There are many different cuts, shapes and varieties of files some files are designed to meet very specific needs. When searching for the perfect file for your bench, consider the material you will be working with, the level of detail you’ll need to achieve and the style of jewellery you’ll be making. For example, it’s not a good technique to use a flat hand file to smooth the inside of a ring, nor would you get a good result attempting to take off a lot of material with a fine needle file. Choosing the right file will save you time and money.
File cuts range from coarse, #00, to fine, #8. The lower numbered files have fewer teeth per mm and will take off more material. The higher numbered files have more teeth per mm and take off less material, leaving a finer finish. The frustrating thing about files is that the cut number, which should represent a standardized number of teeth per mm actually varies depending on the maker. Teeth per mm range from 30 to 295 but because the cut numbers vary from maker to maker, it’s impossible to give a universal definition for any particular cut. For example: a #00 file from one maker may have 30 teeth per inch, while the #00 file from another maker may have #41 teeth per inch. Fortunately many manufacturers clarify their cut numbers with charts that you can find online.
Shapes and Sizes
File sets that include a barette, a square, a half-round and a flat file are easy to find but you may not need all of those shapes – or you may need them in different sizes. If you are a beginner you may only need a half-round, flat hand file plus a few needle files in other shapes.
Hand files are usually 100 – 250 mm long and can be used on a wide variety of jewellery making materials. Needle files are often 100 – 200 mm long and are best used for refining detail. Hand and needle files both come in the same shapes but often needle files will be made only in finer cuts
Some common files are listed below:
FLAT – (also called hand files) files are just that, Flat. The flat surfaces are used to file large flat areas, straight edges, outside curves etc. This file can leave a very clean, level edge on your material. In needle files the shape of a flat file has made variations, including warding, equalling, round-edged pillar and crochet files.
HALF-ROUND – a half round file has one flat side and one rounded side , it also tapers to a point. The rounded side is used for inside curves such as the inner part of a ring shank.
The purpose of filing is to remove excess metal. Proper filing can eliminate a lot of work in the later stages and can also extend the life of your files dramatically. Files are designed to cut on the forward movement. Downward pressure is exerted on the forward stroke to give the teeth maximum cut into the metal. Do not file on the back stroke. (No see-saw like filing!!!) Lift the file slightly on the back stroke to avoid unnecessary wear on the file.
Cleaning your files keeps them in better condition for a longer time. Tap the file to knock the big debris out of the teeth after using it. Then use a steel file brush to clean out the remaining debris. You should always clean your files when you switch material and especially after using copper. When working with platinum you should have a set just for platinum as it can contaminate easily.