A lot of experienced nail techs are loyal hand-filers, preferring the increased control and touch of hand files over the speed of an e-file. And many worry about the learning curve of an e-file and are afraid of the damage they could possibly do to a natural nail with ramped up RPMs and a new snazzy Swiss carbide bit. But in reality, with the wealth of information and education in the nail industry today, there is no reason that a fully trained e-file user would be any more dangerous than your average careless hand-filer.


Manufacturers are making e-files today with lighter weights and less vibration than ever, so together with proper training and classes, which can be found at most beauty shows and nail networking events, nail techs are using their e-files for more aspects of the nail service than ever before.

Use these practical tips from experienced e-file users to help stay on top of your electric file game.


Robert Munkel a.k.a. The Drill Sergeant
Zaida of London Hair
Salt Lake City

 1. Cleaning Between Toes

I use this cone bit to clean between the toes at an RPM of 10,000. I use even pressure and am sure to keep the handpiece moving so I don’t stay in one spot as that would cause heat build-up. Also I use this bit to target the cracks in the heel and the crease underneath the big toe. Remember to use the coarse bit first to remove the bulk and then the fine bit after to really smooth the skin when finished.



2. Cleaning Toe Cuticles

I use this B3 bit to clean the cuticle from the toenails after I push it back with a cuticle pusher. I use very little pressure when doing this to avoid heat and I let the bit do the work. Remember to move the handpiece and not stay in one spot.


Brittany Hogan
Lash Couture
Salt Lake City


3. Seasoning an Arbor Band

I like to use an arbor band for natural nail prepping, but you first have to make sure to bevel the edge of the arbor band. This will remove any sharp edges. Simply run it against a hand file while it is in a low setting for only a second; this will ensure you do not nick your client.


4. Prepping the Natural Nail

Make sure you are using your e-file with arbor band on the lowest speed setting. Many e-files will “skip” or stop when used at the lowest setting. Do not use an e-file for prepping if yours skips or stops and do not use it at a higher speed setting to avoid this as this will cause excessive filing of the natural nail. With no pressure whatsoever “tickle” the natural nail. Let the electric file do the work for you. Make sure to get up near the cuticle area and sidewalls. You can use the arbor band to push back the cuticles as well.


5. Removing Lift

If there is any lifting around the cuticle area you can use a medium carbide or diamond bit to cut a line just behind the lifted area. Make sure to be gentle as these bits can do damage to the natural nail and must not come in contact with it.


6. Shaping the Nail

Using an over-grip, slightly adjust your client’s hand so you have a perfect view of the upper arch from the side profile. File the upper arch by keeping the base of the barrel in contact with the free edge, the body in contact with the apex, and the tip in contact with the cuticle area. 


Marc Foley
Greatful Nails, Wausau, Wis.


7. Edge Thinning and Finishing

When finishing the nail enhancements use your sanding band under the nail to reduce thickness and shorten the nail. Hold the sanding band flush under the nail’s free edge and use a slow speed to reduce the thickness and clean the underside of the nail.


8. Prepping the Free Edge

Using a two-week carbide cutting bit, cut your new smile line by holding the bit at a 45-degree angle, cutting the old product out at the smile line but leaving the thickness at the tip, which allows you to add a second glitter mix to the previous fill, giving a fade effect by using a lighter or darker color combination.


9. Under Edge Finishing

When using a carbide bit to clean under the nail, use a slightly faster speed and hold the bit flush to clean the nail and remove burrs.


Amanda Schison
Outerimages Studio & Academy
Brampton, Ontario, Canada

10. Cuticle Prepping

For hard-to-reach corners, I like to use a flame point silicone stone to gently remove stubborn pterygium from the nail plate in the cuticle area. To prepare the plate during natural manicures/pedicures as well as for artificial applications these bits are great to safely and gently remove the shine. At a very low speed, about 3,000 RPMs, gently start from the right side of the nail at the groove wall and slowly work your way around the cuticle and top of the nail until you reach the left side of the cuticle.

Tip: Turn the client’s hand, not the bit, to file around the sidewall and cuticle area.

Tip: Too much pressure or speed will damage the nail and cause heat, but not enough pressure will get you nowhere — find a happy medium.


11. Toenail Shortening

When performing a dry pedicure, I like to shorten toenails with a Sapphire Pedicure Disk. This is very helpful to use if the nails are brittle and tend to crack in the wrong direction when using toenail cutters/nippers. Hold the bit at a 90-degree angle using a medium RPM, turning up the speed only as needed. High speeds tend to shred the edge of the nail. For clients with thick toenails, the Sapphire Cone can also be used on the tip of the nail to taper down the edge. Remember not to apply too much pressure and always use short strokes, removing the bit from the nail often as you work to avoid causing heat build-up.


12. Shortening Enhancements

Make sure you keep your bit straight up and down vertically (a 90-degree angle) when shortening the free edge to avoid skipping. Skipping can cause the product to weaken and break down. With medium speed, hold the bit against the tip of the nail, and start from the left side and work your way to the right. Turn the speed down if needed. I prefer to use disposable sanding bands with a mandrel over diamond bits. I feel that carbide bits are not the best choice for shortening the nail.


13. Callus Filing

Pedicure bits are excellent to use for dry pedicures or to just add extra smoothness. The use of a cone or barrel pedicure diamond bit is great to smooth dry and hardened skin on the heel, ball, and side of the feet as well as to reduce the appearance of cracked heels. It also makes my pedicures easier and quicker to perform with less wear and tear on my hands and arms. It is best to use a medium to high RPM, and make sure you do not leave it on one spot too long, as it can get very hot and uncomfortable for the client.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.

Read more about