Hand-Finishing Metal: Lexi’s Favorite Jewelry-Making Files and What They Do

By Lexi Erickson, Contributing Editor to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and Jewelry Making Daily

Doesn’t every jewelry maker own 2 dozen files?

Lexi Erickson's favorite files and what they do

Do you remember when you first started making jewelry? Did you have a favorite tool? I know I did, and it was the very tool my teacher said I would never need: my first #0 Grobet half-round file.

My #0 Grobet file was a gift from my husband (yes, I know, one of those nerdy things!). I proudly showed it to my teacher, and he glanced disdainfully at it and said, “What a waste of money. You will never use it. You will never need anything but a #2.”

jewelry-making files

Sadly, I went back to the supply store and asked if I could exchange it for a #2. The owner asked why, and I told him what my teacher had said, and he said, “HE said THAT? This is the one I use the most. If you haven’t used it in a month, I’ll exchange it.” So being a very confused beginner, I took it home, not sure if that was the right decision or not, because as a beginner you don’t know these things.

learn to properly store your jewelry-making files

Two days later, while sawing out a difficult (for a newbie) floral design, I wondered if the #0 file would be quicker to file away my amateur sawing. After all, the salesman had said it was for the “rapid removal of metal” . . . and Holy Saw Blade, Batman! It made my clean up so much faster and neater. So I kept it, and when I went back to the store, I told him how much I appreciated his advice. It has served me well over the years, probably because my least favorite thing is sawing, so I tend to do it quickly–and sometimes not so neatly. Therefore, my #0 jewelry-making file became my best friend–such a best friend that I still have that same file, and um . . . I now own several #0 jewelry-making files . . . OK, maybe eight of them. Actually I have a phobia of not having one. (Be honest, some of you have a phobia of not having enough of something, I know you do. You’re jewelers.)

So I went along blissfully happy for a number of years, using my #0 and #2 files, and sanding the edges of my work to remove saw and file marks . . . and then one day, while soaking in a hot bath and reading my favorite reading material–a jewelry supply catalog–I saw a #4 file. Out of curiosity, and being flush from a recent show, I ordered one . . . and fell in love with the smoothness of it and the look it gave the edges of my pieces. It was a bit pricey but soooooo worth it, especially for someone who loves hand-finishing their pieces. A #4 became my new best friend.

tiny jewelry-making files

Then one day, while speaking with Tevel at Allcraft Tools, I mentioned using a #4 file, and he innocently asked, “Have you ever used a #6 file, and what do you think about it?” Well that piqued my interest, so sure enough, one #6 file ordered. When it came, it felt like velvet! I was perfectly happy just sitting at my bench and fondling my file . . . but one day I figured out I would have to see what it did to the metal. Oh MAN! It makes the edges look burnished and gives that little bit of elegant shine that a burnisher does . . . but even more. And to use a small #6 on a few little details on the top of a piece just makes the piece smile at you.

Yes, I will now say that the #6 is my absolutely favorite file, hands down, and I watch my #6 files like a hawk when my students use them, for they are expensive . . . but like Cristal Champagne . . . so worth it.

Lexi's hand-finishing tools

Lexi’s tiny 3-inch #6 Grobet file with other favorite hand-finishing tools.

Be good to yourself and try one. You, too, just might be hooked. And my absolute very favorite file? It’s a tiny 3-inch Barrett #6. I share it with you in my new filing DVD, Jewelry Filing: How to Choose, Use, and Care for Your Files. If you love hand finishing, filing, and want to know all about jewelry-making files, their shapes and their uses, cleaning your files, and more than you ever thought you’d want to know about  jewelry-making files, please check it out. It’s worth it just to watch me get all gushy over my little #6!

It’s such a cute little file. Maybe it’s a connoisseur’s file, and it may be a bit snooty to pull one out in class, but I do share it with my students. If you hand finish your metal jewelry, you will love it as much as I love mine, and the difference it makes in your work is amazing. I hand finish every piece I make with my tiny #6. One time I thought I had lost it, and I swear, I tore my studio apart, only to find it in my traveling file case (which is really a paint brush case made to transport brushes). Whew!

learn to clean and care for your jewelry-making files with Lexi

So I hope you enjoy my new DVD, Jewelry Filing: How to Choose, Use, and Care for Your Files (also available in an instant download). It was a blast to make this DVD, because I didn’t have to solder something on camera and hope I wouldn’t melt it! Yes, I still melt a bezel every now and then. Yes, I do.

So until next time, happy filing and hand finishing . . .

Creatively yours,

create florentine and other textures with jewelry-making files

Order Lexi’s new DVD, Jewelry Filing: How to Choose, Use, and Care for Your Files, or download her new filing video instantly and skip the wait and shipping charges! If you’d like to get even more expert filing instruction in print and video, along with a #2 Grobet half-round file and a set of mini files, get the Deluxe Jewelry Filing Collection at a very special value!

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