Files vs Rasps – Differences Between Them (Woodworking Tools)

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A common misunderstanding we make while discussing hand tools is to consider a file and a rasp as the same thing. Although both of these tools perform similar tasks, each one performs a specific type of function. The primary difference between a rasp and a file is that rasps are primarily for wood, but files are for metal.

The terms file and rasp are often confused and many people still interchange the two. Generally, a file is intended to be used on metal whereas a rasp is a tool specially meant for wood.  Rasps have coarser teeth designed for wood. While you could use a file on wood, a rasp would not do well against a hard metal surface.

To add to the confusion, you may hear the terms “wood file” or cabinet maker’s files” and metal files are sometimes referred to as “mill files” Each of these comes in a variety of different grades that determine the degree of fineness or coarseness.

You can find different types of rasps for completing various tasks. In this article, we attempt to familiarize the newcomer to woodworking with the difference between woodworking rasps and files. Even if you are not a newbie, you will find some interesting information here about files and rasps.

There are numerous forums on the internet, where you can observe a lot of discussion on this topic. When you finish reading this article, you should have a fair idea of a rasp vs file. You will also be aware of the specific function of each of these two tools and the different types under each category. Finally, we go over the pros and cons of each group.

Rasp (Image: Wikimedia)

Metal Files

File for sharpening metal tools.

When it comes to woodworking files, you need to know one thing. Unlike several tools dedicated to woodworking, there is no such thing as a “woodworking file” even though many people loosely interchange the terms file and rasp. We refer to a category of files because they are used to sharpen metal tools used for woodworking.

However, you also need to realize that there are many types of files. You should also know something about and the pros and cons of using these woodworking tools. The files that we look at in this article are mostly the ones that come in handy for sharpening woodworking tools.

Woodworking Rasps


There is often confusion between a file and a rasp. However, let us clear that ambiguity once and for all. We use a file on metal, but a rasp is a tool specially meant for wood. For those of you who are aware of what a rasp is, you may consider the basic rasp. However, there are several different types of rasps. Although discussing every kind of rasp is beyond the scope of this article, we do take a look at the difference between files and rasps here. We also discuss the pros and cons of each of these tools and when to use each one.

Files vs Rasps

When you use any tool, it’s essential to know how best to use each tool. Each tool has a specific application and limitations. The same principle is applicable when it comes to files and rasps. So, when we discuss the differences between these two categories of hand tools, we will also take a close look at the limitations of each one.

Files And Their Uses

The distinguishing feature of files is that long teeth run across their width. You can get “straight-cut” files with only parallel teeth, or “cross-cut” files with opposing angles. Double-cut files have a more aggressive cutting action, and we mostly use these for removing metal. We can also use these for the removal of fine wood, although in such cases they tend to clog up rapidly.

Files come in different sizes and profiles for specific tasks. For example, you can get files for deburring metal edges, or other ones help us to sharpen the steel teeth of different types of saws. The level of cutting aggressiveness depends on the cut of the teeth. We get four different grades – smooth, second cut, bastard, and coarse. Hence, depending on the nature of your job, you can select the profile and size of the file that will get your job done.

Pros And Cons Of Files

Using a file on wood has limited applications. Hence, here are some of the pros and cons of files:


  • A finer cut results in a smoother finish
  • Controlled shaping
  • No need for a power supply
  • Highly portable
  • Can work at any angle


  • Work is slow
  • Files tend to clog up easily while working on wood
  • Need to be highly-skilled

Rasps And Their Uses

Rasps serve a greater purpose in a woodworking shop than rifflers or files. You may wonder why this is so. The reason is that the teeth of a rasp have a mountain peak-shaped profile which allows for an aggressive cut but will not rip the material. Unlike a file or a riffler, a rasp has less tendency to clog up. This makes a rasp the preferred choice when it comes to working on wood.

We get rasps in different grades of coarseness and sizes to suit different jobs. Hence, you will get excellent performance for controlled cutting, shaping, carving, easing edges, and so on. The randomly-spaced teeth of some of the better rasps will give you a smoother action and better cutting control.

Pros And Cons Of Rasps

There are several advantages to using a rasp for working on wood. There are a few downsides as well. Here are the commonly-experienced pros and cons:


  • Rasps are the ideal choice for woodworking
  • You get a rough cut, but without ripping the material, you are working on
  • A variety of different types and cuts for various jobs
  • Readily available in the market
  • The teeth of a rasp resist clogging


  • You cannot use a rasp on metal and other hard materials
  • Limited range of rasps available compared to files
  • Rasps are relatively costlier than files


In this article, we have tried to deal with the subject of the rasp vs file as comprehensively as possible. By now, you should not have any confusion regarding the difference between these two woodworking hand tools. Whenever you hold a hand tool, you need to be aware of its specific purpose.

To get your job done efficiently and effectively, you should be able to use the right tool for the job. It is the same when you are using a rasp or a file. After reading this article, we hope that it will be now clear to you about the fundamental differences of a rasp vs file in woodworking. It will help you in becoming an expert woodworker who is good at the job because you know how to use your tools most effectively.

Featured Image: Pxfuel