Jeweler’s Files: Filing Tips and Tricks for a Professional Finish
Removing Metal in a Hurry
The Benhams offer their best tips on choosing the right jeweler’s files for the job, other tools they find helpful when filing, and how to remove metal efficiently.
Metalsmiths often experience difficulty generating a long edge that is flat, straight, and square when using traditional jeweler’s files. Contrary to the method typically taught — instead of bringing the file to the metal we bring the metal to the file. We use a large Nicholson 14″ single cut mill file when we want to remove a lot of metal in a hurry. We place the file flat on top of the workbench with the tang snug against the left side of the workbench, then, using both hands to hold the metal in a vertical position, pull to the left along the cutting surface of the file. Lift the metal at the end of the stroke then reposition and stroke again.
Look at the edge of the metal — is it in one smooth plane? If not, reverse the metal so you are still working on the same edge and stroke again. Repeat. Check again. This method generates a long, flat, square edge in a fraction of the time of the traditional method. Especially convenient when filing the long edge of bracelet blanks. Always keep in mind that a file only cuts in the forward stroke, which we accomplish in this position.
If you are working on all four sides you may wish to make a mark once each side is filed flat and smooth. Another hand tool that is useful when filing is a steel machinist square that will confirm that your corners are square and perpendicular.
When not in use we store the file in a protective cover constructed of a used manila folder. The covered file fits in our toolbox for travel to workshops.
If the workshop only has tables, we clamp a piece of wood to the table with a C-clamp as a stop to snug the tang against.
This single cut mill file is one of the 10 tools mentioned in our “You Mean We Can Only Pick 10?” article published in the July 2006 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. [https://www.interweave.com/store/jewelry/jewelry-magazines/jewelry-magazines-lapidary-journal-jewelry-artist/2006-lapidary-journal-jewelry-artist-collection-download]
Favorite 6” Hand Files
Here’s a photo of our two favorite 6” hand files for filing and truing up edges before sanding. We use the angled side of the bench pin when filing. Remember, no air filing, it is a waste of effort. You need to brace the piece so the file can do its work.
Barrette files are an excellent choice for getting into smaller areas. They are excellent finishing tools because of the tapered design that features teeth on the flat side only with a smooth wedge-shaped top side that prevents marring adjacent surfaces. Especially helpful for smoothing pierced areas and prongs. They come in a wide variety of sizes and cuts.
At the other end of the spectrum we go to our needle files for extremely tight spots, especially tiny pierced areas. There is even a tiny barrette file in this set — see the far left in the photo.
When it comes to purchasing files we urge quality over quantity. The Swiss and German files are more expensive but they are top quality and will last a lifetime if taken care of properly.
Note: In case you are curious about the blue coloration on our files, it is blue carpenter’s chalk, which we discuss in our lead-off tip, Care and Feeding of Files, in our Ask The Experts column in the November 2016 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. https://www.interweave.com/store/jewelry/jewelry-magazines/jewelry-magazines-lapidary-journal-jewelry-artist/lapidary-journal-jewelry-artist-november-2016-digital-download
Tom & Kay
Tom & Kay Benham are Contributing Editors to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and author its Ask the Experts column. Have a question for them? Please leave a comment below.
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