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Files - what do I need to know

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Nick Welburn17/01/2021 21:31:16
36 forum posts

I have a fine selection of files of great vintage and generally missing an effective handle.
I think my technique may improve with a better set. I can grab a set of 8” files on eBay for a tenner.

generally I prefer to buy once with quality. What an I looking for with a file?

noel shelley17/01/2021 22:05:04
349 forum posts
9 photos

First buy quality, it will pay in the long run. £10 will buy you 1 good big file. Ebay may not be the best place to look. It then depends on what you are trying to file ? Swiss files, rat tails, 2nd cut, square, half round,smooth, bastard ? Tell us more ? noel

Nick Welburn17/01/2021 22:09:04
36 forum posts

Hi Noel,

I’m setting out to make a Stuart steam engine, dreams one day of a basic clock.

very much new to metal working


David George 117/01/2021 22:23:09
1475 forum posts
463 photos

What do you want from a file and what are you filling. I have my best files and only use them for brass and bronze until they become slightly worn then they are demoted and replaced with a quality file and the older one used for steel and aluminium etc. I have a selection of hand flat, half round, three square, and square in three sizes 6 inch 8 inch and 12 inch for a start. Then i have a selection of needle files in flat, round three square, half round, round, and square in two grades of fine and medium cut that i can think off. then i have a couple of setts of rifler files in different sizes and shapes. then I have couple of sets of diamond files again in various shapes and cut. I think there may be a few i have forgot like the single cut bastard i use for roughing out aluminium plastic and wood but hey ho. you can not have to many files but dont buy cheap files as some of mine are at least 30 years old.


Pete.17/01/2021 22:50:49
400 forum posts
57 photos

Pferd file set that's a good general purpose set that should get you going.

IanT17/01/2021 23:50:13
1800 forum posts
176 photos

Hard to give exact purchasing directions - but as general guidance

  1. Always buy good quality files - you don't need too many to get going. Good ones will last a long, long time and give you much better results.
  2. For my (small) modelling work, I use generally 4" files - both flat and triangular, in medium and fine cuts. I prefer one edge of the 'flat' files to be smooth (e.g. safe). Buy handles that suit the file length and tang
  3. A good set of 'Swiss' files will last a lifetime if looked after. My 'Swiss' set are by 'Stubbs' and still giving good service after 30+ years. The smallest flat, taper square and half round seem to get used most.
  4. I only use new files on non-ferrous and they don't ever see ferrous use while being used for such
  5. I have lots of old files in various conditions for ferrous. Some I just keep in the unlikely case I ever get around to re-cycling them, some are used just on castings and I even have some that can still do good work when required. They are mostly 6-8", all cuts and shapes.
  6. All (even my rubbish files) are kept in racks, so they don't bang together.
  7. Personally, I don't use wire file brushes or cards. I do have several chisel shaped brass 'scrapers' to clean debris out, working with the line of teeth.

That's about all I can tell you. I still can't file as well as I can machine things and probably never will but sometimes you have no real choice but to file something and then it's much better to have a good quality tool to do it with.



JohnF17/01/2021 23:54:24
1049 forum posts
158 photos

As Noel says quality will pay dividends, the cheap files you are looking at will probably be worse then the ones you have - assuming they are/were of good quality ? Vallorbe are a top quality but expensive brand, Bacho are a good brand. Look here as well **LINK** I have bought these from Arc and find them excellent value for money -- no connection other than a happy customer.


Nicholas Wheeler 118/01/2021 00:24:19
501 forum posts
28 photos

As file handles are cheap, you could buy a few and fit them to the best files you already own. Practice with those, and then decide if you need new ones.

Just buying new files won't improve your technique!

Hopper18/01/2021 01:50:06
5148 forum posts
114 photos

Arc Eurotrade sell files made in Portugal that are said to be good quality. I havent tried them myself but others seem to like them

Tim Hammond18/01/2021 09:05:16
52 forum posts

+1 for files from Arc Eurotrade. Regarding filing itself, I'm always mightily impressed by that shown on the Clickspring videos on YouTube.

