Filing, Files, and File cleaning

JJB11B

Well-Known Member
#1
Now that I have my own forge at home I can't help but play with it. This means that I am starting to hammer out some blanks and practicing my forging techniques. After literally hundreds of hours of Youtube videos watched and countless articles read, it feels soooo good to swing the hammer in my own shop.

Now that I have rambled on....

I am going to have lots of smaller more basic knife blanks piling up as I forge. I currently do not have a belt grinder, my 1x30 got fired and sent to the recycle yard and my 4x36 just doesn't work for me. This means I am going to be doing several knives with files and sandpaper. I am practicing forging the shape very closely to save on that work.
What I would like to know is, what do you guys who file your knives to final shape do? I started today with a dry file and it seemed like it kept trying to plug, I grabbed a toothbrush sized wire brush and used that to keep the file clean, I tried wetting the knife and file with WD40 to see if that helped but it made it worse. I was watching a video on youtube several months ago by "Wranglerstar" where he was using a file card, do any of you guys use those?

Attached are some pics of the small knife I am making now, the pics are from yesterday. This morning when I got home from Physical Therapy I put it back in the forge and re worked it a lot, smoothed and evened the taper and altered the general profile some. I then "normalized" the blade 3x. I didn't have time to take more pics of the progress or the filing this morning
 

Attachments

opaul

Well-Known Member
#3
Looking good. What files are you using, bastard, smoothing (double cut, single cut)?. I would think a bastard file would work good and not clog up on moving a lot of metal and then the smoothing file to finesse. Plus the length of the file determines the coarseness from what I understand. I think 07 did some file work and used one of those file jigs when he first starting making knives.
 

JJB11B

Well-Known Member
#4
I got a half round bastard, a round bastard, and two mill files for now. I am going to order the next ones online as I wasn't finding exactly what I wanted here
 

ARCustomKnives

Well-Known Member
#5
If you're using files, you should definitely have a file card. A regular wire brush will work too, but a file card is a bit more efficient.

Files 101:
Files only cut in ONE direction, which 99.9% of the time is on the push stroke. Think of a file as a wide hack saw. Hacksaws cut on the push stroke, so do files.

NEVER pull a file across the work piece. I see a lot of guys "scrubbing" their work with a file, thinking they're cutting twice as fast. You're not. You're only dulling your file and doubling your efforts for half of the pay off. Another misnomer is "double cut" files. This DOES NOT mean that they cut in two dirrections (push/pull) but that the TEETH are cut in two directions. You use this file same as any other, on the push stroke.

Draw filing: It's not a draw knife. You still only PUSH to cut.
Edited to add: Well, technically you CAN draw cut (pull towards you) with a file for draw filing, but you'll have to swap the file handle to your left hand on a single cut file. The teeth still only cut in one direction, however.

LET THE FILE DO THE WORK!

Pushing harder doesn't remove more material faster, any more than "scrubbing" the file back and forth will. The teeth have a fixed depth and can only remove so much material per pass. Pushing harder just wears you AND THE FILE out faster. Files are usually pretty hard, but teeth do dull and break. Light to moderate pressure is all that is needed. Don't try to push the file through the other side of the work.

Cleaning the file/Keeping it clean:
Every few passes, I like to rap the end of the file on my work bench. Don't hit the teeth, just the end where the file is still smooth. Use wood or something soft. You should see a little cloud of fines falling off the file. If you're filing softer material, this can clog and stick in the teeth. This is called "pinning" IIRC, and can normally be fixed with a few strokes of a file card. Stubborn pins can be popped out with something like a little scrap or sheet metal or a soft punch. I wouldn't use anything too hard, or you could dull your teeth.
Sometimes I'll spray the file with WD-40 or even brake cleaner to get any crap out, then follow up with a card or a wire brush. Brush parallel to the cut of the teeth.
WD-40, kerosene, or light oil can keep the teeth clean(er) while you use the file, but I like rubbing chalk on the teeth. Get a case of railroad chalk and swipe it over the teeth as needed. Don't go crazy and cake it on or anything. A little dab'll do ya.

Nicholson files aren't what they used to be, though they do sell "premium" versions of a lot of their files that still get pretty good reviews.
There are ways to "sharpen" files by etching them with acid and such, but I probably wouldn't bother. When the file starts to dull, pitch it, and get a new one. If you keep it clean and use as intended, it should last for quite a while. For hardened blades and removing things like mill scale, use abrasives (wheels, belts, stones, etc..) Files only cut material that's softer than the file.

