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I've never had *any* workshop training of any kind, and I lap up this kind of wisdom with gusto. Is this going to be saved and stickied somewhere safe so that people like me can easily find it and go back to it from time to time? It really is far too much to be easily digested at one sitting. I did think of printing it out, but it's 32 pages!
By kevinlightfoot
Thanks for taking the extensive time to do this,very interesting and informative,I served a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with the N.C.B.back in the sixties but changes in career made me forget a lot that I was taught including the use of files.Your tutorial not only refreshed my memory about the use of files but also reminded me of the good times spent during my apprenticeship.Many thanks once again,Kevin.
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By n0legs
Well done my friend, brilliant write up =D>
Takes me back to my days at the training school. I pick up a file these days and hear "flat and square!! file it properly boy, flat and square!!" :lol:
By heimlaga
Thanks a lot for this tutorial!

I file quite a bit whan repairing machinery so most of what you told is known to me yet I am happy that you took your time to tell it so others so they don't need to make as many misstakes as I did while learning.
The main problem to me is that most of the file types you refered to are no longer available.

Theese days there as far as I know only two decent file makers in the world.
-Pferd in Germany
-Sandvik nowadays in Portugal

The rest have closed down or became marketing names stamped on cheaply made files that cannot cut mild steel or cast iron for more than a few minutes before they are worn out.

For several years I have been searching high and low for bellied flat files to no avail. I get by using the flat side of certain half round Sandvik files that may still occasionally be bellied. When I find bellied ones I buy a bunch.
The importers say bellied half round files aren't made anymore so if that's true I must soon invent a way to cut and harden my own bellied flat files or find a way to bend factory made parallel sided flat files.
By johnnyb
Great write up! My own apprenticeship was at Royal ordinance and involved 2 weeks making a "filing test piece" . It was 1986 and we were the last apprentices taken on. We learned stuff that tbh was hopelessly outdated 5years after leaving cnc was the buzzword not filing test piece. Perfect.
Once again, thanks for all the thanks folks. So far no one has said "It's too long/boring". Perhaps they couldn't be bothered to post!

@ johnnyb. I've never heard of feteira - thanks.

@heimlaga & jonnyb: Yes, I freely admit that I'm most probably miles out of date! A lot of the files in my collection I inherited when my Dad died (1970s), and at a guess, he was buying such stuff from the 1930s onwards. Also, I had a brief "loose connection" with Sandvik in the 1970s which also "supplied" (!) a number of files in my collection.

I freely admit that not having lived in UK since the mid 1980s I have no idea what's available there these days - and I have precisely NIL knowledge of what's available in Finland, sorry.

But that Baiter set I showed in the write up was available here (Switzerland) about 10 years ago, and at a guess, I think they're still manufacturing files. But I don't know if they export at all - I don't even know who & where they are. But Vallorbe definitely does still make at least Swiss and needle files - I'm NOT pushing Swiss brands, but simply speaking about what I see in my local tools shop.

But as I suggested in my write up, I guess that files are generally less common these days than they were.

I don't really know, sorry. Personally I doubt I'll need to buy any files in my lifetime.


Edit for P.S. I've never heard of Pferd either, so thanks for that heimlaga (as I'm sure you know, "Pferd" means horse). Hence "PS" for rating engine power ("Pferde Stark" = horsepower).
By johnnyb
My guess is the sandvik will be made by tome feteira. I guess portugal is first world enough to make good uns but backward enough to be able to pay peanuts to the pool of skilled workers that make these things. Old English/american files in comparison are to soft with a loss of bite. Modern technology old skills. I've Lways found milenicut files to be outstanding with horn and hardwood especially if you sharpen them with a diamond card.
OK, thanks. I've said in the past (not on this subject) that although I may regret the out-sourcing of work to low-cost countries (from a socio-economic viewpoint), as far as I can see, from a technical viewpoint, there's no reason at all why out-sourced items can't be just as good as the originally-produced items. PROVIDED that is that A) material specs, and any heat treatments, etc, are as per original spec; B) that the manufacturing process/s are as per original; and that assembly (if any) and QC are all correctly performed.

The problem is that often (NOT always in my experience) either the original manufacturer does not monitor any/all of the above fully enough; and/or the "bean counters" have got at the production and in a "value engineering" exercise, have "down-spec'd" stuff like materials, fasteners, etc, etc.

We're on to another subject area here anyway really - but as just one example of what I mean, my Excalibur scroll saw was made in Taiwan (under contract to General International of Canada?) but as far as I can tell, it's every bit as good as if it had been made in Canada, as they were originally. It will certainly out-last my life time (but at 72 years old, that's probably not such a HUGE claim)! :D

One last point - as a lad growing up in the 1940s/50s I well remember my Dad bemoaning the "carp" often produced by then current UK manufacturers ("fings ain't what they used ter be").

Drift, sorry.


Edit for P.S. I've never had a Millenicut file, sorry, so "dunno".
By johnnyb
One example where I was wrong about outsourcing was £1 brollies. I used to rant and say they are a waste of resources because the first gust turned them inside out. It was only on a visit to Hong Kong I realised these were sun brollies! It was just strong enough for it's job. It's just it's job was not a rain brollie.
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By Robbo3
johnnyb wrote:especially if you sharpen them with a diamond card.

Which leads to how do you sharpen them & how do you tell if they are blunt, especially if you can't try them eg at a car boot sale?
By johnnyb
You want a millenicut file and a thin diamond card I use ezelap. The file is best new but can be used but not damaged chipped or rusty. Then two stroke on the top face look for the shine on the edge one stroke on the front. On all the teeth. Best to use glove or wrap the file with tape as they are sharp. Then file away. End grain hardwood bone and horn are like butter. And highly polished to.axminster sell Japanese carving files that are similar in use. Vary the angle to achieve the best result.
As you can see, "CHJ" (Chas) has kindly joined my 4 separate parts together, and in response to several requests, has also made this whole thing a sticky - i.e. it will be fixed at the top of this General Metalworking section "forever".

Thanks Chas

By Keith 66
Excellent article on files & filing, made me remember a lot of what i had learnt at school & forgotten. Also how useless todays school practical? lessons are.
One thing about different materials, If you are making jewellery & using silver you must on no account use files on silver that have been used on pewter or lead, the lead has a strong affinity for silver & any particles on the file will contaminate your silver parts leading to their ruin when you solder them together.