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Life expectancy for files


#1

How long is life expectancy for files? I have my favorites and they
seem to be getting duller. I had thought when you spent the money
for good on es they would last a long time. Is there an easier way to
clean them than using nitric acid? I don’t use them every day.
Thanks for your advice.

Barbara


#2
How long is life expectancy for files? 

It depends on how you use them, and on what metals, and how you
store them.

I have my favorites and they seem to be getting duller. 

That should not be a surprise. Any cutting tool will get duller with
use.

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
life.

Thanks for your advice. 

You’re welcome, of course.

Peter Rowe


#3

The life of a file depends on many things, including proper care and
usage. Obviously, a steel file’s life depends on what it’s being used
on, but many people do not clean their files very oftyen or even own
a file card (cleaning tool). I’ve seen people throw their files in a
pile or in a box, with all the files banging together, a sure
guarantee of damage.

Ultimately, a file needs resharpening, and that is usually done with
dilute nitric acid in the hands of someone who knows what they are
doing. For my own purposes, I invested in a an extensive set of
diamond files with “safe” sides and they have been with me for over
ten years now, no re-sharpening, they cut in both directions equally
well and only need to be carded when I am done with them. I keep
them on a magnetic bar at my bench so they never bang into one
another or other tools.

One of the better investments I’ve made.

Wayne Emery
www.thelittlecameras.com


#4

follow Peter but you may want to add this for storage :

http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=1197/Product/GUNWRAP_trade__PAPER
http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=1207/Product/RUST_BLOX_VAPOR_TABS

jesse


#5

Barabara

As the old adage goes, “if you don’t use anything…it will last
forever”…Well here is the revised comment, if you use a file often
enough, just like all things, it will get worn down. No matter how
infrequent this file is used overtime everything will wear down.

Remember that everything that a jeweller uses, will slowly get worn.
The files never keep their pristine condition. My shelf-life of files
is usually about a year+ in time.

For an investment of about $35.00 for a needle-file that’s about 10
cents a day over a period of one year. To keep them virtually clean,
I use steam to remove any between-the-teeth build-up of crud…

Gerry!


#6
ome 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. 

Ahhhhhhh…

Peter, you ran into Polish files, too…

They seem almost to come, and disappear, in batches of generic
"inexpensive" tools…

The next time ya order them, they are Indian or Chinese or something
else…

They also make the best “jeweler’s saws”, smaller circle saws, on
the planet…

Gary W. Bourbonais
L’Hermite Aromatique
A.J.P. (GIA)
http://www.facebook.com/Le.Hermite


#7

Expensive files are uniform and straight, the teeth are even, edges
are sharp, round is round, and they really cut.

I bought cheap files long ago and they were good, but over the years
cheap files have deteriated into inaccurate and poor cutting
imitations.

Cheap files will mostly last as long as the expensive ones and all
files wear out. To preserve the life of your files: Store them
separate so as they don’t rub against each other and don’t let them
brush against diamonds or corundum.

I’m not too anal about the above…yeah they rub against each other
and they do the occasional stroke against a diamond. Sometimes a
worn-out file is better for that really delicate task where sharp
cutting is too much. I have both on the workbench.


#8
I invested in a an extensive set of diamond files with "safe"
sides and they have been with me for over ten years now, no
re-sharpening

I was interested to read this. My sense was that diamond files are
for stone, steel is for metal. Don’t the diamonds wear off very
quickly if used without lubricant? Are these files really effective
as a substitute for steel? Cheap little diamond files strike me as
pretty useless, but I’m willing to be re-educated!

Noel


#9

All,

I know I’m going to be ‘trashed’ by the tool junkies for this but
this is what I tell all my students (over the years thats around
500+ at this time).

Files are one of your best friends. Take care of them. However, the
old addage that you must never ‘draw file’ because it dulls the file
is no longer important in my shop!! In the old days when we had to
make our own files and it took about a day to make one, that was
true. But, today, one can go to Home Depot or other like store and
purchase a whole set of files for about $10! Of course, there are
speciality files that cost a lot more - take special care of those,
but for average filing (especially beginners) don’t worry about your
files. Use them and when they become useless save them to make steel
stamps!