Peter Greene18/01/2021 16:16:58
114 forum posts

One thing I would want on a bastard file is a plain (uncut) edge on one side for filing into a corner without marking the other surface.

They seem to be getting scarcer.

HOWARDT18/01/2021 16:24:29
672 forum posts
15 photos

Don't forget file thickness, thinner files can used in slots, say 3 or 4mm so usually smaller 150mm long. Get all cuts in a mid size file as you will want to change cut as you get nearer to finish/size required. Also a file brush to keep the file free of debris and wooden handles.

noel shelley18/01/2021 16:38:30
349 forum posts
9 photos

The easy way to keep a file clean is to use a short piece of 1/4" or 5/16" copper tube, flatten the end and for the delux version push it into a small file handle. Push it along the line of the teeth, it will form to the teeth and go right to the tooth root. Noel

Howard Lewis18/01/2021 16:40:11
4397 forum posts
4 photos

Finding a good file can be a bastard!


Peter Greene18/01/2021 17:27:00
114 forum posts
Posted by Howard Lewis on 18/01/2021 16:40:11:

Finding a good file can be a bastard!

I blame the parents.

Just a slightly to one side comment: Don't forget 3D Printing if you need file handles.

SillyOldDuffer18/01/2021 17:52:51
6857 forum posts
1538 photos

While I agree cheap files are best avoided, I'm far from convinced advice to spend big money on files is well founded. Ask yourself:

  • How much filing will I actually do? (Not much if you own a milling machine.)
  • Do I really want to own expensive tools because they will last longer than me?
  • Is there nothing else that the money wouldn't be better spent on?

If you want to cough up £30 per file for a full complement of Vallorbe's very best, go for it. My advice is to buy something mid-range.

Far more important to me than owning an expensive file that lasts for ever is having a collection of files in the sizes and shapes I need. Have a look at what Arc Euro sell - aimed at hobbyists, and well described. I have round, half-round, triangular, square and flat in large, medium and small (needle files), more than 30 in total. Mostly second cut, but I have a few rasps for quick ripping and plastics, and a few fine files (smooth cut). I keep a small set for brass only: this is because using a file on steel quickly takes the very sharp edge off, and brass likes a sharp file. When a file used on brass starts to go blunt, replace it and move the old one over to steel where it will still work well.

Horses for courses because this is a hobby! Nothing wrong with pride of ownership purchasing if it makes you happy. I'm the opposite. I think tools are to be used not drooled over. and am quite happy to replace inexpensive tools when they don't do the job. I might go upmarket if I did a lot of filing. As is, files costing about £5 to £10 each depending on size do me well. Paying £6 for a set of four big files is risky!

Never use a file without a handle. Apart from the risk of spiking oneself, the handle makes the file much easier to control.

As a youngster I was given the 'buy quality, buy once' advice by a well-meaning craftsman. Fifty years later I was proved right : my collection of ordinary tools is still going strong. (Mostly!) They've lasted because they're lightly used. A busy professional should buy tools that last, but I'm not rushing to meet deadlines, and only work when I want to. Buying better than I need is a waste of money.


MC Black19/01/2021 00:31:16
81 forum posts

I have always bought Python Safety Handles for my files (available in different sizes).

I understand that they are designed with a ferrule spun into the wooden handle which, together with a hidden spring, prevents splitting.

I have some that belonged to my late father (who died in the early 80s) and they have lasted well without splitting. They have become a little grubby though!

I have tried buying plastic handles - but the ones that I bought split almost immediately and were returned. Replaced with Pythons.


Grindstone Cowboy19/01/2021 00:59:02
486 forum posts
44 photos

Best file handle I ever got was a plastic one made by Plasplugs. Bought in the late 70s or early 80s, still going strong, just wish I'd bought more - of course, you can't get them anymore. Unless anyone has a secret stash - I'd be interested...


Speedy Builder519/01/2021 06:44:23
2220 forum posts
167 photos

And once you have bought your files, don't chuck them all on top of each other in a drawer that is likely to get damp.

File teeth are like mini chisels, treat them with respect and they will give you good service. Also look on this site for advice on sharpening old files Sharpening Files

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