How many machinists know a good file when they
don't believe one in fifty can take a pile of files and pick out
the best one.
The average man will pick up two or three, turn
them over, squint along the corners, pick out the straightest
one and call it as "good as any." They don't seem to have any
idea that a file may be soft, or fire-cracked, or burned.
If they were choosing a cold chisel, they would
look out for all these things, but "a file is a file" so long as
it has teeth and tang.
Talk about certain tools being abused in the
machine shop, or in any other shop. What is more abused than a
No matter what job is on hand, it is expected to
take right hold of it and never let go. Hard iron, soft iron,
steel or lead, brass, copper or wood, it makes no difference.
The file must go at it hammer and tongs.
If the job is covered with 1/8 in. of grease and
dirt, it is all the same. The workman uses one corner of the
file to scrape off part of it. When he gets the file well filled
with oil he tries to wipe it off on a piece of dirty waste, or
the leg of his overalls. He succeeds in filling up the remainder
of his file, rather than in cleaning it.
If the job is covered with a generous coat of
rust, what matter; the file must scrape it off, and then before
it would be half worn out by proper usage mage, it is pitched
into a corner, or dumped into a load of lathe chips.
To choose a good file, just hold it between your
eye and the light, point towards you; you can see he cutting
edge of every tooth. See if they are all clean, smooth, and
sharp. If they are notched, racked, uneven, and irregular, then
they belong to a poor file. Look a file all over for fire
cracks; hold up to your eyes as before, put the point towards
the light, and see if it is all one colour.
If it shows a chequered appearance, it is uneven
in temper, hard and soft in spots. Toss the file into the air,
and strike it with the handle of your pocket-knife, or some
other hard substance. If there are any flaws in that file, the
ring of the steel will give them away.
Buy large files; they stand re-cutting better
than thin ones. Machine-cut files are not liked very well by
some; it is claimed that they will not do as much work as the
hand-cut, but I have used machine-cut files, and didn't know it
I remember one chap that came along with a nice looking lot of
files. He sold a lot to nearly every shop in town. He sold them
"cheap " - he said - but when the boys came to use those files,
the cat tumbled out of the bag, and that "agent" was wanted by
the boss. The files were nothing but poor iron. They were
treated with prussiate of potash, and came out case-hardened a
little, and looking nice and clean.
I always think of that dodge when I see a man
selling a "job lot" of files. Don't buy low-priced files,
thinking them cheap; that is unless your men make scrapers of
them as described. If that is what you want them for, the
case-hardened ones are just as good as any.
I get a new file I always fit it with a handle before using.
Just try that once and you will always stick to it. The
machinist has, of all men, no excuse for not having handles to
Nearly every shop in the United States has a
speed lathe connected with it, and handles may be had for the
If I were bossing a shop, files would be fitted
with handles before they left the tool-room. If a man can't get
at a speed lathe, let him knock out the live centre of his
engine lathe, whittle down the end of a pine stick, and drive it
into the spindle; bring the tail spindle up to it, and turn out
a handle with a hand-tool.