File Clogged with Gold

Hello everyone,

I used my number 4 file to do some work on 22kt. yellow gold, now my
file is clogged with the gold. The normal bristle brush I usually use
does not touch it, neither does a the point of a needle or pin. Any

Looking through the tools catalogue I noticed small brass and steel
wheels that will of course spin when put into a flex shaft, perhaps
they might be effective???

Thank you in advance for any advice.

  now my file is clogged with the gold. 

Hi Laurie,

Place your file in vinegar in a glass jar overnight, and brass brush
it. You can then retreve the gold after it settles down.


Hi Laurie

I have a goofy thing I do to get the wax sludge out of my wax files,
and I have used it on my gold files with reasonable success. Get a
can of compressed air, it’s often used to clean computers. The
propellant in these cans is super cold. Turn the can upside down and
spray the file face. You will get a blast of white vapor coming from
the can. It will freeze the file surface almost instantly. The gold
particles seem to shrink a bit more than metal file teeth, and after
a good tapping, you should be able to get lots of the gold filings
out with a fine file card (cleaner). Be careful not to get any of the
propellant on your bare skin as it will freeze burn you.


I used my number 4 file to do some work on 22kt. yellow gold, now
my file is clogged with the gold. 

Try an ultrasonic cleaner, followed by, if you have it, a steam
cleaner. Usually one or the other will do the trick.

You can use the very sharp point of a sewing needle or something,
but that’s tedious in the extreme, as you have to run it down each
and every tooth. And with the finest grade files, even that gets
tricky. Sometimes you can take a piece of soft brass or copper, and
“strike” it parallel with the teeth, so that the teeth press grooves
into the edge of the soft metal. You’re going with the teeth, so the
brass or copper isn’t cut, but being pressed into the shape of the
teeth, it can get down into them a bit. You do this usually with
something like the corner of a piece of heavy sheet metal, or
something like that, so the copper or brass piece is an edge (so it
gets cut into) that extends across the width of several of the file
teeth. Not perfect, and works better with coarser files, but try it.
Might do it for you. Sorry for the probably garbled explanation…



Ancient silversmith’s trick for unsticking files: (Works great on
needle files too) Take a piece of scrap copper or brass sheet about
16 ga, (or whatever’s handy) and chop it into a long (finger length)
strip about 10MM wide. You want a flat end on it. Rub the end
sideways across the file, with the ‘grain’ of the teeth. Let the
teeth guide it across the file. The idea here is to rub the metal
along the ridge of the teeth so that the ridges cut their way into
the scrap metal and create grooves. While the teeth are busy making
grooves, the remaining metal will be turning into fingers reaching
down between the teeth. Do that down towards the bottom of the file
where it’s clean, then start using it up higher to rake the gold out
from between the teeth. It shouldn’t take more than a minute to
clean out your average 6" file. This works especially well with fine
silver and copper, which like to really jam themselves into files.

You can do this with anything, the end of a piece of heavy wire,
random silver scrap, or whatever’s laying around. The important part
is to run the tool with the ‘grain’ of the teeth so that they form
the set of grooves you need to get down into the bottom of the tooth
grooves. The really nice thing is that the teeth will perfectly fit
whatever file you use it on, every time.

Brian Meek.

Laurie, prepare your files by filing on some white chalk…it
will help it from clogging

Hi Laurie,

The best way to clean your file is with a copper coin or disk. Hold
it so that the edge is at right angles to the teeth and leaning about
45 or 60 degrees to the vertical and push it across the file along
the length of the teeth. After a couple of pushes, the edge of the
coin will become serrated with sharp points which will bulldoze the
gold out of the teeth. This has been described before on Orchid
(probably better) so a trawl of the archives should prove fruitful;
however, I think I should also try to add a page on file care to the
files page on my website - when I do I’ll post the URL to the list.
In the meantime, you can greatly reduce the clogging of your files by
rubbing them with chalk before use.

Best Wishes

Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

You know…this brass strip/coin trick works for single cut files
(I’ve used it on larger ones) but what about double cut (criss-cross)

I’ve always had good results with what is known as a “welder’s
toothbrush” on my larger files, but my finely double-cut needle
files gunk up when I use them on silver and cause a lot of &^! …

The chalk trick does help, though…

Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)


You’ve received some good advice about your clogged file, but I’d
also like to throw out a suggestion. You may want to consider using
sandpaper, as opposed to files, when possible. I know that there are
times when you have to get into a tight place, need an exceptionally
flat area or otherwise find that you have to use a file, but if you
are finishing a shank or other broad surface area, sandpaper will
give you faster results. As you’ve seen high karat gold is pretty
sticky and an even better candidate for sandpaper, as is platinum.

Generally I use a 0 or 00 needle or ring file and then go to 320
grit paper. If I’m working on platinum I’ll go through many grits of
paper and end up at 4/0 paper, if gold, I usually stop at either 400
or 600 depending on how much time I want to spend at the buffing
machine, which, if it were up to me would be the least amount of
time possible.

