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I Forge Iron

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You get a cruel & degrading minimum-wage job and buy one!Wait,no...

OK,you forge a chisel,and you raise a bunch of chisel marks on a piece of iron/steel,in a pattern of your choice(the more random,the smoother the cut will be).
Then you pack it in a clay muffle(box),full of carbonaceous stuff of your choice-charcoal dust,rawhide,hooves,et c.By heating the whole mess at a proper(fairly high),temp,you achieve cementation,to whatever depth that you had the patience to take it to.
(The reason that you can't just use steel and heat-treat it normally is that the little pointy cutter teeth that make your file a file,will scale off.Unless you have a nice bottle of argon and can flood your forge environment and keep it plumb full while austenising.But if you have all that,surely there must be a file around as well...)
So,rewind back a millenium or so again.When it absorbs enough C you yank it out and quench it VERY quickly!And voila-you have a file!Exept,of course,the quench medium must be the urine of a red-headed boy,or of a white goat fed strictly on pure ferns,and don't forget the lunar cycles,either!

And now that you know all these terrible arcana,may i ask why would you want to make a file?
Cheers,Jake

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There is such a market, as Auriou rasps (handmade in France... by one man) are quite expensive and usually out of stock, awaiting shipment, etc. I have bought several at antique malls for just a few dollars each though.

I have understood that the rasps are toothed hot though at exactly WHAT heat I don't know.

Personally I have considered the notion of making some highly specialized files or floats for things like planemaking. There exists the possibility of coming up with some sort of out of the box techniques... for instance I retooth old sharpening steels with coarse diamond files and they seem as good or better than new ones.

I know that some of the blademakers on this forum use commercial or home-brewed fluxes to reduce or even almost eliminate scale and that approach would seem promising too. All in all this topic seems worthy of discussion whether any files ever actually get made or no.

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well i was looking through a box oh old files when the thought struck me...how do you even make these? so i ran over a couple possibilities and they didnt seem like they work so i came here :) i might try and make one now though just as one of those "i did that" projects ;p

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In the book "The Complete Modern Blacksmith" By Alexander G. Weygers, there is a section on making files, though he states "It is not difficult to make a fairly crude file, but handmade files cannot compete with machine-made industrial ones."
He shows how he makes files from high carbon steel. He anneals it, makes the groves with a cold chisel (at the proper angle for the particular file) then harden.

Haven't tried it myself.

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  • 1 month later...

A history of filecutting and how it was replaced by industrial processes.

Materializing Sheffield - A Filecutter's Hammer from the Hawley Collection

And a quote from that:

"The speed at which early filesmiths could cut a file is not known, but at the beginning of the 19th century, a boy was timed cutting a three-square file, 5 inches long, with a 'double' cut, i.e. having two sets of teeth cut into each side. (Rees, 1819, 374). The file had 1,350 teeth and the boy made 225 strokes per minute, taking about 6 minutes to cut the file! Fremont, in 1920, writes that a filecutter using a five kilogram hammer (c.10 lbs) could make 88 strokes per minute, but averaged 50, while a hammer weighing two and a half kilos, allowed a filecutter to make 114 strokes per minute, averaging 75. This is a much lower rate than the slightly unbelievable rate of the 19th century boy, but the boy would have used a much lighter hammer."

Edited by Jacques
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Heres an interesting drawing of a machine that Leonardo da Vinci invented to cut files. The table automatically advanced the file blank after each hammer/chisel stroke.

URL=http://s831.photobucket.com/albums/zz237/Unclejer/?action=view&current=filecutter.gif]th_filecutter.gif


I have really enjoyed this topic. The shear notion of investing $500 of time to make a $3 item has sparked my interest. Totally relegating file-making to an artistic achievement.

I have some tool steel flatbar destined for this later this week.

The Da Vinci reference was perfect. I have a book of his journal drawings. One of my favorite inventions was the large screw auger type lift pumps for raising water from one containment pool up to the next. My daily commute takes me by the City of Dayton, TN water treatment plant. They use twin screws of this type to lift non other than sewage. His magnificent design, in this most "dignified" service.
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If da Vinci is just too Johny-come-lately for you Theophilus discusses making them in his 1120 A.D. "Divers Arts as I recall, including hardening them by greasing them and wrapping them in goatskin and then covering it all with well kneaded clay and heating---a case hardening techinique!

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I've heard of a similar case hardening method. It was for the frizzen (sparking steel) on a flintlock firearm. Instructions were to wrap the frizzen in leather and then clay and put it into a hot fire for about 45 minutes to an hour. It also cautioned that if the hardening went all the way through the metal it would cause the piece to break up. I've never tried it. I harden the frizzens on my flintlocks with KASENIT. It does just fine and one treatment is good for a couple of hundred shots or so. I know that doesn't sound like much but a couple of hundred shots with a flintlock takes some time.

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FYI,
Alexander Weygers, in his book, "The Complete Modern Blacksmith", pgs 255-256 has some instructions about making files/rasps and shows a jig for file making. IMHOP this may not be a cost effective task, but anything that teaches us better hand/eye coordination and patience is a good thing. Others have said this better, but craftsmanship comes from time, endless hours of mundane practice, steady hands, the patience of a saint, a desire to make the work meaningful in and of itself and a sincere disregard for the nay-saying of others. All of us recognize craftmanship and those of us that dabble in the black work should appreciate more than casual observers what is involved in making something out of iron and steel. Making a file or polishing a hammer face to a mirror finish are not so far apart ... I for one, need to know how to do both.

Tim

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A friend of mine makes files. He made the file makers hammer as well. He can make a double cut file in about 10 min. I have tried it and, although I am not great at it I could make a useable file. His files are quite good at least I think so.

I will see if can get him to post a video or the like.

brad

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