Sunday, September 20, 2015

Electric Files

First and foremost, lets make something very clear. A drill is defined as "a hand tool, power tool, or machine with a rotating cutting tip or reciprocating hammer or chisel, used for making holes."  Unless you are planning to drill a hole in your client's nail, please do not use the term "drill" when referring to a professional electric nail file.  [Yes, it is a commonly used term, but it isn't a correct term (like cuticle vs eponychium).]

Electric files emerged in the early 1980s, patterned after tools used in other industries, including the medical and dental fields.  By the mid-1990's electric files had gotten a bad reputation.  Some nail techs seemed deathly afraid of them, saying they were too noisy, they took up too much space, they intimidated clients, and they damaged clients’ nails. Despite their wide use, there didn’t seem to be consistent or widely available information or education on their proper use in the nail salon. It’s not hard to understand why electric files were often misused. Without formal education, the risk of using improper tools or using the right tool the wrong way remained high.

In addition, if a client has had a bad experience with an electric file in the past, explain what you’ll be doing differently. Communication is important during any salon service, and electric files are no exception.

In 1995, Creative Nail Design’s Jan Arnold said she’d do away with electric files entirely if she could. Her biggest criticism was that the files’ vibration and high-speed grinding loosened the acrylic mix before it had a chance to fully cure. That, in turn, led to microscopic cracks that caused breaks and chips in the acrylic nail.  Today, "Creative Nail Design has realized electric files are being widely used in the industry,” says Doug Schoon, vice president of science and technology for Creative Nail Design. “We decided that if they are used correctly they are safe.” The fact that a well-known industry figure who once disapproved of their use is now advocating safe electric file usage says a lot about how far these tools have come.

Lets pause for some Trivia!
Rings of Fire
  1. The metal or rubber bits that hold a sanding band are called ______
  2. Leaving a file bit in disinfection solution for more than _____ at a time can cause it to rust 
  3. Which type of bit produces the LEAST airborne dust ?
  4. You should never use ______ to remove bits from disinfectant solution 
  5. What is a common cause of the bit grabbing the nail?
  6. To reduce the risk of rings of fire, it is recommended that you_____

  7. What is a recommended solution to micro-shattering?
  8. True or False: When a bit is dropped, it should be replaced 
  9. True or False: Pedicure bits are  usually made of carbide 
  10. What is the standard shank size for a salon-grade electric file?
  11. Most nail technicians use electric files with a range of __________
  12. The reverse option on an electric file is needed only for __________
  13. If your hand piece creates excessive vibration, it is recommended that you ________
  14. The standard electric file bits include __________________
  15. Carbide bits are measured by___________
  16. The grooves carved into a client's nail by filing with bits at the incorrect angle are known as___________
  17. _________ bits cannot be effectively disinfected

And now back to our regularly scheduled post...
Steve Wallace, national sales manager of Medicool Inc., in Toronto, California, points out that there is a prevailing motion that electric files will help nail techs do 10 sets a day. Electric files “will help prevent fatigue and can help with carpal tunnel syndrome. And they can reach certain areas that a hand file just can’t. It can help refine their work, but it wasn’t designed to make the process faster.”

Many people still believe an electric file is harmful, but in reality it isn’t what causes damage, it’s the person using it. That is the most common misconception and that’s why education is key. “In my opinion, the greatest single problem plaguing electric files is that people think because they can buy one, they can use it. Until you get formalized training you’re not qualified to use it,” says Schoon. 
It’s like allowing people to buy cars and not teaching them how to drive. Of course when people start driving without getting the proper instructions, they’ll get hurt.

The now defunct Association of Electric File Manufacturers used to teach intensive 8 hour electric file clinics. Even though they no longer exist, the list of topics that they covered in their intensive clinics is a good list for any technician to have under their belt.  Some of these topics include:

  • Types of machines and guidelines for purchasing a machine 
  • The basic techniques of prepping for enhancement products 
  • Upgrading your machine
  • Bit selection and proper use
  • Safety precautions and client protection.
  • Fill-in and maintenance procedures
  • Refining and finishing
  • Using an electric file for manicures and pedicures
  • Pink and white enhancement application and maintenance. 

Kupa has a great play list on how to use various bits on YouTube as does Nail Career Education


  1. mandrels 
  2. 10 minutes 
  3. carbide bits 
  4. an un-gloved hand 
  5. improper speed 
  6. reduce the amount of pressure applied during filing and do not hold the bit at an angle to the nail
  7. Use a slower speed, Use a finer grit bit, Make sure the bit is not bent. 
  8. True
  9. False
  10. 1/32"
  11. 5,000 to 20,000 RPM
  12. left-handed nail techs 
  13. have it serviced immediately
  14. carbide bits, diamond bits,  natural nail silicone bits, ceramic bits, sanding bands,  High-shine buffing bits (Chamois or goat hair)
  15. the number of flutes in each bit
  16. rings of fire
  17. High-shine bits (Chamois or goat hair)