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Woodworking Files

David Rosales

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This is one tool that really confuses me (along with bow saws). But I have a flat and a half round file I got at a used tools store. I think they’re junk and don’t work very well. 

Looking at the different files out there and there seem to be different labeling systems for coarseness and pattern and it’s a bit confusing to me.

Will someone recommend a specific product you like? I’m looking for a single cut flat file and a cross cut file. Derber recommends 0-cut for both. 

While we’re on the topic, rasps. Get it or skip it?

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I mostly use 00 Swiss pattern files (Grobet). and sometimes #1. Instead of finer files, these days I buy fancy fingernail files from the beauty shop. The type that have about 3 mm of sponge in the middle with several different grits on one file. I use the coarser ones.

A definite yes to rasps. I use those more than files.

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The used files you got are probably pretty dull.  You won’t believe how much better a sharp file works until you try one.  New files are expensive, and, cheapskate that I am, I dislike spending what they cost for what appears to be simply a crude hunk of metal.  But a sharp file makes a huge difference.

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As for saws for sawing out plates and necks I recommend a table top band saw,  they're not too expensive at Lowes or home depot.  They have decent rasps and files too, not as good as grobet but a lot less expensive if you're on a budget. 

 I have a gramercy bow saw and it works but I think the blade is too thin and delicate for thick maple. 


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2 hours ago, David Stiles said:

I have found the small razor files from Stewmac very useful.  They cut aggressively like a raspb but leave a smooth surface. 


Those appear to be similar to (re)sharpened new files. New files are duller because they are heat treated after the teeth are formed so quick sharpening makes them work much better. I've seen several DIY methods of chemical etching to sharpen older files. Never tested them but they can work as I know folks who used it. The company that Michael D mentioned uses different process.

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Regarding the Stewmac files:  they're available elsewhere at a fraction of Stewmac's price.  Look up "Iwasaki files" at Lee Valley and Highland Woodworking.  I have two or three of them, and I love them.  The shape of the half-round ones is a cylindrical section--no tapers or radius changes--so there are some limitations there.  They all have safe edges, which I like.  

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On 11/10/2022 at 6:48 PM, Michael Darnton said:

And new files that have been sharpened are even better, but I don't remember the guy's name. . . .  Don't do it yourself; it's not the same.

Ah, here he is:  https://boggstool.com/

I disagree - soaking files in White Vinegar purchased at the Grocery Store works well to 'sharpen' files. Moreover, I use the leftover solution as a dye for wood and leather (sometime called Vinegaroon). This solution can be used to 'Ebonize' wood. When used on Curly Maple, it helps the bring out the chatoyancy of the curl. 

Some folk use Sulfuric or Muriatic Acid to sharpen files, but I think Distilled White Vinegar is just fine

There are many postings on both subjects  - File Sharpening and Wood/Leather Dying - just search the Web. 

It's a simple process; it is recommended to clean the files to get rid of oil and debris, but other than a quick brushing with a brass wire hand brush, I usually just put the files in the vinegar bath, straight away. After soaking for a while, I'll then give the files a good brushing with the aforementioned brass wire brush, then keep the files in the bath for a day or three.

Once finished with the vinegar bath, I soak the files in a bath of baking soda, then use a (old) toothbrush to get into the files teeth so as to kill the acid and keep the files from rusting.

Dry, then spray on a coating of WD40. 

I've used this on most of my files at one time or another, even my prized vintage Nicholson #50 Rasp - most of the time they cut as when new.  I've even done this with some dull-from-the-factory Chinese and Indian Files and they seem to cut better afterwards.  

The most recent addition to my File Collection was a couple of vintage Grobet 8" Vulcanite/Vulcrylic FIles scored on Ebay for $4 (woot! woot!)

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6 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

Have you had/tried files sharpened by the other method linked to by Michael?

Yes, many years ago - Boggs Sharpening service has been around a long time. In fact, they are local to me.

They were the 'go to' place for cutting tool sharpening when Manufacturing was big in SoCal. 

I've been thinking about using them to sharpen some end mills, but it's probably cheaper to replace them now. 

Using Vinegar to sharpen files that aren't too worn out or abused is very economical for me - "Time I got, extra money I don't". Moreover, it's a two-fer; My files are sharpened and I get a dye to color Maple and Leather. 



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Corradi, for files and rasps. I have been preaching this for ages. I steered you right with the Karlssons, you can trust me on this too

Also, +1 on the iwasaki files. 

My kit, as a maker only, is simple

Corradi 10" "gold precision " cabinet rasp (flat on one side, radiused on the other

8" iwasaki fine flat

6" iwasaki extra fine flat

6" corradi 00 hand file

6" corradi 00 crossing file

Corradi crossing needle file

Various corradi mouse tails

Glass "crystal" nail file. Extremely fine, cuts in all directions. Very handy for evening scroll and plate chamfers, leaves a nice finish. 

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  • 1 month later...

I just sent a Grobet half-round six-inch 00 cut to Boggs tool.   It came back absolutely gorgeous.

They billed me

$3.30 for the sharpening and $9,20 for shipping back to me.   (And if I sent it to them the same way, it would be another $9.20.)

About $22.   Much chaper than replacing the file.   (And I get the warm feeling of re-using rather than replacing.)

Dave GOlber

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