The Essentials

Tooth Coarseness
Coarseness is relative — a large file is generally coarser than a small one, even if both are labeled the same, and a rasp is always coarser than a file.

File teeth, from finest to coarsest, come in SMOOTH CUT, SECOND CUT (or MEDIUM), and BASTARD CUT.

Rasps, from finest to coarsest, come in BASTARD, CABINET (or MEDIUM), and WOOD.



Edge
File edges are either CUT, with teeth along the edge, or UNCUT, with a smooth edge, also known as SAFE. Most files have at least one safe edge.

Length
Files are measured from the point to the heel. Sizes begin at 4 inches and get longer by 2-inch increments. Match the file length to the workpiece, using longer files on larger workpieces; 6, 8, 10, and 12 inches are common and useful sizes.

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