There are many different types of files for
jewelers and watchmakers. Each job may require a different type of file, so to
ensure that you have the right files for the work you do, use this guide to help
you choose the right file for you.
You can use this table to help guide your selection, but always use your own
experiences and common sense to help you find the right file for each job.
Corners, holes, edges
Curved surfaces, corners, holes
surfaces, junctures of curved and flat surfaces, corners, holes
Flat surfaces, corners, keyways
dovetail ways, gear teeth, deburring
Roughening surfaces for hand grips
corners, slots, flat surfaces, junctures between curved and flat
Rounded corners, holes, V slots
inside corners, holes
Slots, wedge-shaped openings
Auriform File: This is a die sinkers' file with a cross section that
combines 1/2 of a pippin file with 1/2 of a crossing file.
Back: In a half round, barrette, cant or files with similar cross
section, this refers to the convex side of a file.
Barrette File: This file is cut on wide flat face, with safe sides and
back. It is tapered in width and thickness.
Blank: This is a steel forging from which a file is made. It is also the
basic shape of a file before teeth are cut or etched.
Cant File: This file is triangular in cross section and one side is wider
than the other two. It can cut on three sides and is tapered.
Checkering File: This file is rectangular in cross section, and parallel
in both width and thickness. The teeth cut at a 90° angle with the edge. The
edges are safe.
Chisel Cut: A method of cutting teeth into the surface of an annealed
file blank by striking it with a series of repeated blows as the blank is moved
beneath a chisel at a uniform speed. In the cutting operation, the chisel is
placed obliquely to the length and is inclined to the surface of the file. This
is done either by hand or machine and is generally used to produce files of No.
2 cut and coarser.
Crochet File: This file is rectangular in cross section with rounded
edges. It is cut on both faces and edges and it is tapered in length and
slightly tapered in thickness.
Crossing File: This file has an oval cross section with the same radius
as half round files on one side, and a larger radius on the other curved side.
It is cut on both sides and tapered in width and thickness.
Cut: This is the number of teeth per inch and the degree of coarseness of
a file's teeth: from No. 00 to No. 8 in Swiss precision files. This is also used
to describe the type of file such as single cut or double cut, etc.
Die Makers' Rifflers: These are various cross sectional shapes. The teeth
are cut on a small area of each end of a blank leaving a long middle portion as
a handle. The cut ends are of various designs and the length provided is the
overall length. It was originally designed and hand forged by die makers for
their specific purposes, and now it is a generic term for this particular group
Die Sinkers' Files: This is a group of files with various cross sections
that were designed for use by die sinkers and tool makers. They are tapered in
Die Sinkers' Rifflers: Very similar to the Die Maker’s rifflers, see
those for more information. This group of rifflers has smaller cross sectional
Double Cut: The arrangement of file teeth that is formed by two series of
cuts. The first series is the overcut, followed by the second series that is
upcut at an angle to the overcut.
Edge: This refers to the narrow cross section or side of a file.
Equaling File: This file has a thin rectangular cross section, and is
parallel in width and thickness. It is cut on both faces and edges.
Escapement File: This file is also called a Square Handled File. It is a
group of files with various cross sectioned shapes and a length of cut varying
from 3/4 to 21/2". They generally have long square handles and are widely used
by jewelers, watch makers, die makers, and fine mechanics.
Etched Cut: This is a method of cutting teeth into the surface of a file
blank by drawing an etching tool, under sustained pressure, obliquely across an
annealed file blank in a series of cuts. This may be done either by hand or
machine. This method of cutting is used when it is necessary to retain the true
cross section of a file. It is generally used to manufacture files finer than a
No. 2 cut.
Face: The working surface of a file upon which teeth are cut.
Filing Block: This is a block of wood, soft metal, or other material that
is used to protect the material that you are filing from being damaged by the
jaws of a vise or other holding device. It may contain a series of grooves to
hold work securely.
Flat File: This is also called a Warding File. It is a form of escapement
or square handled needle file. It is parallel in thickness, cut on four sides,
and tapered in width.
Handle: This is a wood for plastic piece that is placed over that tang of
a file to protect the hand of the user.
Half Round File: This file has a cross section that is flat on one side
and has a half circle radius on the other side. It is cut on both sides and both
the width and thickness taper.
Half Round Slim File: This file is also called a Ring File. It is the
same as half round file, except thinner in width.
