Types of Metal Files

Updated February 21, 2017

Metal files are popular hand tools for shaping, cutting and finishing metal. These files can be used to remove excess material or create a new texture on the surface of steel, brass and other metals. For beginners and experienced metal workers alike, the type of file you choose can have a major impact on the quality of your next metal project.

Hand Files

Hand files represent one of the most common types of metal filing tools, with a number of different models available. Flat files round surfaces, while half-rounds feature one rounded and one flat surface for added versatility. Square metal files include square edges with no taper, which allows the user to cut square or rectangular openings with ease. Each of these hand files is available with a fine, medium or coarse finish to create different textures and types of cuts.

Needle Files

Needle files are smaller hand files used for precision work. Jewellers often use these files to produce very accurate cuts in small pieces of metal, or to create fine details in metal jewellery. Needle files generally feature a narrow profile, and some may taper to a point. Special needle files, or warding files, are used by locksmiths to make cuts to keys and lock components. These files feature a tapered tip to fit into very small areas and make precision cuts.

Riffler Files

Rifflers, also known as Swiss pattern files, are a highly specialised form of metal file. Workers use these files to produce miniatures, small mechanical pieces or fine metal work. A riffler file often features an odd shape or profile, such as a loop or curve along its length. These files can also be used to create speciality mouldings.

Diamond Files

Diamond files represent one of the most heavy-duty types of metal files. Rather than crossed-hatch cuts in metal, diamond files feature a surface coated with miniature diamond pieces. This surface allows the user to file in any direction, including in a circular pattern. The diamond pieces also allow the file to effectively shape very hard metals, which cannot be filed using a standard steel file. Workers often use these files to create a smooth, mirrored finish.

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About the Author

Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.