View Full Version : Looking for Reference: Hand-Filing
March 18, 2008, 08:21 AM
Am looking for educational materials on how to use hand files for particular metal-shaping jobs in gunsmithing the old-school way. To narrow it down, I’m looking for what probably is going to be old references, which will likely be in book form, showing how gun artisans used hand files to shape receivers, hammers, etc. Any leads would be most appreciated.
March 18, 2008, 10:31 AM
BigJon: Off hand i know of no books on files and how to. In gunsmithing school the first semester was dang near nothing but useing a file. Several dropped out because of this and i thought about it myself. But in gun work their is a lot of file work and practis is the best teacher. Did come across this hope it helps in some way!
March 18, 2008, 02:18 PM
The German toolmaker's union or guild used to require 2 years of filing for apprentices before the machine tools were learned. The idea seemed to be, other than hazing, that what they learned about the feel and qualities of the metals made this a very important education.
I've seen some books on the topic over the years, though only a couple of small ones that were devoted to it exclusively, and I don't recall them being comprehensive. I think maybe Lindsay Publications had some reprints including vice work. By the way, when you go looking for books, keep in mind that "vice work" is the old general term for shaping metal with files. That may help you search.
You may want to look at the books on the Brownells website for some additional data.
March 18, 2008, 08:44 PM
I think it's "vise work."
"Vice work" would be assignation.
March 19, 2008, 01:58 PM
Thanks so much, guys. You're giving me a clue as to why I'm having such a darned hard time finding what I'm looking for. And that's not all - I can't find anyone who sells smooth-cut crossing files. ARGH!
March 19, 2008, 02:14 PM
You will have to sign up for an account, but it's worth it.
Filing is an art, and requires much practice.
March 20, 2008, 05:30 PM
I can tell you that during my apprenticeship I filed my but off. I bet I filed 50 lbs.
The BEST way to learn filing is to FILE.
Practice is what make perfect. File everything you can. Don't mill anything, file it.
Dovetails, flats, corners, and anything that requires reconturing.
Buy different types of file to learn what does what. Swiss and american files do different things.
Practice, practice, practice.
There is NO easy way out.
March 20, 2008, 07:15 PM
Get a Brownells catalog. Get some scrap steel and practice. Keep your files clean. Chalk the file and clean it. Chalk it again. Practice making flats with clean edges. Get some mild steel pipe and work on radius filing. Get a good vise and fabricate some copper or aluminum jaw protectors. Practice. You'll figure out what works and what doesn't after you screw up enough times. It's fun!
March 20, 2008, 07:16 PM
And once you figure all that out it's time for CHECKERING FILES!
March 21, 2008, 09:34 AM
Sounds great, guys. This is a ton of fun for me. When I was a kid, I bought a gunsmithing book by John Traistor (sp?). I think I was about 14 at the time. I enjoyed reading it because it was a "gunsmithing book," but that was about it. I didn't get into building and tweaking 1911s until relatively recently (at almost 50). As I've progressed, I've really enjoyed trying to learn the old-school stuff, and right now, one of the main things I'm studying is filing - both file choices for specific funtions and how to use them correctly. I've gotten "decent" at it, meaning that I think I'm at least a stage or two above whacking away. One of the things that really hit home, though, was when I pulled that old book out a few months ago just for fun and found a statement in there about one of the basic differences between folks who really know how to use hand files and those that, as I said, just "whack away." The difference mentioned (loose paraphrase) was that whackers see files as tools to smooth things to remove imperfections, while true filing artists see them as a way to remove superfluous metal from an already existing contour that is simply buried in the steel. This seems similar to what I've heard about sculptors - that they see a finished work in a block of stone, and then just remove the excess metal from it.
Thanks for the gracious assistance, guys.
March 22, 2008, 05:32 PM
Gads, what a brain you-know-what. I about lost the cookie I was working on when I saw that typo of mine. Wonder where my mind was that day? ;) The spell checkers can't save us from everything. :D
March 27, 2008, 07:54 PM
In Naval machine shop training we're given a file, a square and a set of micrometers and a "square" (somewhat square) steel block. You had to get it as square as posssible (and of course FLAT) and to a 1" perfect block as you can. No one got one perfect.
P.S. Don't rock your file and develop a "memory" to your filing. - the old boys know what I mean!
March 27, 2008, 11:00 PM
...So here's your assignment. Get a cube of 1.5" mild steel. Make a perfect, 90 x 90 x 90 degrees 1" cube out of it, using only a large single cut file and a square. Oh, and a vice too of course. Report back when done.
March 29, 2008, 02:45 PM
Slopmeno, good post but, in truth i don't think i'd be quite sane after a week of trying to do that! Icouldn't do it1:)
March 29, 2008, 08:25 PM
A friend of mine served an apprenticeship for either Saab or Volvo, and that was his first assignment. He didn't get a week either, just a few days IIRC.
April 1, 2008, 08:53 AM
When your fiished with that block...I want to see it sanded to a 400 grit finish, with no previous sanding marks! :D
April 1, 2008, 10:00 AM
Bill - Just reporting back. The Rio site is superb. I also ordered a few files to replace some of mine that are getting pretty worn, and they are top-drawer. Thanks so much for the lead.
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