Heel: The end of the file where the body of the file ends and the taper
leading into the tang begins. It is also called the shoulder.
Joint File, Round Edge: This file has a rectangular cross section with
rounded edges. It is cut on edges only and is parallel in width and thickness.
Joint File, Square Edge: This file has a rectangular cross section. It is
cut on edges only and is parallel in thickness and width.
Knife File: This file has a knife shaped cross section that is tapered in
width and thickness. The edge has same thickness from point to shoulder.
Length of Cut: The length of a file measured between the shoulder or heel
and the point.
Lozenge File: This file has a diamond shaped cross section that is
parallel in width and thickness.
Needle File, Square Handled: This file is also called an Escapement File.
This group of files with various cross sectional shapes, a length of cut varying
between 3/4 and 2 1/2" and long square handle.
Needle File, Round Handled: This group of files has various cross
sections with a knurled round handle. The knurling gives the file a positive,
non-slip grip for precision filing.
Oval File: An oval cross section tapering in width and thickness.
Overcut: This is the first of a series of cuts in a double cut file. Its
function is to act as a chip breaker. The second, or upcut, is made over this
Parallel Round File: A file with a round cross section that is parallel
Pillar File: This file has a rectangular cross section with thickness
greater relative to its width, than in other files. It is cut on the face, or
flat sides, only. It is parallel in width and tapered in thickness. It is
available in demi-narrow, narrow and extra narrow widths.
Pin or Pinning: This is the tendency of small particles of materials to
fill or clog the gullets between the teeth of a file. When the teeth become
clogged, the file can and will scratch the work, when this occurs, the file is
Pippin File: This file has a section that combines the cross section of a
round file with that of an equaling file. It is tapered in thickness and width.
Point: This is the front end of a file as contrasted with the tang end.
Pointed Back Barrette File: This file has a triangular cross section with
one side that is wider than the other two sides. On the wide or face side, it is
only tapered in width and length.
Rasp Cut: A cut that is used on wood rifflers. It is made by using a
punch to raise a series of individual cutting teeth.
Rifflers: This file was originally used and hand forged by die sinkers,
die makers, silversmiths and other skilled artisans in shapes and cross sections
appropriate to their work. The teeth are cut on small areas on each end that can
be shaped like everything from trowels to button hooks. A long middle portion
serves as a handle.
Ring File: This file is also called a Half Round Slim File.
Round File: This file is round in cross section and tapered in width.
Rounding-Off File: This is an escapement or square handled needle file.
It is half round in cross section, cut on the flat side, and parallel in width.
Safe: This term refers to the side or edge of a file that has no teeth
cut in it so as not to mar a work surface that does not require filing.
Screw Head File: This file is a narrow diamond shaped section with short
bevels that form sharp edges. It is cut on beveled edges, safe on flat sides,
and parallel in width and thickness.
Section: This is the cross section or end view of a file, if it were cut
squarely at the place of greatest width and thickness from the tang.
Silversmith’s Rifflers: This is a group of various cross sectioned file
shapes that were originally designed for use by silversmiths. The teeth are cut
on small areas of each end, leaving a long middle portion as a handle. The cut
ends are of varied designs.
Single Cut: The tooth formed on a file by a single series of cuts.
Slitting File: This file has a flat diamond shaped cross section. It is
cut on all sides and is parallel in width and thickness.
Square File: This file is square in cross section, cut on all sides, and
Swiss Pattern Files: These files made to the same shape and cut as the
files designed by F. L. Grobet in Switzerland over 150 years ago. They come in
cuts from No. 00 to No. 6.
Swiss Precision Files: The original Grobet-Swiss files that have since
been made in hundreds of sizes, shapes, and cuts from No. 00 to No. 8. They are
made to more exacting measurements and much finer cuts than American pattern
Tang: This is the part of the file that tapers from the shoulder. It is
intended to be fitted with a handle.
Three Square Files: These files are equilaterally triangular in cross
section. They are tapered and are cut on all sides with sharp corners.
Tool Makers’ Rifflers: These files come with various cross sectional
shapes and teeth are cut on a small area at each end leaving a long middle
portion as a handle. The cut ends are of various designs to meet the needs of
Upcut: The second series of teeth cut in double cut files. It is made
over the first series of cuts, called the overcut. This cut is made of an angle
to the overcut.
Warding File: This file has a
rectangular cross section with teeth cut on all sides. It is similar to a flat
file, but thinner to fit in small places. It is tapered width and parallel in