By the way, a number of my favorite files are now going onto 20+
years and, like the Ever Ready Bunny, they just keep on goin.

Cheers, Don in SOFL.


#10

The worst culprit for short life is tossing all your files in a
drawer designed for file storage :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Well, that, and using your file to reshape separating discs.

Hang your files up so they don’t get jumbled.


#11
Are these files really effective as a substitute for steel? 

I was wondering the same thing. I have a set of diamond files, but
they leave really deep scratches so I don’t use them. I’m presuming
you can get them in much finer qualities?

Helen
UK


#12
In the old days when we had to make our own files and it took about
a day to make one, that was true. 

Don, WHO’s “old days”? Yours? Sheesh. Didn’t realize you were THAT
old. The machines to evenly cut files mechanically date to the
Renaissance. If I recall, there are drawings of such machines amid
the many things Leonardo DaVinci designed… Given that, and
considering that I know for a fact that high quality files were
available in the U.S. at least as early as the mid 1800s (I know,
because I’ve got a couple that old (or at least, the stamped mark
claims a patent date of 1840 or so (last digit not readable). Not
much good anymore, but they were once fine files. And good ones may,
for all I know, have been easily enough available long before the
mid 1800s). So were you actually making your own? Why? Just for the
intillectual exercise to prove you could do it?

Actually, with that said, I’ll backtrack a bit. A jeweler who worked
next to me some five years ago, originally from the Phillipines,
told of how back there, at least when he was a kid learning from his
dad, they routinely made their own sawblades from piano wire with a
chisel by hand, because where they were, ot was difficult and too
costly to buy the manufactured ones. Thelr in-shop made ones weren’t
as good or precise, but they did the job well enough, according to
him, or at least his childhood memories…

Peter Rowe


#13

Just a note on diamond files…

The diamond files (even the cheap ones) aren’t really cheap. But they
are great things for small intricate work. They don’t dull like
regular cutting steel files and they cut in any direction. They also
come in very, very fine cut or course cuts. I haven’t been able to
wear mine out ! I think I paid about 10.00 bucks apiece for mine. If
you do intricate work you will love them Joel.

Mike Grace
Lotus Jewelry & Silversmith


#14
They also make the best "jeweler's saws", smaller circle saws, on
the planet... 

Oh, you mean fingertip removers?

:slight_smile:

Peter


#15
but for average filing (especially beginners) don't worry about
your files. Use them and when they become useless save them to make
steel stamps! 

Don, that’s great advice for newbies. I used to take scrupulous care
of my files, only to find that they weren’t really gaining that much
extra life. I found that normal use and periodic cleaning was dulling
them, no matter how carefully I stored them. I was also constantly
stabbing myself with file holding contraptions. I now buy them by the
dozen and store them in two different drawers, one for new, one for
not-so-new. I guess I look at them as very large sawblades. I use
them brand new for wax carving and those things that need a new file,
and when an old file gets trashed, I rotate the slightly used wax
file to the metal file drawer, the old metal file gets recycled into
something else useful.

Files don’t last anywhere near forever unless as Don says, you don’t
use them. If you’re not wearing out files, you’re not making enough
jewelry! Use them up! Even the IRS considers them to be consumable
supplies.

Dave Phelps
precisionplatinumjewelry.com


#16

Hi Helen,

Yes, just as with faceting laps, diamond files are available in a
wide variety of grits. The best are exceptionally smooth, and you
can even polish with them. For many applications, diamond tools are
far superior to the metal files most of us are used to.

If yours are leaving “deep scratches”, you are using far too arse a
grit for the job.

Wayne Emery
www.thelittlecameras.com


#17

All,

Draw filing doesn’t ruin a file, not cleaning it with a file card &
dragging it backward over the work does. The Home “Despot” files at
"our" store are all Chinese, I know I will hear about this but here
goes, Chinese junk. I’ve used their taps & dies, chisels, files,
wrenches, saw blades, and everything is inferior quality. The tap &
die set were the wrong pitch! Great, huh? There is a reason they are
cheaper. Nothing good is ever cheap & nothing cheap is ever good.

my $.02
mtlctr


#18
"Don, WHO's "old days"? Yours? Sheesh. Didn't realize you were
THAT old" 

Peter I find this very unfair. Good for Don if he can make a friggin
file, I wish I could!

