Types of Hand Files

By Gregory Hamel

Updated January 09, 2018

Flat files are a common type of hand tool.
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Businesses involved in arts, crafts, construction and handiwork often require owners to purchase a variety of tools to deal with different projects that they may face. Files are hand tools that consist of a handle and a blade with parallel rows of teeth designed to cut away small amounts of material from wood or metal objects.

Flat Files

Flat files are flat on the top and bottom, but they taper in both thickness and width along the length of the metal portion of the tool. In other words, the file is thicker and wider near the handle while it is thinner and has less width near the tip.

Round Files

A cylindrical shape distinguishes the round file, which may taper in thickness along the length of the tool. Round files are used to smooth out concave surfaces and can be used to sharpen the teeth of chainsaws, but the file must be the correct size for the saw.

Triangular Files

Triangular files have three flat surfaces that give them the shape of a triangular prism. Triangular files can cut angles that are less than 90 degrees and may also be used to sharpen the teeth of traditional saws.

Hand Files

While the term "hand file" can be used to describe any type of hand-operated file, a hand file is also a specific type of file. Hand files are similar to flat files in that they are flat on the top and bottom, but the sides of the file are parallel along the length of the blade, meaning the width of the tool does not taper.

Square Files

Blades with four-toothed sides that are ideal for cutting corners at 90 degree angles are square files. Similar to triangular files, the blades of square files may taper from the handle to the tip.


Many other types of hand-operated files are distinguished by their blade shapes. For example, half of round files have one flat side and one rounded side; needle files have very small blades for intricate work, and knife files have thin, knife-like blades that can cut acute angles. Among all types of files, the size and spacing of the teeth determine the roughness or smoothness of the cut. Larger teeth will cut out more material and give a rougher cut while smaller teeth will give a finer, smoother cut.