what kind of steel are most files made of


Active Member
I know people make knives out of files, but what kind of file?
I am a newbie and would like to try my hand at making a file knife.
Can someone tell me what type or kind of file I can use.
Thanks in advance for your help.


Justin King

Well-Known Member
Nicholson files will make decent blades if you can anneal them and then re-harden them properly. You can buy bar stock that is better suited to blade-making and already annealed for less money, though.
If you want to make one from a file without doing any heat treating to it, that is possible too but not as easy as it sounds. You should at least temper the file in an oven at around 450 degrees for 2 hours, files are really too hard and brittle for a knife blade unless you do this. Then you have to be able to grind the fie down to a blade while it is still hardened, which is not easy. In doing so you have to be careful not to over-heat it or you will have soft spots that will not hold an edge.

Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
Alex, I second, third, and fourth Justin's suggestion that you use a known steel for knife making, at least to start with. Even after you have some experience under your belt, known steels are still better. What steels are used in any given product is nothing more than a guess and mystery metal is best left alone until one has the experience to judge the quality of steel. The only time that I can't argue, at least all that much, against mystery metal is when it is free. You just can't beat that price point.

Doug Lester


Well-Known Member
I'll be different and say "go for it." I've used several dozen nicholson files that have made good knives. The other poster is right, you can temper at 500 then grind, or anneal, grind, and heat treat. I opt for the anneal/heat treat myself.

James Terrio

Well-Known Member
To my knowledge, good files are made from either W1 or 1095, both good steels for blades. It seems to depend on who you ask. Cheap import files are usually case-hardened low-carbon steel and not worth buying for use as blades OR files. They go dull fast and once you wear off the thin layer of hardened steel, they're basically junk.

I've made good knives out of Nicholson and Simmonds files, by tempering them as described above and grinding to shape.

I like them for their down-home kinda vibe; they look cool with some of the original teeth left on the spine and/or flats. Some folks make knives out of farrier's rasps and those look even cooler!

Not really worth the effort unless the files are free or dirt-cheap, honestly. A foot of new high-carbon steel costs less than a good new file of the same size, and you'll know exactly what you're dealing with.

If you have some worn-out files, by all means use them. If nothing else it will help you develop your grinding skills.
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Well-Known Member
Alex I'm new at this myself but I made my first knife out of a file. It may not be the best steel but if you have some old rusted files that you dont use go for it. It will give you practice grinding. Trust me its not as easy as some of these guys make it look.


Gary Miller

Well-Known Member
I have made a lot of knives out of files I still go to pawn shops and buy junk files to make flint strikers and knives out of. stick with nicholson and simmonds files I do like Justin said bake the file in an oven at 450 deg. for 2 hours let cool slowly. then start grinding. keep the metal cool by dipping it in water don't let the blade get hotter than you can hold bare handed.
hope this helped.

James Terrio

Well-Known Member
Once again, stick with Nicholson and Simonds files. There may be other brands that are suitable, but I don't know that for sure.

Kitchen ovens are notoriously inaccurate and often fluctuate quite a bit, so start on the low end the first time you re-temper a file. You may want to start at 350 and do another temper at a higher setting if you don't get a nice pale yellow/up to bronze oxide color on the steel. An hour "soak" once the oven is warmed up is probably enough to get the temp even throughout a thin piece like a file/blade. Leaving it in there longer won't hurt.

Gary is 100% right about cooling often when working with any hardened steel. Keep your fingertips on the file/blade as you grind and dip in water as soon as it starts to feel hot. This will prevent you from overheating the steel and drawing back the temper too much.

Even though you cool the file often, you may find that it holds a fair amount of heat after several passes on the grinder, enough to be uncomfortable against your fingers. It never hurts to take a break and let it cool to room temp.

If the edge turns blue from too much friction/heat, it will be quite soft and won't hold a keen edge worth a darn. Your only option is to anneal it and re-heat treat... which pretty much strips away the whole point of using a good file to make a knife. (ie, it's already HT'ed and if you temper it back a bit as described above, it's grindable and will still take and hold a good sharp edge)

It's possible to shape a re-tempered file with hand tools (files and sandpaper), but I wouldn't advise it unless you're extremely bored and have a lot of time to kill.


Well-Known Member
I am enjoying my file knife making more since Ihave found experienced advice on here.

Polishing the blades is a painstaking job trying to get little left over marks out.

In this area getting flat 1095 stock is hard going to impossible.


Dealer - Purveyor
to do well, you need to soften the file so you can work it. 1500F or so. that is medium red to bright red if you don't have thermometer. heat to that temp then let cool in air. file and grind. heat to 1500F then quench in canola or fast quenching oil.
OR buy a piece of 8670 from AKS or 1084 from NJSteel Baron, cut, shape, grind, file, heat to 1500F quench in canola, heat to 375F for an hour, rinse in cold water, 375F for an hour and have a blade at Rc60-62 and know what steel it is.


Well-Known Member
Alex I'm new at this myself but I made my first knife out of a file. It may not be the best steel but if you have some old rusted files that you dont use go for it. It will give you practice grinding. Trust me its not as easy as some of these guys make it look.

I get my files from car boot sales for next to nothing, I have practiced on a dozen or so and not gotten the heat treatment right until advised on here, I would have scrapped quite a few if I had bought blanks.

It is, for me, good cheap practice.