Educate me on FILES!

May 23, 2008
So I've been checking out files and have found that there are a ton of choices. I'll be using them for working on knives only. Mostly spine file work. So what do I NEED in terms of basics? What exactly do the different cuts mean (#'s)? What shapes are essential? Diamond? Needle? I'm really in the dark here, so any info would be helpful. I'd mostly like to hear from what guys have used/use in their own experience and what works best for what. Ideally I'd rather not have a ton of sets in a ton of different cuts to begin with, so what do you suggest? Thanks!
Sep 8, 2006
I use nicholson files for all my file work, 10 inch mill bastard for draw filing, a round bastard cut for spine file work and a slim taper for spine filework also, slim taper is the triangle one. another good thing to use instead of the round file is chainsaw files from sears, theyre cheaper and they cut super quick so be careful. hope it helps
Nov 7, 2007
I'm a big fan of the chainsaw files for spine filework (and they do cut VERY quick). If you are solely looking for files to use on the spine for filework, you could get started with a few round or chainsaw files, a three square and a half-round. I find I can do a basic vine pattern with only a chainsaw file and a three-square. you may want to consider getting some finer cutting files to clean up though because trying to sand that out can be a pain unless you use a buffer. I find I buy a lot of files but I also do quite a bit of the bevels on my blades with them now. I sent Mr. Coote an order for a 2x72x10 last week, but I have a feeling I'll still be cleaning up a lot with files until I become proficient with the grinder. As far as the numbers go, I assume you are talking about swiss pattern files. 00 is the coarsest and 6 is the finest. I think thats the whole range but I could be wrong. American pattern files go from bastard (coarse) then 2nd cut then smooth (there also may be intermediate ones that I am not aware of). Hope this helps. -Mark


itinerant metal pounder
Aug 12, 2005
My experience with the Home Depot chainsaw files is they cut very quickly, but wear out just as quickly. Fortunately, they are cheap.

Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

ilmarinen - MODERATOR
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Aug 20, 2004
For detail file-work on the spine, you want needle files. I prefer Valtitan jewelers needle files because they are much harder (but, quite brittle if misused). Even they won't work the spine of a hardened blade, where you will need diamond files or carbide burrs in a rotary tool. The cheap needle file sets on ebay and at HF are useless. they won't last one blade most of the time.

A square, tri-square, round tapered, and straight round are a good starter set for file-work.

For any purpose, quality files will last a good length of time if you don't destroy them by sawing back and forth while filing. Always stroke the file in one direction,lift the file and return for the next stroke. A good file rarely gets worn out, but regularly gets ruined.