Altering Your Files

With the dizzying array of files available on the market, it’s hard to imagine not having the right file for the job… until it finally happens.  Learn some valuable ways to customize your file to have the right fit for your project!

 In this example, even the tiniest barrette file is too bulky to get into the corner of this piercing. What we need is a file with an extreme knife edge, and the cheapest and quickest way to get one of those is to make it!

Obviously, you can’t just file a file—that would be like trying to chew a bag of teeth. Instead, stock removal can be achieved quickly and easily through sanding or grinding. In this example I am using a belt sander, but a cheap bench grinder will do the trick as well.

When grinding, be sure to apply even pressure and keep stopping to check the file. Observe the plane that the belt sander makes and adjust the angle you grind accordingly. Go slowly. It’s very easy to grind away more than you intended. (Remember: you can always remove more material, but you can’t add it back on.)

Be sure to keep a small dish of water nearby too: the steel heats up quickly, so it is critical that you keep it cool by regularly dunking it in water. If it gets too hot a rainbow will appear on the steel, signifying that you have ruined the temper. This will significantly shorten the life of this file. So again: be patient and go slow.

This file now has the perfect angle. If you wanted to get fancy, you can sand and polish this new safe edge up as well. Simply sand the smooth spot on progressively finer grits of sandpaper until you get to 600, then hit it on the buffing wheel with some white diamond.

Whether it is a task specific shaping or simply adding a new safe side, altering your files can save you a lot of time and headaches!


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