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All You Need to Know About Wood Files

Using a wood file

Does the world of woodworking call to you?

Would you love to know how to make your own furniture or add woodworking details to your home?

There are many tools of the trade from routers to wood filler, but one of the most important is a wood file.

This fairly simple tool is essential for woodworkers. And though it’s not a complicated tool, there is a wide variety from which to choose.

So where do you start? Read on to find out.

Wood File Basics

When it comes to shaping, trimming, and just plain smoothing wood surfaces, wood files, with their closely spaced and hardened steel grooves, will do the job.


When you sit down with your wood project, rasps are the first wood files you’ll likely use. With their prominent triangular teeth, they’re the go-to for initial shaping and sculpting operations on wood.

They differ from other shaping tools in that they won’t tear out material where the grain changes direction or if the stock is highly figured.

Patternmaker’s or cabinetmaker’s rasps have staggered teeth that leave a much smoother surface than general-purpose rasps.

Wood Files

Once your surface is rasped, standard wood files further smooth and shape. They can be used as stand-alone tools, though.

Many woodworkers prefer fairly coarse files – though some of this will depend on the project at hand.

It’s important to note that tooth size is proportional to tool length. In other words, the longer the tool, the larger the teeth.

Another wood file on the market is called the Iwasaki file.

While technically a file, this tool can cut as aggressively as a rasp but still create smooth surfaces. They have a diagonally-cut groove pattern and produce shavings rather than sawdust.

Getting to the Nitty Gritty

Both files and rasps are meant to be utilized somewhere between the rough cut of a saw and the smoothing of sandpaper. Neither is meant to be a replacement for these.

What should you look at when making your wood file choice?

Consider the following:

1. Tooth Coarseness

As a rule of thumb, a large file is generally coarser than a small one and a rasp is always coarser than a file.

Wood file teeth, from finest to coarsest, go from smooth cut to second cut to bastard cut.

Meanwhile, the finest cut on a rasp is a bastard cut. For a coarser cut, you can go with a cabinet cut or wood cut.

2. Shape and Length

Sizes begin at 4 inches and get longer by 2-inch increments and should be matched with your workpiece.

The shape should also match the workpiece.

For instance, if you’re working with holes, a round file is your best bet. For flat surfaces or straight edges, there are flat files, mill files, and hand files. You can also find three-square or triangular files.

3. Edge

Files with teeth along the edge are referred to as cut. Those with a smooth edge are uncut or safe. Most files have at least one safe edge.

You Are Ready to Start Woodworking

Now that you have a basic understanding of the wood file, your best bet is to experiment with different sizes and shapes on some basic lumber.

Then once you’ve got the knack, anything is possible.

And for more great tips and articles on all things home, keep checking back!

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