How long is life expectancy for files?
It depends on how you use them, and on what metals, and how you
I have my favorites and they seem to be getting duller.
That should not be a surprise. Any cutting tool will get duller with
I had thought when you spent the money for good on es they would
last a long time.
Again, this is relative. Good quality well made files last longer,
with the same use, than poor quality ones, and even more importantly,
well made ones will generally give you faster more uniform cutting.
But ANY cutting tool will dull over time with use. "a long time"
merely depends on how you use them, and how you define a long time.
Some files are harder than others, and they may last longer,
especially with harder to file metals (platinum comes to mind…)
It should be mentioned too, that high price does not always equate
to the longest lasting file. It generally means the most uniform and
high quality cutting, and consistency from one file to the next. But
just because a file is low cost doesn’t mean it won’t also perform
well. Some of my favorite and longest lasting files were a cheap
closeout special from Allcraft a few years ago. Five bucks each for
Polish made hand files. Great quality, as good or better than any
Grobet file I’ve paid through the nose for, and they’re still going
strong after at least five years of daily use.
And I’ve got some large coarser (bastard cut) machine files that I
got from MSC a couple decades ago, which are still cutting just fine,
though they get only infrequent use (they’re pretty coarse.) Good for
some things, especially roughing in a wax model, but also larger
metal filing jobs. Those puppies were Chinese made, and reasonably
well made. Worth a lot more to me than the fifty cents each (in a
bulk purchase of 50 assorted files) they cost.
Is there an easier way to clean them than using nitric acid?
Wow. If you’re using nitric acid to clean your files, then I
understand why they’re not lasting very long. Nitric acid etches the
steel. Probably more quickly than it would attack the residue of
metals caught in the teeth. That’s a quick way to destroy a file. If
a file is already dull, as a recent thread in the list discussed, you
can get back a certain degree of sharpness with a careful acid etch.
But it’s not as durable as the original cut teeth, and it certainly
is not a way to clean your files.
Coarser files can be easily cleaned with a file card, which is a
specially made wire brush intended for exactly that use. Finer teeth
files, too fine for a file card, can still be cleaned with a fine
wire brush, or the finer rotary brushes for flex shafts. Doesn’t
always work well, but sometimes it does. Using the edge or corner of
a scrap of copper or brass to stroke (or even strike) along the file
teeth can remove much of the stuck residue, and a sharp pin will dig
out stubborn bits. An ultrasonic cleaner is relatively effective, in
some cases, at cleaning files with little work. Steam cleaners also
often do a decent job. In both cases, be sure the file is carefully
and fully dried so it doesn’t then rust.
Some files, like the FB Dick yellow tang files, are specially
surface treated so metal residue doesn’t stick as much. Especially
marketed for platinum, but good with other metals too. And they’re a
bit harder, so they last well.
You can also rub the teeth of a clean file with chalk or talc, which
helps to prevent metal residue from sticking to the file as much.
I don't use them every day.
Make sure they’re stored so that each file doesn’t get rubbed or
banged against the other files in storage, if you want the longest
Thanks for your advice.
You’re welcome, of course.