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How to use an electric nail file

Updated November 21, 2016

An electric nail file can streamline manicures at home or in the salon. They are most often used in the salon, but lightweight home models are also on the market. Electric files are used when adding artificial nails more than they are used on natural nails. The most important thing to know about electric files is the safety procedures for handling the file. Used properly, electric files can help make a manicure a work of art. Used carelessly the tool can turn a manicure into an emergency room visit.

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  1. Clean under the nails on fingers and thumbs using the small cone or barrel bit. Proceed carefully so you do not nick the skin under the nail. Keep the palm facing down when you are cleaning under nails. Use a low speed.

  2. File down the length of the nail. Support the finger by pressing it against the thumb if you are doing your own manicure. When manicuring another person hold the finger at the first joint with nail toward you. Use the barrel bit. Begin on one side of the nail and move around the tip of the nail to the other side. Then move back. In this manner file down the nail evenly to the desired length.

  3. Shape the nails. Use the barrel bit and start at the front of the nail. Work from front to back of the nail, that is, from the tip of the nail back to the cuticle. Move over the arch of the nail and back, right to left. When you reach the cuticle area use small semicircular movements to shape the area so you do not tear the cuticle.

  4. Clean the sidewalls. Hold the finger so that you have a profile view or a side view of the nail. Hold the file above the nail so the barrel bit can work down into the sidewall, the area at the side of the finger within the cuticle. Do not bear down heavily or you may burn the skin. Work the barrel bit until the sidewall is shaped.

  5. Tidy the cuticle. File gingerly in the cuticle area using a low speed. Use a cone-shaped bit. Do this with a light touch. Start at the sidewall on the right side and move slowly around the cuticle to the left sidewall. Keep your eye on the bit the entire time. Do not hit the nail while shaping the cuticle. This might create a ridge in the nail in front of the cuticle.

  6. Tip

    Study your machine's capacities and know what it can do before using it. Become familiar with how each bit should be used and at which speed.


    Take a electric file safety course. Always clean the file bits with acetone and sterilise them after use.

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Things You'll Need

  • Electric file
  • Barrel bit
  • Cone bit

About the Author

Roz Calvert

Roz Calvert was a contributing writer for the award-winning ezine Urban Desires where her travel writing and fiction appeared. Writing professionally since 1980, she has penned promotional collateral for Music Magnet Media and various musicians. The "Now Jazz Consortium" published her jazz educational fiction. She published a juvenile book about Zora Neale Hurston and attended West Virginia University and the New School.

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