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Perfect Your Wood Shaping With the Best Mill FilesLast updated: 10 May 2022
Having a great mill file for 2022 present in our woodworking toolkit is like having an ace up your sleeve. When things go wrong, you can use it to get back in the game and even win. Let's explain how!
A mill file is a draw filing tool with a long hardened blade attached to a handle. It gets used to sharpen blades of other tools. However, there's a hidden use too; shaping and finishing wood. The to and fro movement of the mill file scrapes away the unwanted materials from your workpiece. So, when things go wrong, you can use the mill file to scrape it off and restart. You can also use it to smoothen, trim, and cut the edges.
Considering all this, you should always carry this handy tool. In today's post, our team of experts has researched the very best options. You will also find a detailed guide and FAQ section to resolve your queries. Read more!Show contents
Buyer’s Guide to Finding a Mill File
Why Should You Buy Mill Files?
A mill file is a must-have tool if you're a passionate DIYer or professional. These versatile tools are great for metal and woodworking projects, helping improve both the performance of other tools and the entire project itself.
Typically, in metalwork, you rub a mill file against the blade of other tools, sharpening them. This is necessary for driving clean and accurate results. However, there are various other uses for mill files in woodworking.
These tools help scrape off any unwanted material and are highly useful if you make a mistake in a project and want to correct it. There are limitations, though, like you can’t really reverse a deep cut by scraping it away.
Mill files are also useful for shaping and trimming wooden pieces. You can use them for creating perfect square blocks and neat edges. They’re also great tools for smoothing and flattening rough surfaces, though it will take longer than with a dedicated tool like a jack plane.
Apart from their versatile functionality, mill files are a must-have tool because of their simple and lightweight design, they don't occupy a lot of space and are extremely portable. These products are also available at affordable prices, making purchasing them an easy choice as well as a good investment.
Mill Files vs Flat Files
Often, people get confused between mill files and flat files. While they may sound similar, they are two different tools. Here is a detailed comparison:
Mill files refer to draw filing tools combining a large metallic blade with a handle. Their purpose is to sharpen other blades and shape wood. They can also be used for trimming, flattening, and downsizing.
Flat files are a type of mill file designed for working with flat surfaces. They have a rectangular, long blade that may or may not be double-cut. Except for this structural difference, you can use it to fulfill all the same functions as a mill file.
Since mill files come in several different types (based on shape), it’s not right to use these terms interchangeably. It’s especially important if you're a woodworking professional.
Factors To Consider When Buying Mill Files
Mill files are undoubtedly worthy investments for woodworking projects. However, not all mill files will be ideal for your specific needs.
This is why you should evaluate a product thoroughly before purchasing it. Here are some factors for ensuring the file you choose is the right tool for you.
Mill file shape
The hardened blade of a mill file can come in a lot of different shapes, including square, flat, round, half-round, triangle, pointed, and more. You need to select a shape according to the project you have in mind.
For example, round mill files work best for making round openings larger. Meanwhile, triangle mill files work on corners and edges perfectly. And, they can also sharpen various styles of blade teeth.
Since it affects performance, a mill file’s teeth hold a great deal of importance. Evaluate the following two sub-factors to ensure unbeatable results.
The teeth configuration is its pattern or design. Although there are plenty of new versions available, the two classic configurations are single-cut and double-cut. Here's the difference between both:
- Single-cut files feature teeth designed for cutting in one direction, 65 degrees in most models. These files also deliver the smoothest results
- Double-cut files feature teeth in a crisscross design. They are cut at opposing angles, making them sharper. And, you can use them for filing material faster, though the results will be rougher
- Some specialty cuts include shear cut, vixen cut, and maxi-sharp cut, these are hybrid versions for performing specific tasks
Number of teeth
The number of teeth determines the mill file's relative sharpness. Keep in mind that fewer teeth result in coarser filing, whereas more teeth result in smoother. Ideally, you will come across five grades depending on the number of teeth.
- Dead Smooth (100 TPI)
- Smooth (60 TPI)
- Second-cut (36 TPI)
- Bastard-cut (26 TPI)
- Rough (16 TPI)
Please note we have listed them in smooth to rough order. A smooth mill file will provide neater and cleaner results than a rougher version.
A mill file's size has a great impact on its versatility. You can use large mill files for covering bigger areas on wooden panels and blades. However, you cannot use them for precision-based tasks like trimming edges or sharpening small blades.
Mill files always feature metallic blades. However, the type of metal used in the blade can affect its longevity. Typically, hardened carbon steel is the best option.
It's a powerful metal capable of resisting all kinds of damage. You can subject it to a great deal of pressure and force without worrying about a single crack. These mill files can also remain rust-free for years. Besides the blade, consider the material of the handle too. Mostly, the handle is an extension of the blade, making it equally durable. If it’s not, opt for high-quality hardwood or plastic fixed into the blade with steel screws.
