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What is a Japanese carving file?

What is a Japanese carving file?

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A wood carver using a Japanese carving file Japanese carving files, also known as sculptor’s files or joinery floats, are specifically designed to work with wood and hailed by woodworkers for their ability to shape and smooth material simultaneously.

What are the characteristics of Japanese carving files?

Japanese carving files which are available in half round, round, curved and flat configurations

Cross section and profile

They are blunt in profile and can be flat (rectangular), half round (semicircular), round or curved in cross section.

A flat Japanese carving file with safe edges to minimise the chances of making a mistake while filing


Flat carving files have safe edges, while half round files are only cut on their curved side. This minimises the risk of making mistakes.

Close up of the cross between millenicut and vixen teeth on a carving file They are characterised by a specific tooth pattern that combines the curved cut teeth of the vixen file with the chip breakers of the millenicut file. These features provide a high removal rate with minimal clogging.

For more information on cut patterns, see: What is a file’s cut

Image to show the ability of Japanese carving floats to This results in a file that cuts aggressively and quickly, but leaves a smooth finish behind in its wake.
An indication of the range of lengths in which Japanese carving files are usually available


Japanese carving files are usually available in lengths from 112mm (41/2 inches) to 250mm (10 inches).

Image to illustrate that neither the American nor the Swiss pattern grading systems apply to this file

Swiss or American?

Japanese carving files are specialist tools, and are therefore neither classed as American nor Swiss pattern files.

Wonkee Donkee recommends using Japanese carving floats for woodworking projects

Wonkee Donkee Tools