And also, Leonardo DaVinchi designed a helicopter too but I think
that took a little while before it was actually made?


#19

Peter,

Touche’. Actually I probably should have stated that differently!!
Perhaps like, ‘Some years ago, jewelers made their own files which
could take up to a day to make.’ And yes, we did make our own!

Now that that is out of the way, I am well aware of the history of
files and file making. But, let me say that much of that technology
for some reason or another didn’t get the broad dissemination it
should have. Let me backtrack a bit as well. 50+ years ago, I arrived
as a young buck in Taipei, Taiwan. (Now you have an idea how old I
really am) That was mid-1950s and one could stand in the middle of
the most heavily traveled street in Taipei and have to wait to see an
automobile - and at that it would probably be a military truck or
jeep! In short, they had nothing. When I left for the US a couple of
years later and they still had nothing. In 1960 I returned. I could
not stand in the middle of that street any more… because of the
buses and bicycles Otherwise, they still had very little. I returned
home 4 years later. In 1974 I returned again. Now there were still
lots of buses and bicycles but also lots of cars… mostly taxi
cabs. The people had more than before but still not much.

I began to study the jewelry trade that year and could not believe
what we had to work with. First I had to design and make all my
lapidary equipment (I had the parts fabricated in local
foundrys/machine shops and put them together). When I started
working evenings in a friend’s jewelry factory as an apprentice guess
what one of the things they taught me was? HOW TO MAKE FILES! Know
why? Cause no one had told them about DaVinci or Grobet, or the Swiss
etc. And certainly, those 1800 files you mention weren’t available to
them (:), though it wouldn’t have surprised me to find a few! Noone
could afford such files anyway (just like your Phillipine friend). So
we made our own but certainly not for the intellictual exercise (too
much work)…more the mother of necessity. In fact, just before I
left, my jeweler friend took me down to the jewelry tool market and
I picked up an entire tool box of HAND FORGED tools a few of which I
still have and use, though not as much as before. By the way, the
best tools (and files) were made with the leaf springs from junked
autos!!

Ta Ta and cheers, Don in SOFL


#20
Peter I find this very unfair. Good for Don if he can make a
friggin file, I wish I could! 

Oh lighten up. I was joking. I’m certain Don knew that.

And also, Leonardo DaVinchi designed a helicopter too but I think
that took a little while before it was actually made? 

yeah. But the file making technology does indeed date back to that
time period, or perhaps even earlier. Files are made by striking a
chisel at an angle to a steel blank to produce a tooth. By hand, you
have to manually space each tooth, and control how hard you hit the
chisel to get the same tooth depth. Ends up very like the sort of zen
experience of getting really uniform hammer blows when doing hollow
ware planishing. I assure you that your wish that you wish you could
make one is less unrealistic than you realize. Try it sometime. You
can indeed make a file. Now, if you want a really good one in a fine
cut, well, that’s more difficult. But still… Renaissance (and for
all I know, earlier, but Renaisance age devices are what I’ve seen
examples of) “engineers” came up with simple mechanisms with
gears/ratchets to do the spacing and striking of the chisel
automatically. Leonardo’s drawing of such a machine wasn’t the first
such design. it was a refinement of an existing design already in
use. To this day, machine made files are still made largely the same
way, though of course the machines have gotten faster and better. Of
course, just because such devices existed didn’t instantly mean all
files were made that way, and many jewelers or metal workers would
have continued to have to make their own long past that time.

But you can find manufacturers and sellers of such tools widespread
around europe and even the U.S. by the 1800s, and it’s probably safe
to say that by the mid 1800s, and maybe earlier, The vast majority of
jewelers working in the U.S. or europe were buying pretty much all
their files rather than making their own.

And that dating is why I thought it humerous to suggest Don was not
that old. And before you get too up in arms over the joke, I’ll note
that there are plenty of mornings when I myself do feel every bit
that old too… When ya start to age, you get to joke about it, ya
know. Helps with some of the aches and pains.

Peter