Jewelry Grade Files:
Quality is your friend when it comes to files…
Jewelry files can get pretty expensive, but a good file can save you lots of time and effort. It can be the difference between enjoying the zen of filing or despising the finishing process. So it’s worth it to buy quality!
If you are budget conscious, you can start out making wire jewelry with just a single half-round needle file often found for less than $10. Once you start to work with fabricating with sheet, you’ll want to upgrade to a full size half-round file. And if you like cutting various shapes and piercing sheet, you’ll find you’ll want a whole selection of various shaped and sized needle files and maybe even some riffler files which are curved to get hard to reach spots. But as I have presented throughout my site, you can start with just the basics and grow your collection as your skills grow. And trust me – there’re a lot of great projects you can enjoy creating with just the half-round needle file.
Let’s be clear about what kind of file you need…
- You don’t want a wax file as they are meant for carving wax for casting.
- And you don’t need diamond files as they are more for finishing hard surfaces like stone or hard metals we won’t be using in these lessons.
- What you DO WANT is a steel file.
Here are some factors to look out for when shopping files:
- Grit/cut – The roughness of a file is based on the number of teeth and referred to as the cut. There are 2 common scales the Swiss and the German. I like a Swiss cut #4 or a German cut #5 file for refining work. If I have a lot of material to remove, I would want a Swiss cut #2 or a German cut #3 file to get the job done faster. Files are like sanding, you can start with a rougher cut to re-shape and then use the finer cut to refine the surface.
- Size – A needle file is small whereas a hand file is larger. That being said, there are lots of sizes available especially in the needle file category. They have tine little files(less than 5” overall length) for super small tight spots and larger ones (6” overall length) that are more comfortable to work with. The typical hand file is about 8” in overall length. I find the hand file is most comfortable to work with unless I need to get into a small spot, but they are a fair amount more expensive than a needle file. (Often $10 range for a needle file and $30-$40 for a hand file)
- Shape – There are all kinds of shapes offered, but when thinking about your first file(s) you should look for a half-round shape. Ones side is rounded for working inside concave (indented) curves and the other side is flat for working on flat areas as well as convex (protruding) curves. This is the most universal file shape. There’s a similar file referred to as a ring file, which is very similar – just narrower in width to fit inside rings better. Once you are building your tool collection, the file shapes and sizes you’ll want will depend on what type of work you are drawn to creating. For many of the projects I teach, you’ll never need more than a half-round file. You can start with a needle file for working with wire if cost is a factor and when you decide to work with sheet, you’ll need a larger hand file.
- Handles??? – There are lots of handles available for files, but I don’t use one. I feel I have more control holding the file in my fingers. However if you have sore hands, you would definitely want a handle for ease of use. The tang of the file just gets wedged into the handle, so the handles can be fairly universal.
Using a file properly…
Files are directional – you work the material you are filing from the tip towards the tang and then lightly lift the pressure for the back stroke (to help save wear and tear on the grit). You don’t need to apply very much pressure!!! This is one of the big mistakes beginners make. The teeth on the file do the work for you. If you press too hard, you work against yourself by trying to cut through too much material at once. Use the full length of the file for each stroke and it will require way less strokes to accomplish the task.
Learning to file well is a key to quality jewelry making. In order to solder, you have to create perfect joins. This can only be accomplished from having control over your filing.
Storing your files…
You can extend the life of your files by not allowing them to rub together or on other steel tools, etc. I find an eyeglass case makes a convenient sheath for quick storage. I also have students who use a cigar cylinder to store them. Whatever works for you it fine – the goal is to keep the grit from deteriorating.