A file is a metalworking tool used to remove unwanted burrs or blemishes on metal surfaces and edges. Also used to enlarge holes or create channels.
Using a Jeweller’s File
Files are made of tempered steel and have forward-facing cutting teeth.
It is a good idea to have specific files for working with different metals as remnants of steel and lead can taint precious metals when they are annealed or pickled.
To clean, tap the file against a wooden surface to dislodge any loose debris or use a brass brush to clear the teeth of lemel.
File Types, Cuts and Numbering
A single-cut file has one set of parallel teeth while a cross-cut or double-cut file has a second set of cuts forming diamond shaped cutting surfaces.
In Swiss-pattern files the teeth are cut at a shallower angle, and are graded by number. Swiss Pattern files are available in seven cuts, ranging in coarseness from ØØ to No. 6, with No. 6 being the finest cut. Made to exacting measurements, these files are smaller and finer than American Pattern files.
Swiss Pattern files are usually between 75mm and 150mm long, and are available in a wide range of fine cuts. With teeth that extend to the edge and narrow points for working in tight areas, Swiss Pattern files are ideal for detailed work, often used by jewellers, watchmakers, model makers, and tool and die makers. etc.
American Pattern files are available in three grades of cut: Bastard, Second Cut and Smooth. The length of a file also affects the coarseness, regardless of the cut. For example a 6″ Bastard Cut is a lot finer than a 12″ Bastard Cut. This is because shorter files are generally used for finer work. Overall, the finest would be a 4″ Smooth file and the coarsest would be a 16″ Bastard file. The relationship between the grades of coarseness for each length remains the same.
Hand files can be either American Pattern or Swiss Pattern. These files are most often sold individually but are also available in sets that contain the most popular styles. American pattern files are commonly used for larger jobs and rapid removal of material as they tend to be more industrial in nature.
Most files have a narrow, tapered tang at one end to which a handle can be fitted. The tang can also be used to hold the file in a vise to free up your hands.
Needle files shape and smooth areas that are unreachable with the larger hand files. A common mistake made by jewellers is using too coarse of a needle file. A #2 cut needle file is too coarse for jewellery work. It leaves deep file marks in the metal, which are difficult to remove from the tight spaces where needle files are used. When attempting to remove them the clean straight edges or contours developed by filing are lost, resulting in a mediocre job.
A #4 cut needle file should be saved for times where heavy filing is needed in tight areas. A #6 cut needle file is used for general filing. Often a jeweller can go straight to polishing with tripoli after using a #6 file. This will save not only time but also reduce waste material. More importantly, the clean straight edges, contours, and sharp corners produced with the file are not lost in the sanding process. This results in a more professional looking finished piece of jewelry.
- Cut 2 (Course- medium, 38 teeth per cm)
- Cut 3 (Medium, 46 teeth per cm)
- Cut 4 (Fine, 56 teeth per cm)
- Cut 6 (Very Fine, 84 teeth per cm)
Riffler files are small to medium sized files approximately 150mm long available in an assortment of profiles and cross sectional shapes.
With their long square section central handle and wide choice of shapes, Rifflers are for working surfaces and contours which are hard to access. Particularly recommended for engravers, carvers and goldsmiths also used by die makers, silversmiths and for intricate woodcarving.
Diamond files have small particles of industrial diamonds electroplated onto a base of steel instead of having their teeth cut into the surface of the file.
Ideal for working with ceramics, glass, hard and ultra-hard materials such as hardened steel. They are especially effective for filing carbide which is too hard for standard steel files.
They are available in a range of sizes, shapes and grits and can be found on our web site here:
Not all of these file types are used in jewellery making, but this gives you an indication of the wide range of applications that files can be used for:
- Crossing files are half round on two sides with one side having a larger radius than the other. Tapered in width and thickness. For filing interior curved surfaces. The double radius makes possible filing at the junction of two curved surfaces or a straight and curved surface.
- Joint round edge files are parallel in width and thickness, with rounded edges. The flats are safe (no teeth) and cut on the rounded edges only. Used for making joints and hinges.
- Barrette files are tapered in width and thickness, coming to a rounded point at the end. Only the flat side is cut, and the other sides are all safe. For doing flat work.
- Checkering files parallel in width and gently tapered in thickness. They have teeth cut in a precise grid pattern, and are used for making serrations and doing checkering work, as on gunstocks.
- Crochet files are tapered in width and gradually tapered in thickness, with two flats and radiused edges, cut all around. Used in filing junctions between flat and curved surface, and slots with rounded edges.
- Knife files are tapered in width and thickness, but the knife edge has the same thickness the whole length, with the knife edge having an arc to it. Used for slotting or wedging operations.
- Pippin files are tapered in width and thickness, generally of a teardrop cross section and having the edge of a knife file. Used for filing the junction of two curved surfaces and making V-shaped slots.
- Half round ring files taper in width and thickness, coming to a point, and are narrower than a standard half round. Used for filing inside of rings.
- Round parallel files are similar to round files, except that they do not taper. Shaped like a toothed cylinder.
- Equalling files are parallel in width and thickness. Used for filing slots and corners.
- Slitting files are parallel in width with a diamond-shaped cross section. Thinner than knife files and use for filing slots..
- Pillar files are parallel in width and tapered in thickness for perfectly flat filing. Double cut top and bottom with both sides safe, these are long, narrow files for precision work.
- Warding files are parallel in thickness, tapered in width, and thin. Like a hand or flat file that comes to a point on the end. Used for flat work and slotting.