One more thing: USE THE WHOLE FILE! You paid for the whole file, use the whole file. Make full length strokes. Draw filing aside, a file cuts a lot faster if you're using the whole length of a file. Same with a hacksaw. Again, each tooth can only take so much material per pass. If you're only using 20 of your 200 teeth, per stroke of the file, you're only getting 10% of the work that you could be getting out of that file. You're also going to dull that first section of file faster, and file strokes increase exponentially from there.

Well, that's about all I know to tell anybody about files.

And remember kids, FILES ONLY DO ONE THING ON THE PULL STROKE: THEY GO DULL!
 
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soundmind

Well-Known Member
#7
I tried to use vegetable oil one time, water another, and then moved to a water and simple green mixture. I liked the water and simple green mixture - I got where I needed to go, but I'll be watching this thread too, I've got some knives I need to file and was wondering what was best as well.
 

JJB11B

Well-Known Member
#8
If you're using files, you should definitely have a file card. A regular wire brush will work too, but a file card is a bit more efficient.

Files 101:
Files only cut in ONE direction, which 99.9% of the time is on the push stroke. Think of a file as a wide hack saw. Hacksaws cut on the push stroke, so do files.

NEVER pull a file across the work piece. I see a lot of guys "scrubbing" their work with a file, thinking they're cutting twice as fast. You're not. You're only dulling your file and doubling your efforts for half of the pay off. Another misnomer is "double cut" files. This DOES NOT mean that they cut in two dirrections (push/pull) but that the TEETH are cut in two directions. You use this file same as any other, on the push stroke.

Draw filing: It's not a draw knife. You still only PUSH to cut.

LET THE FILE DO THE WORK!

Pushing harder doesn't remove more material faster, any more than "scrubbing" the file back and forth will. The teeth have a fixed depth and can only remove so much material per pass. Pushing harder just wears you AND THE FILE out faster. Files are usually pretty hard, but teeth do dull and break. Light to moderate pressure is all that is needed. Don't try to push the file through the other side of the work.

Cleaning the file/Keeping it clean:
Every few passes, I like to rap the end of the file on my work bench. Don't hit the teeth, just the end where the file is still smooth. Use wood or something soft. You should see a little cloud of fines falling off the file. If you're filing softer material, this can clog and stick in the teeth. This is called "pinning" IIRC, and can normally be fixed with a few strokes of a file card. Stubborn pins can be popped out with something like a little scrap or sheet metal or a soft punch. I wouldn't use anything too hard, or you could dull your teeth.
Sometimes I'll spray the file with WD-40 or even brake cleaner to get any crap out, then follow up with a card or a wire brush. Brush parallel to the cut of the teeth.
WD-40, kerosene, or light oil can keep the teeth clean(er) while you use the file, but I like rubbing chalk on the teeth. Get a case of railroad chalk and swipe it over the teeth as needed. Don't go crazy and cake it on or anything. A little dab'll do ya.

Nicholson files aren't what they used to be, though they do sell "premium" versions of a lot of their files that still get pretty good reviews.
There are ways to "sharpen" files by etching them with acid and such, but I probably wouldn't bother. When the file starts to dull, pitch it, and get a new one. If you keep it clean and use as intended, it should last for quite a while. For hardened blades and removing things like mill scale, use abrasives (wheels, belts, stones, etc..) Files only cut material that's softer than the file.

One more thing: USE THE WHOLE FILE! You paid for the whole file, use the whole file. Make full length strokes. Draw filing aside, a file cuts a lot faster if you're using the whole length of a file. Same with a hacksaw. Again, each tooth can only take so much material per pass. If you're only using 20 of your 200 teeth, per stroke of the file, you're only getting 10% of the work that you could be getting out of that file. You're also going to dull that first section of file faster, and file strokes increase exponentially from there.

Well, that's about all I know to tell anybody about files.

And remember kids, FILES ONLY DO ONE THING ON THE PULL STROKE: THEY GO DULL!
Thank you! The chalk Idea is new to me, where does a guy buy railroad chalk? I have a big bottle of chalk line chalk, (yes the blue Sh!te) thinking I'd rather not have that all over the shop
 

ARCustomKnives

Well-Known Member
#9
where does a guy buy railroad chalk?
Why, from the railroad of course!