Here’s how I use sandpaper, if you’re interested. Using some
different shapes of wood trim (round dowels, for inside shanks;
triangular trim; and a couple of different sizes of rectangular) cut
them down long enough to fit the paper and have four or five inches
left over for a handle. Tape a couple of pieces of sandpaper
together and tape one side to the wood. As you roll the paper around
the wood that has sharp angles score the paper using the edge of the
wood as a guide. This will ensure that the edges are sharp and allow
you to sand right up to the edge of sharp corners. Use either rubber
bands or tape at both ends of the stick to secure the paper and as
the paper is worn down either tear the paper off or remove the
rubber bands and unroll to the next unused level.

Hope this helps,


We do that in class and then put the discarded sandpaper in the
refinery box.


The added beauty of Larry’s suggestion is that (if you use a
refiner), the used paper can be sent to the refiner with all your
other bits and pieces.

Phyllis Hewitt
J.A. Henkel Casting Co.

You know...this brass strip/coin trick works for single cut files
(I've used it on larger ones) but what about double cut
(criss-cross) teeth.....?

Hi Gary,

Simple, you do it twice - once in the direction of the ‘upcut’ teeth
and once in the direction of the ‘overcut’ teeth. You also mention
the ‘welders toothbrush’ - it is not a good idea to use this or
filecarding to clean the teeth of small files. The reason is that
the bristles of these are made of hardened (springy) steel and they
rapidly dull the edge of the file teeth. Such things are really
intended for the large coarse files that engineers and plumbers use
where the bristles easily fit between the teeth but, with our sizes
of file, the teeth are often closer spaced that the thickness of the
bristles and so the effect of using the brush is to pound the
delicate tips of the teeth with hard steel ‘rods’ as each bristle
springs and snaps from one tooth to the next. Using a coin or brass
disk is far safer and will make your files last longer. Its also a
good thing to make a habit of cleaning all your files regularly as
there is nothing more frustrating than getting part way through a
job and finding that the next file you pick up is clogged and not
cutting properly; having to stop to clean it or, worse, changing to
another file that isn’t quite right for the job, can disrupt the
whole creative process or, in the case of changing files, lead to
errors which ruin the project.

Best Wishes

Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

I prefer using a retractible brass brush. Extend the bristles just a
tiny bit, and scrub the debris away.

It’s by far the most efficient method I’ve found. Have a great
weekend, gang!

Kate Wolf, from Portland Maine hosting wicked good workshops by the

How is a short dip in the UltraSonic for clearing out file clogs?


We always kept a piece of silver stock handy that was about 3/4 inch
wide X 1/2 inch thick X 4 inches long and used it to clean the
clogged files. The shop mgr. would drag it along the file in much the
same way you use a file card and the gold would come out. Use your
muscles ! If it’s too densely clogged we used a corundum point
mounted in a pin vise. Much better than the old aqua-regia recipe!

Margie Mersky Wax Models - Miniature Sculptures - see our amazingly detailed animals. - try this incredible wax.

Hey Ian

an even better use of your copper coin is go to a scrap yard and buy
yourself a short piece of copper tubing (for the copper coin
(grin)), cut a slit in one end of the tube and hammer it out flat,
round off the other end for comfort. Now you have a "file cleaner"
with a nice handle on it. I showed this to a friend and he became so
hooked on the idea, that he made these “file tools” in bunches and
sold them to his students. (Personally I prefer to teach my students
to make them.)

Kind regards from Niels on Bornholm/Denmark, where we are
experiencing the most beautiful indian summer I can remember.

Hi, Kate Wolf’s suggestion that she uses a retractable brass brush
(the kind that looks like a pencil) reminded me that I don’t
remember seeing anyone mention my regular file cleaning tool. I
learned the chalk pre-treatment from Fred Fenster and try to make a
point of doing it when I get a new file, which seems especially
susceptible to clogging. My regular file cleaning tool is a coarse
brass brush. I buy the brass brushes sold from places like Harbor
Freight, or at the hardware store. I also find them at the grocery
store sometimes, especially in the shoe care section, where they are
sold for cleaning suede shoes.

Cynthia Eid

I don’t often work in gold. When silver clogs my files I patiently
use xacto knife blade tip and run it along the grooves of the file
under the silver. Takes a little longer but does not contaminate the
silver with other material. Any steel can be removed from the silver
with a magnet.

Lee Epperson

Well, I guess I’ll add in one of my favorite methods for cleaning my
6" files…

I use an empty rifle cartridge case. Long ones like 30.06 caliber.
Squash the end flat. You’ve got plenty to hang onto. It’s brass,
which is harder than copper. Once formed to fit the teeth of #2 or #4
files - I scratch that number onto the case for future use.

Might be a bit difficult to come by in England… perhaps find
someone in the military to pick up a handful of expended cases. Here,
if you don’t shoot, you can purchase brand new empty ones for about
$10 a box, or pick’em up for free around firing ranges.

Thin walled brass tubing would do the same thing. I just use the
cartridge cases’cause they are around - and free.

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA USA

Hi Laurie,

I use a combination of the things. Peter Rowe method of using a
piece of copper is how you start to clean a clogged file. The copper
conforms to the teeth and acts as stiff file brush.

Before you start to file next time, get yourself a bottle of cutting
lube used in milling steel. The stuff that not oil based. Dip the
file in it and wipe the excess off.

You will be able to file away for while, till the filing build up.
You can then brush them away with just a brass brush. When left on
the file this liquid can form a waxy build up. So you get out the
copper and just start all over again. You might find that you files
last longer also.

Jim Zimmerman
Alpine Custom Jewellers & Repair