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Filing

BASICS_files

A file (hand or needle file) is the first tool you’ll use to refine the edges of your piece and prepare for other finishing applications. Whether you’ve cut your metal with shears, a saw, or a disk cutter, it’s a good idea to file the edges to remove burrs or round any sharp edges. 

 

There are many different cuts, shapes (or profiles), and varieties of files; some are designed for specific needs. For example, it’s not a good idea to use a flat file to smooth the inside of a ring — a round or half-round file matches the curve of the band. Likewise, trying to take off a lot of material with a needle file wastes time: It’s better to start with a hand file. 

 

Files come out of the box without a handle. Handles aren’t necessary, especially for needle files, but if you find that the tang (the end of the file) is uncomfortable to hold, it’s easy to add a handle. Handles are sold separately from jewelry suppliers, and usually run $3–15.

BASICS_filing

Brace your work against a bench pin, workbench, or solid surface. In order for the file to cut effectively, you need to have consistent resistance. Hold your piece immobile. Use a firm stroke. You don’t have to press hard; the file will do the work for you if you press firmly and evenly on it. The vast majority of files cut in only one direction. The teeth angle forward (toward the tip), so the file only cuts on the forward stroke. Too many novice filers saw back and forth — you’re not achieving anything by doing that. Push firmly (but not too hard!) on the forward stroke; let up pressure on the backstroke. Pay attention as you file, and check your work constantly to avoid removing more metal than desired.

 

Rotate your piece 90° whenever you swap out for the next-finer file, and file across your previous marks. Your aim is to replace the marks from the previous file with finer marks from the new file.

Tip!
  • Having a handle on your file is mostly for comfort during use, but it may help you to avoid cuts, scrapes, or strain-related injuries. 
  • Pay close attention to the filing process, and check your work constantly to avoid removing more metal than desired.
  • Clean your files regularly using a file card. 
  • Brace your work against a bench pin, workbench, or solid surface.
  • Use a firm stroke. It is not necessary to press hard; the file will do the work for you if you press firmly and evenly on it. 
  • Save your silver dust! With this project there will be plenty of silver filings, which can be sent to a refinery for recycling. If you don’t have a workbench with a lap pan, you can place a large metal baking pan on your lap directly under the bench pin to catch the silver filings.
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