In all seriousness, you can buy it from Amazon, eBay, Uline, or any other industrial supply. Walmart does the whole "2 day ship to store" thing as well.
I suppose you could also just get a pack of sidewalk chalk from your nearest toy section, though your workbench might look like a rainbow after a while.

I've used powdered chalk in a pinch, but at the end of the day, it does look like you were shaking hands with smurfs all day.
 

ARCustomKnives

Well-Known Member
#10
I should qualify the "draw filing" comment. You CAN actually "draw cut" with a file, but just be mindful of which direction the teeth are facing. Usually if the handle is on the right hand side, you'll push, but if you flip it around to the left hand, you can pull. The teeth are still only cutting in one direction though. If you hold your file handle in the same hand every time, just be mindful that on draw filing strokes, you'll push cut, same as a normal stroke. Speaking of single cut files, anyway.
 
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JJB11B

Well-Known Member
#11
Would anyone care to recommend another brand of files, not that I am ditching the Nicholson's but if there is another brand of good files, I would like to use them too
 
#12
If you're using files, you should definitely have a file card. A regular wire brush will work too, but a file card is a bit more efficient.

Files 101:
Files only cut in ONE direction, which 99.9% of the time is on the push stroke. Think of a file as a wide hack saw. Hacksaws cut on the push stroke, so do files.

NEVER pull a file across the work piece. I see a lot of guys "scrubbing" their work with a file, thinking they're cutting twice as fast. You're not. You're only dulling your file and doubling your efforts for half of the pay off. Another misnomer is "double cut" files. This DOES NOT mean that they cut in two dirrections (push/pull) but that the TEETH are cut in two directions. You use this file same as any other, on the push stroke.

Draw filing: It's not a draw knife. You still only PUSH to cut.
Edited to add: Well, technically you CAN draw cut (pull towards you) with a file for draw filing, but you'll have to swap the file handle to your left hand on a single cut file. The teeth still only cut in one direction, however.

LET THE FILE DO THE WORK!

Pushing harder doesn't remove more material faster, any more than "scrubbing" the file back and forth will. The teeth have a fixed depth and can only remove so much material per pass. Pushing harder just wears you AND THE FILE out faster. Files are usually pretty hard, but teeth do dull and break. Light to moderate pressure is all that is needed. Don't try to push the file through the other side of the work.

Cleaning the file/Keeping it clean:
Every few passes, I like to rap the end of the file on my work bench. Don't hit the teeth, just the end where the file is still smooth. Use wood or something soft. You should see a little cloud of fines falling off the file. If you're filing softer material, this can clog and stick in the teeth. This is called "pinning" IIRC, and can normally be fixed with a few strokes of a file card. Stubborn pins can be popped out with something like a little scrap or sheet metal or a soft punch. I wouldn't use anything too hard, or you could dull your teeth.
Sometimes I'll spray the file with WD-40 or even brake cleaner to get any crap out, then follow up with a card or a wire brush. Brush parallel to the cut of the teeth.
WD-40, kerosene, or light oil can keep the teeth clean(er) while you use the file, but I like rubbing chalk on the teeth. Get a case of railroad chalk and swipe it over the teeth as needed. Don't go crazy and cake it on or anything. A little dab'll do ya.

Nicholson files aren't what they used to be, though they do sell "premium" versions of a lot of their files that still get pretty good reviews.
There are ways to "sharpen" files by etching them with acid and such, but I probably wouldn't bother. When the file starts to dull, pitch it, and get a new one. If you keep it clean and use as intended, it should last for quite a while. For hardened blades and removing things like mill scale, use abrasives (wheels, belts, stones, etc..) Files only cut material that's softer than the file.

One more thing: USE THE WHOLE FILE! You paid for the whole file, use the whole file. Make full length strokes. Draw filing aside, a file cuts a lot faster if you're using the whole length of a file. Same with a hacksaw. Again, each tooth can only take so much material per pass. If you're only using 20 of your 200 teeth, per stroke of the file, you're only getting 10% of the work that you could be getting out of that file. You're also going to dull that first section of file faster, and file strokes increase exponentially from there.

Well, that's about all I know to tell anybody about files.

And remember kids, FILES ONLY DO ONE THING ON THE PULL STROKE: THEY GO DULL!
Triple like!!!
 
