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I made a little video on how to round metal edges.

Which Files Should I Purchase.

Question

“I have been doing a lot of research on files to see what would be best to use with brass, copper, and other metals to fix all of my wonky edges. There is so much information out there and all sorts of varying opinions that I have just managed to confuse myself. I want to buy files that will hold up throughout the years, but on the other end I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a file set. I know they come in different levels of coarseness as well as shapes and I really don’t know what levels be best for this kind of work. Any chance you could point out files (and brands if possible) that you feel are a necessity and some that would be beneficial when working with metal?”

Answer

file-anatomy

I’m working on a page on files.  It is so extensive and it’s taking me forever.  I’ll announce, on Facebook, when it’s up.  This is a huge subject.  Huge.  I’m going to give you the briefest explanation that I can – although, it’s a webpage in itself!
Friedrich Dick and Glardon Valtitan are good brands.  Try not to buy the cheap Indian or Pakistani made ones:  the teeth aren’t consistent, the steel isn’t good, they are not well made tools and they don’t last or do a good job!
Files come in different cuts.  Briefly and basically, you’ll want at least two cuts.  Cuts can be measured by the American system:  1, 2 and 3.  Cut 1: is called coarse/bastard cut and is used for rough work – your first steps in shaping. They remove a lot of material. Cut 2: AKA Middle/half smooth.  These are for moderate removal of material – you can probably skip this one – although, it is ideal to have all three as they create graduated marks – like sandpaper grits. Cut 3: These are aka fine/smooth and are for finishing or for areas where you want to remove just a little material.
single-double-cut  Files also come in single and double cuts (double cuts have two rows of crossing teeth and are very aggressive).  There are other types of cuts but, jeweler’s don’t usually use them like rasps, etc.
Make sure that you purchase metal files and not wood files – the steel is harder.
Files are also measured by the German and Swiss numbering system.  To streamline this, let’s just say that the higher the number, the finer the cut.  The Swiss system has more grades than the German and both have more cuts than the American.
file-shapes  There are so many types of files and, yep, you’re right – they’re costly.  I just spent almost 200.00 on 5 of them. I have over 65 files (just did a rough head count!)  and I use almost all of them.  You need to choose files that will fit the type of work that you are going to do.
  • Are you working in tight spaces?  Purchase a small set of escapement or needle files.  Escapement files are about the same size as needles but, the cutting area is smaller  A round, square, triangular (aka: three square), 1/2 round and a barrette are a good start.  The barrette has only one cutting surface so, it’s awesome for not filing away surrounding areas.  I like them for stone setting and cleaning up prongs.
  • If you are making hinges, making prong settings or other types of jewelry where you will need consistent, even grooves, purchase a few joint files.  They only have a cutting surface on their rounded edges.  They come in sizes that are approximately sized to the most common metal gauges.
  • It’s a good idea to have two big hand files on hand.  I have a single cut that is a medium cut and a double cut which is a rough cut.  These are great for squaring metal and removing lots of it.  I use it to straighten and square edges on metal, polymer clay (baked), metal clay, etc.  I like them large because I don’t have to make many strokes because they are really long.  Having them wide is also awesome for when you’re trying to remove a lot of metal on, let’s say a metal box.  Here’s a little video I made showing me using my big girl file.  Here’s a size comparison of a needle, habilis and hand file.  habilis-files
  • Habilis files are bigger than needle files but, are smaller than hand files.  I like habilis files – they remove a lot of metal but, they aren’t as big and bulky as a hand file.
  • A ring file is great for cleaning up insides of rings.  It is basically a half round file and can be used for many other things.
Since this is such an extensive subject, I’m going to stop here.  My advice is:  when you encounter a situation where you think: “I wish I had a file that…” then that is the time to buy one.  The more experienced you become, the more you will encounter those situations.  I’d get a few needles, a few habilis, two hand files and a ring file.  Of course, if hinges or basket settings are in your future, you might want to consider the joint file too.
In a world where we have every tool and the money to buy them, you’ld have every file, in every cut but, I don’t know many who live in this world.
Another thing:  don’t throw all of your files in a drawer together.  They shouldn’t rub against each other.  The jostling can break the teeth and make your files dull before their time.  file-card  Also, invest in a file card or file brush – basically a brush that removes metal from the file’s teeth.  Even though they don’t look like they can, they can even clean needle files.  You can also use a hard bristle toothbrush for cleaning out your files.
You can buy or make handles for your files.  Saves your hands.  You can use either polymer clay, Jett Sett aka Jett Plastiform to make your own.  You’ll need a clay dedicated toaster oven for the polymer.  The Jett Sett and Plastiform are warmed in hot water then shaped.
magnetic-file-storage  Here’s an image of my weird (I made it) file storage for SOME of my small files. The others I keep in either silverware separators or in my pvc-glued together tubes.  file-storage-with-PVC
Simonds has a great PDF on files.  Nicholson tool has a good pdf too.