Files vs. Rasps – What is the difference?

what is the difference between files and rasps

It can be easy to mistake a file for a rasp if you are not that familiar with either tool.

Despite their similarities, there are definite differences between the two.

Each one will perform a specific task that may seem similar to the other at first, but there are differences.

The most important difference is that a rasp is primarily used for wood while a file is primarily used for metal.

Because they are similar in uses, it’s quite common to hear one name used for the other.

But the fact of the matter is, each tool has its own grade of fineness or coarseness due to which they are used for different purposes.

What follows is the definition of files and rasps along with what they do and their advantages along with disadvantages.

Woodworking Files

Even though you may have heard the term woodworking file, in truth, there is no such thing.

A file that is primarily designed to work on wood is a rasp.

Files are used on metal, so you will need to know that before selecting one as your tool of choice.

But there are different types of files, and some are used to sharpen rasps so they can carry out their function.

There is plenty of versatility in files and what follows are just some of their uses.


Files have long teeth that run across the width of the object.

There are straight cut files that have parallel teeth.

And there are cross-cut files that have teeth at opposing angles.

Plus, double-cut files are more aggressive in terms of their cutting action.

This allows more of the metal to be removed.

You may think you can use a file on wood and achieve the same results.

And while initially, that may be true, the file will clog up quite quickly and require frequent cleaning.

Files have different sizes and profiles which dictate their function.

Some will sharpen teeth on saws while others will deburr metal edges.

The cut of the teeth will determine the aggressiveness of the cuts that it will make.

There are four different grades of files.

  • Bastard
  • Coarse
  • Second Cut
  • Smooth

Depending on the job you want to accomplish, you will need to select the right type of file.

Pros and Cons

Keep in mind that files used on wood will be quite limited. So, for woodworking purposes here are the pros and cons.


  • Finer Cut, Smoother Finish
  • No Power Supply Required
  • Portable & Works at Any Angle
  • Control the Shaping with Ease


  • Slow Work
  • Clogs up Easily, Requires Frequent Cleaning
  • You Need to be Highly Skilled to Use a File on Wood

Woodworking Rasps

Put simply, rasps are for wood and files are for metal.

While you can use a file in a limited fashion on wood, it is recommended that you find a rasp instead.

And while the function of the rasp seems pretty straightforward, they have different types just like files.

In fact, there are so many different types of rasps that they cannot be conveniently described here, but what follows are the most common types.


A rasp offers a far greater purpose in the woodworking shop compared to the typical file.

Because the teeth of the rasp tend to be shaped much like a mountain, they have an aggressive cut that does not rip into the wood.

Because of the shape of the teeth, they do not clog up nearly as much compared to a file.

This is why they are the preferred choice when working on wood.

Rasps come in different sizes and coarseness to do different jobs.

The better you can find the right type of rasp, the quicker and easier the job you need to perform will be.

Better control and smoother action can be obtained thanks to the random spacing of the teeth.

Pros and Cons

The rasp is made especially for wood which is why it offers considerable advantages.


  • Perfect for Woodworking
  • Teeth Resist Clogging
  • Wide Variety of Types and Sizes
  • Rough Cutting without Ripping into the Material
  • Easily Available on the market


  • Cannot be Used on Metal
  • Fewer Choices of Types Compared to Files
  • Cost More than Files

By now you should understand the significant differences between files and rasps and why you should choose the latter for your woodworking efforts.

Although files can be used on wood, it is not recommended as they tend to clog and sometimes get the wrong type of effect.

Rasps should be used on wood and not metal.

When working with wood, rasps are quite efficient and clog far less often compared to files.

Of course, you should get the right type of rasp for the job and you can expect to pay more for them even if they are readily available.

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