#13
Would anyone care to recommend another brand of files, not that I am ditching the Nicholson's but if there is another brand of good files, I would like to use them too
Husky. They are only case hardened, but most files are nowadays anyway. Also the husky files at Home Depot are guaranteed for life so when they go dull, bring them back and get new ones.
 

C Craft

Well-Known Member
#14
OK Andrew, has given you a lot of good pointers. In lieu of chalk I have used soapstone! Welders marker. You can buy them at any place that sells welding supplies, and some parts stores will carry them! 1530838649070.png
A good file card is your friend, every few strokes brush crosswise to the file and also a bump on the bench will work as stated by Andrew! 1530838837304.png Get yourself a piece of flat brass bar. 1/8" is good for a cleaning a file of galling or as Andrew called it pinning! A piece about 4"-6" in length is about right. Sharpen one end some what like a wood chisel would be sharpened and round the other end so it won't hurt the hand. Use it like a file card to get the small filings from the file. After carding, if you have chunks embedded into the file, galling/pinning, working crosswise to the file will pop the chunks out as you push across the file in that area! The brass bar will not damage the file.

From Wikipedia:
Pinning refers to the clogging of the file teeth with pins, which are material shavings.[citation needed] These pins cause the file to lose its cutting ability and can scratch the workpiece. A file card, which is a brush with metal bristles, is used to clean the file. (The name, "card", is the same as used for the "raising cards" (spiked brushes) used in woolmaking.)[citation needed] Chalk can help prevent pinning

I will say this, buy the best files you can afford. Nicholson used to be tops but since they moved their plants to Mexico and Brazil the ain't worth bringing home. IMO they are about to destroy another American icon!

Here is a good read about Nicholson's evolution! http://www.charleswbullock.com/Guide/IndustryHistry/NicholsonFile/NicholsonFile.html
 

JJB11B

Well-Known Member
#15
I hadnt thought of that, I actually have a lot of soapstones, I also have a big bottle of powdered soap stone (cutting stones and engraving for decoration) I brought this stuff from the roadside of a quarry outside of Dillon Mt. a few years ago
 

ARCustomKnives

Well-Known Member
#16
I haven't looked recently, but you used to be able to find NOS (new old stock) Nicholson files on eBay and some surplus stores. Nicholson also made/makes "Black Diamond" files which are supposed to be pretty good still. Simonds used to make a good file, and I believe they still do. Pferd is also a name I've heard good things about.
For smaller stuff, swiss cut files are good. I believe Grobet is hailed as the best now, or at least on of the best. They do get pricey though.

Sometimes you can pick up a truck load of files at swap meets and flea markets, machine shop liquidations/auctions, etc... for pennies on the dollar. Many may still have plenty of life in them, if they were used at all.

Ed Caffrey uses the Husky files that Kevin mentioned. As long as you return the whole pack, they supposedly swap them out for life.
 

JJB11B

Well-Known Member
#17
I believe it is time to make a filing jig. With weather here being 105 degrees being out on the river fishing is less appealing, and I’m not a big fan of water skiing or tubing. I’ve got 8’ of 2”x4” rectangular steel tubing that is just one RCH under 1/8” thick. Now that I have a welder and some good drill bits I believe this could be a super cheap project. Just need to buy a rod and weld machine washer onto the head of a 5” bolt. Should do just fine.....any advice?
 

Gliden07

Well-Known Member
#18
I believe it is time to make a filing jig. With weather here being 105 degrees being out on the river fishing is less appealing, and I’m not a big fan of water skiing or tubing. I’ve got 8’ of 2”x4” rectangular steel tubing that is just one RCH under 1/8” thick. Now that I have a welder and some good drill bits I believe this could be a super cheap project. Just need to buy a rod and weld machine washer onto the head of a 5” bolt. Should do just fine.....any advice?
Check out aarron Gough on YouTube he has a video on a filing jig. He built his with wood but the information will translate to the steel. He also demonstrates how to use it. I made one of them and built a few knifes it works very good.
 

JJB11B

Well-Known Member
#19
If that is the guy from Simple Little Life, or the other guy that looks like he is working in a concrete basement that has a slight british accent. I watched them today
 

Gliden07

Well-Known Member
#20
If that is the guy from Simple Little Life, or the other guy that looks like he is working in a concrete basement that has a slight british accent. I watched them today
The guy with the slight British accent is Aarron. He's actually Canadian!! LOL!!
 
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