This prevents the risk of accidentally filing a surface if the corner of the file comes into contact with it.

 Image of a DIYer using a round file to make a semicircular groove in a piece of composite material 

Round files

These files taper to a thin point, which makes them ideal for filing fine detail. They are also used to smooth concave surfaces and to enlarge round holes.

 Image showing the outline and cut of a chequering file 

Chequering files

Cut with a unique chequered pattern of teeth, these files can create chequering on gun handles and cut serrations into knife blades.

 Image of a screw's thread to illlustrate the way thread restoring files are measured 

Thread restoring files

Thread restoring files are designed so that their teeth fit into screw threads in order to clean them out or cut away any blockages due to damage.

 Image of a DIYer using a file to smooth the inside of a rounded notch. This is the perfect task for a crochet or round edge joint file. 

Crochet files

Crochet files are multi-purpose tools featuring flat faces and rounded edges. They can be used to work inside semicircular grooves and slots with rounded edges.

 A luthier filing a notch for a string in the nut of a guitar 

Round edge joint files

These files are only cut on their rounded edges and can therefore cut semicircular grooves with guaranteed straight sides. They are particularly useful for instrument making.

 Image of a slitting file, showing the outline and cut 

Slitting files

These diamond-shaped files can work inside tight or wide internal angles.

 Image of a slotting file creating the slot in a screw head 

Slotting files

Also known as screw head files, these files can be used to cut slots into the heads of screws.

 DIYer filing the teeth of a wooden gear with a barrette file 

Barrette files

Cut on only one side, barrette files are used where precision is a must, e.g. for filing inside the teeth of gear wheels.

 DIYer using a crossing file to add concave recesses to a gold ring 

Crossing files

Crossing files have two convex faces, one fuller than the other. This suits the file to working on a variety of concave surfaces, such as the insides of clockwork cogs.

 Diagram of an oval file being used end on 

Oval files

Oval files can also be used to file concave surfaces, or they can be flipped on their side to create or shape concave grooves.

 Image of an adjustable fret end file along with the three different sizes of file attachment that go with it: skinny, medium and large 

Fret end dressing files

These files are used specifically for deburring guitar frets.

 Image of an ignition file in use in a confined space 

Ignition point files

Ignition point files are thin, have integrated handles, and are designed to reach into car ignition circuitry to clean tungsten connector points.

 DIYer using a long angle lathe file to smooth a cylindrical object that is spinning on a lathe 

Long angle lathe files

These files have been developed to work when shaping material on a lathe, a machine that spins a workpiece rapidly to allow a DIYer to file in even circles.

 A selection of needle files with different cross sectional shapes 

Needle files

Smaller, thinner versions of Swiss pattern machinist's files, needle files are designed to work with much more precision and accuracy.

 A selection of escapement files 

Escapement files

The long handles of escapement files make them perfect for working inside large clocks and other mechanical devices.

 A wood carver using a Japanese carving file 

Japanese carving files

Cut with a unique configuration of teeth, Japanese carving files are able to simultaneously shape and smooth wood. 

 A file with teeth that have been clogged with aluminium chips. This is called pinning. 

Aluminium files

Aluminium files have been developed to work with soft metals, and feature undercut gullets between their teeth to prevent clogging.

 A lead float which is the tool best used for filing lead 

Lead float files

Lead float files are similar to aluminium files, but cut even more coarsely to deal with the softest of metals.


Other files

 An example of a file with millenicut teeth 

Millenicut files

Millenicut files have grooves cut into their faces that act as chip breakers. This helps them both to remove material from a surface quickly and remain resistant to clogging, even when working with wood and soft metals.

 A file cut with curved teeth, known as a vixen file 

Vixen files

Vixen files have curved teeth that cut aggressively for rapid shaping of material. In addition, the backward sweep of the curve causes waste material to be pushed out of the file, cleaning out the teeth as it is used.

 A flexible file with a handle that is set up to be convex 

Flexible files

Flexible files are made of sprung steel and are mounted on handles that can be adjusted to make them concave or convex. As these handles are mounted above the file, they can be used on large, flat surfaces without fear of scraping your knuckles on the workpiece and making mistakes.

 A DIYer using a diamond file to shape a piece of glass 

Diamond files

Diamond files are made in many of the same shapes as traditional files but, instead of being cut with teeth, they are coated with diamond or tungsten carbide grit. This makes for a very hard abrasive surface that is suitable for use on hardened steel or brittle materials such as glass and ceramic.

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