These material specifications will help ensure a handle is both unshakeable and unbreakable, letting you use it as roughly as you like.
The handle also determines comfort level. It should be thinner than the blade, making handling easy. Also, it should have a curved and angled design for promoting a firm grip.
You definitely don't want a mill file slipping from your hands, it can pose a serious safety hazard. Look for grooves and textured surfaces, ensuring better control over the tool.
At times, woodworking projects require trimming or shaping only one of the adjacent sides. In these cases, a mill file should possess a safety edge. A safety edge refers to the smooth, flat side of a mill file.
It helps protect the side that doesn't require filling. So, if you work on these kinds of tricky projects, make sure the selected product comes with a safety edge.
Using a Mill File Properly
Using a mill file is a fairly simple and straightforward task. Begin, using your dominant hand, for most people this will be their right. Remember, woodworking is an activity requiring a high degree of dexterity, so proper control remains vital.
Place your other hand on the tip of the mill file. Use this hand for pressing the tool against the surface and your dominant hand for guiding the direction. Rub the mill file several times to achieve the desired results.
Comparing the Leading Mill File for 20221– Best OverallCheck On AmazonTHE SCOOP
The Corona Mill Bastard Cut File is an excellent choice for refining pip edges, wood panels, and other large objects. It’s such a strong offering, in fact, that it’s managed to grab our “best overall” award, owing to the product’s durable construction and ergonomic design. This tool has an 8-inch single-cut blade, cutting through material coarsely and quickly. So, it is not suitable for obtaining fine and smooth surfaces.
It also has a superior quality build made from carbon steel and chromium, and the blade displays great resistance to corrosion and abrasion. So, you can expect it to last a long time. The manufacturer has also provided a limited lifetime warranty, backing up its claims of durability.2– Great EfficiencyCheck On AmazonTHE SCOOP
The KALIM Flat Medium Cut File has well-designed dimensions, making it ideal for multiple purposes. It has a 7.5-inch length with a 6-inch filing blade, the long blade to handle ratio allows for covering large wood surfaces quickly. However, the tool has a smooth and narrow handle.
You may not feel comfortable working with this option for consecutive hours. To compensate, the design of this mill file supports quick operation. The long blade, coupled with double-cut teeth, removes unwanted material faster. Moreover, the totally high carbon steel build promises a long lifespan. The mill file can withstand high temperature and pressure easily. And, It prevents corrosion and rust too.3– Great ValueCheck On AmazonTHE SCOOP
If you do a lot of fine and precision-based woodworking, then this Kapoua Metal File Set is the perfect pick, featuring four large files and twelve micro-needle files. All of these mill files have different shapes, including flat, triangle, square, round, and half-round. So, you can complete almost any task with these small mill files.
Each file has a durable steel construction, though they are not resistant to rust. So, to maintain the original condition, the set includes a wire cleaning brush. Plus, these files have an ergonomically-built rubber handle, offering a firm and comfortable grip. You can control them easily without worrying. And, these files come in a high-quality roll-up case, helping keep the tools organized.4– Most VersatileCheck On AmazonTHE SCOOP
Another amazing set on our list is the Preciva 18PCS File Set. It offers a diverse collection of files, including different sizes, teeth patterns, and cuts. So, you can use this set for various light metal and woodworking projects.
All the files have a high carbon steel blade with rubberized handles. These durable tools will remain intact, and rust-proof, regardless of how intensively they’re used. Plus, this set features a scratch brush for maintenance. You also get a portable storage case, great for transporting the tools conveniently.5– Ideal for BeginnersCheck On AmazonTHE SCOOP
The Nicholson Crescent Mill Hand File is an entry-level mill file ideal for DIYers and beginners. It features a rectangular 10-inch blade made of alloy steel. This mill file can cover large areas of wood, increasing your work speed. However, a single-cut coarse tooth pattern means you cannot smooth wood with this tool.
Nonetheless, the straight textured surface of the handle allows better control. Your hand won’t slip, which will help produce the desired results. So, you can use it to practice material removal, basic draw filing, sharpening, and deburring.
People Also AskedQ: Can you use metal files on wood?
A: Yes, you can use metal files on wood. However, you cannot use dedicated wood files on metal because their blade isn't powerful enough to withstand the pressure.Q: How much do mill files cost?
A: Mill files are budget-friendly tools costing around $10-$15 each. But, purchasing them in complete sets increases the price. A high-quality mill file set can cost anywhere from $30-$100.Q: How to clean mill files?
A: At times, dust and shavings can get stuck between a mill file’s teeth. If left uncleaned, the particles can create scratches on the surface, ruining a project. So, you should clean mill files after every use. To clean them, take a high-quality file card brush with soft wire bristles. Then, rub it in the direction of the teeth, any stuck particles should come out.