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What is a flexible file?

What is a flexible file?

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A flexible file that can be used to file areas that would prevent the use of a file with a regular handle Flexible files, also known as ‘pansars’ or ‘panzers’ are manufactured as tangless rectangular strips with a hole drilled through each end.
Image of a flexible file handle with a vixen file attached While it is possible to get some limited use out of them just as they come, they are usually attached to flexible file handles by means of the holes mentioned above.

What are the characteristics of flexible files?

A curved tooth flexible file which can be used on car bodywork

Cross section, profile and cut

Flexible files are blunt, and have a rectangular cross section. The type of cut depends on its intended use.

Image of a car that may eventually need to be worked on by a mechanic with a vixen file Millenicut and vixen teeth are designed mainly for working on car bodies thanks to their resistance to clogging.
Image of a ski to illustrate an object that could be filed by a double cut flexible file or a flexible rasp Rasp and double cut file teeth are mainly used to shape and sharpen long objects with a large surface area such as skis.
Image to show the location of the adjuster on the flexible file handle


The handle can push the files into a concave or convex shape using an adjuster mounted in the middle of the tool. This allows you to shape the file to the contour of your workpiece.

Image of a spring to represent spring steel, the material used for making flexible files This is possible thanks to flexible files being made from a different material to normal files. Rather than tool steel, flexible files are made from spring steel.

For more information on this type of material, see: What are files made of?

Incorrect use of a hand file that could lead to personal injury or damage to your equipment Flexible files are used in situations where holding a file’s handle would prevent you from being able to hold it flat against the surface of a workpiece.
Image of a car bonnet, which would be awkward to file without using a flexible file For example, if you wanted to use a file to smooth out the centre of a car bonnet, there are not many files that would be able to reach from the edge.
An indication of the range of lengths in which flexible files are usually available


Flexible files are usually available in lengths from 300mm (12 inches) to 350mm (14 inches).

American and Swiss flags, illustrating that this type of file is made in either American or Swiss pattern

Swiss or American?

Flexible file coarseness can be described using the Swiss pattern system, the American pattern system, or teeth per inch.

How do you use a flexible file?

Diagram showing how a flexible file should be used Flexible files should be used in the same way as their non-flexible cousins; they cut on the forward (push) stroke with light pressure.
A flexible file with a handle that is set up to be convex The contour of the file helps to keep it in contact with the surface you are working on as you push it forward.

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