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Pewter-clogged files

I just did a pewter-casting workshop for my friends, with wonderful
and enjoyable results, except for the clogged files that I now have.
Is there a chemical fix for this problem? Or can I melt it off? I
normally have just one file I use for pewter, which I rake out with a
piece of brass sheet. But I’d love to find an easier way to clean the
pewter off of the set of needle files that I let my friends use. They
are a real mess. I use these coarse needle files for some of my wax
work, so I want to restore them. Can anyone help?

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA’louBrubaker

Clean the files with a file cleaning brush (very small wire brush)
then before using the file on pewter again, “chalk it” with chalk
board chalk. Keep it chalked while using on pewter and it will not

John Dach

Yes I can help I worked in pewter for 20 years and learned many
tricks the easiest and fastest way to clean pewter files is this walk
over to the pewter melying pot and hod them under the surface of the
hot liquid pewter then take them out and tap them on the edge of the
pot and the hot pewter will tap off easily and instantly with little


If You find out anything I’d love to know! I have rusted files that
I use for wax work - very fine grade files & I’m afraid if I
sandblast them I’ll dull them. So far I raked them through a brass
brush & wired wheeled them a bit & picked out the rust with a sewing
needle but the rust is still there.

I hope someone comes up with a good solution!

Mary R

A sharp high quality file is less prone to clogging in pewter, but
they all will to some degree. You can try rubbing chalk or Burlife
on before filing, but I find it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

A file cards teeth are generally too large to get in there and clean
them very well, I use a steel bristle scratch brush, similar to the
glass ones sold, to get most of it and a sharp mold cutting scalpel
blade to pop the rest out.

Files are normally cleaned with a wire brush.

mike az

Try running the tip of a fine tweezer down the direction of the cut.
I do this when my platinum files get clogged. It takes a little
longer, but is quite effective.

We were taught to make a file cleaner with a sheet of brass stock for
each grade file cut. Push the file across the end of the sheet of
brass, along the direction of the cut, until you have cut a series of
ridges in the brass, that match the cut on the file. Now this brass
file card can be used to drag clean the file by drawing your file
along the cut, “raking” backwards first along one direction of the
grooves, then turn the file and draw it backwards along the other cut
(asuming your file is cross cut). This will remove any forein matter
from your file, and each side of the brass card can be made to clean
a diferent cut.

First, although a bit late, keep a bottle of talc in your kit for
Before you file pewter, it helps keep it unclogged better than any
bur lube type product. then, once clogged,

  1. old pewter contains lead, so take it outside, swiftly heat with a
    large bushy flame and shake the balls of pewter into a caroal powder
    lined can, you may want them for something later, or toss them…

  2. alternatively, if you don’t have talc handy, a piece of
    cuttlefish scrap makes a great substitute for talc preliminarily…

  3. newer pewter is basically tin and antimony, it is ok to heat it
    indoors with plenty of ventilation, but still, I personally would
    take it outdoors as the slinging it off the files (the fastest known
    method to me) with a snap of the wrist can potentially send some
    small bits flying- they ball up readily…a friend of mine uses soft
    copper to clean his files as he does holloware with pewter, but he
    grooves it with a jewelers saw first.

  4. melting is fast but not great for your lungs, and you have to pay
    attention to your file’s temper, if it begins to turn from straw
    yellow to dark greenish-blue it is time to remove the heat, bang the
    file on the edge of a charcoal lined can (if you want to collect
    the pewter) and quench in oil, or water if you don’t keep a can of
    used motor oil around for that express purpose (i filter it to get
    the gunk out before using or storing, and replace it every two oil
    changes or so). I don’t keep a pot of pewter heating all the time(
    like my friend that works extensively in it), in fact i rarely use it
    and then mostly for kid’s casting classes or low cost custom trophies
    or badges for teams type work, but it melts fast enough that if you
    don’t care about the few cents worth of scrap, any hard surface you
    rap it against will release it to the point you can take a toothed
    rake or soft copper and clean any remaining bits off the file. then
    recondition the file