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Tell me about files

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  • Tell me about files

    Currently I have a mis-mash of various files that I have gotten along with pretty well so far, however I am considering adding some new ones. What files would those of you "in the know", with much experience, suggest? American or Swiss pattern? Do I need single and double cut files and why choose either? Would you choose course, medium or fine or other notation of cutting ability when referring to Swiss Pattern files for general work?

    Most of my work is done on steel and aluminum with occasional stainless work. I have chalked and oiled my files and been quite successful in preventing pinning. I use the files on the bench as well as with the lathe. Generally, I use coarser files for aluminum and finer ones for harder materials, however the fine files are sometimes used to draw file aluminum to obtain a nice finish. What is your favorite and why?

    There are probably as many file variations as opinions out there and I don't intend to open a can of worms just for the sake of argument. It is difficult for me to believe that most machinists have ALL the file types available. Your individual uses may be different than mine but your experience is priceless, so your input is greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance,

  • #2
    LOL! Files are like women and sports teams: everybody has their own opinion! If you can find a very old machinists' "Benchwork" manual, you can find loads of info about files and filing. No, I don't have a sample of them all and I think that you already have a pretty good handle on their choice and use according to the material being filed. Good luck with your quest!!



    • #3
      Pop Mech

      How to choose & use files in the Mar 1956 issue
      ( then go to the year/month)

      The July 1945 issue also had an article.

      I have a Nicholson Guide to Filing (2006ish) that came, I imagine, from the 'net but I have no url. Can send along if you wish (~500 KB, PDF)


      • #4
        Nicholson Guide

        I've got over 100 files over a full range and in most all styles. I depended on them heavily over the years before I got involved in machine tools.
        Master Floor Sweeper


        • #5
          Don't drag em backwards - that's my two cents...


          • #6
            My favorite kind of file is one that has a handle on it.

            Handles make files more comfortable to use and also make them much safer.


            THINK HARDER




            • #7
              If you're in the market to add to your collection, I suggest Nicholson's 'Magicut' files. They cut very fast but leave a good finish. I would also suggest keep them apart, with a rack or pouch or something. If they bang each other, you do not get little files, just dull ones.
              I'm here hoping to advancify my smartitude.


              • #8
                I've got quite a varied assortment I've collected over the years from big flat files down tiny rifflers in all sorts of shapes. I haven't been particularly scientific about choosing. At engine shows, if somebody was selling some oddball NOS Nicholson files, I would generally buy one. I also bought quite a few from Brownell's

                Personally, for general filing I like the parallel-sided hand files and pillar files. They have a safe edge, which is handy.
                Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
                Don't believe everything you know. -- Bumper sticker
                Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
                There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
                Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
                Don't own anything you have to feed or paint. - Hood River Blackie


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SGW
                  I also bought quite a few from Brownell's
                  Geeez, that was a frustrating experience. Those are some awful photos!
                  I'm sure they sell fine files but you can't see what you're buying. Clicking to enlarge was also useless. Good products deserve good photos and you'd think a company like Brownell's would know that. Hell, ebay sellers do a better job!


                  • #10
                    Over the years I've acumulated a large selection of files.. just kinda' picking them up along the way. I can't say that I've ever gone out and bought a "new" file. One particuliar style that I find real handy for dressing radi and smoothing concave surfaces is a fine cut "shad belly" ( also called a "crossing"). This is a form not commonly found (don't see it in the Nicholson info), curved on both faces like a half round but much larger radius and a different radius on each face AND very tapered... to a near point. So you see that you can fit into a wide varity of concave surfaces. Don't know where one might find one these days, but if you see one definatly pick it up.
                    Joe B
                    Last edited by JoeCB; 10-27-2011, 12:21 AM.


                    • #11
                      Single cut files leave a MUCH nicer finish. Great for finish filing.
                      Double cut files remove material more agressively for a given pressure (Higher pressure per tooth area)
                      Play Brutal Nature, Black Moons free to play highly realistic voxel sandbox game.


                      • #12
                        You asked for favorites. Not necessarily a favorite, but the one I use the most is a 12" fine, single cut that is usually described as a mill bastard (not sure why). I do about 80% of my filing with that one - actually I have several.

                        Next on my use list are various fine round files.

                        All of them have their uses and you really need an assortment. I would get fine files first and only get coarse ones as needed because when I file something, it is already cut fairly close to size.

                        That's my two cents worth.
                        Paul A.
                        SE Texas

                        And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
                        You will find that it has discrete steps.


                        • #13
                          I, too, have lots of files - all shapes & sizes - way over 100 if you count needle files.

                          I do the bulk of my "general" filing with a 10" mill bastard. Three of 'em hang in the rack behind my big vise. One is nearly new, one slightly worn, and one slightly damaged. When the slightly damaged one gets too bad, I take the handle off and insert a new one, promoting the others down the line toward oblivion. That way, I'm ready for whatever comes my way. I'll check "mystery metal" with the damaged one to see if it trashes the teeth before I use a good file on it.

                          I keep at least one new file of each of my 8 or so favorite shapes and sizes so I'm ready with a good one at hand if I need it. I buy 10" mill bastards a box at a time, typically waiting for a sale price and discount or shipping code from Enco. I'd rather not spend my time struggling with a dull file because for me, at least, files are cheap compared to time and effort.

                          Old dead files live again in my shop as scrapers, specialty chisels, etc.

                          Frank Ford


                          • #14
                            I have a 'dead smooth' file that gets used quite a lot. Much better finish when draw filing than a good quality 'Swiss'.

                            'Safe' edges rarely actually are. I stone or diamond hone them.
                            Paul Compton


                            • #15
                              My favorite file handles are golf balls drilled 3/4 through for the tang.