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Get A Grip - Shape And Install New File Handles

Updated: Apr 4

Making stop cuts

I'm going to be shaping these new file handles on the Shave Horse. One end will be free for shaping. I need to have something for the horse to grip, so the other will still be attached to the stock. I don't want to have to cut way past the ends on the stock end, so I made some stop cuts.

I have to admit that these file handles didn't turn out exactly how I had planned. I thought I would like to have a thumb rest on the mortise end to give myself a little something more to push against. I eventually abandoned this idea at the Shave Horse.

Shaping at the Shave Horse

This is a pretty straight forward process. The more you Skew and Slice, the easier the work will be. Sometimes I'm pretty good at remembering this. Other times not so much.

The thumb guards proved to be more trouble than I wanted. Perhaps if I had chosen something a little softer than sugar maple for my material.

You could try this with any wood that doesn't split easily. Give the thumb rests a shot and send me some pics when you inevitably do a better job than I did.

Trimming off the waste

Keep the off-cut handy. You'll need it again soon.

Measuring the tangs

I've got two different types of file here. The triangular saw file has a tapered octagonal tang. So I estimated and marked one third and two thirds of the length. Then I measured the diameter at these two marks and grabbed the corresponding drill bits.

Don't be too fussy here. Use what you have and get close.

Fitting the Saw File

I made some tape stops for my drill bits. Half the length of the tang for the larger diameter. Full length for the smaller diameter.

Why measure two thirds, and then drill half way?

You're going to pound these handles on to the tangs, so you want to start out with an undersized mortise. Don't strike the file with your hammer. Use the off-cut to protect your bench.

You kept the off-cut right?

Fitting the Mill File

This one is a bit more fiddly. Its got a flat tang that's only tapered in profile.

Find a drill bit that's he same diameter as (or slightly smaller than) the thickness of the tang. Drill straight down. Chose a grain orientation that puts the growth rings perpendicular to the wide faces of the tang and use a chisel to carve out a tapered mortise. You can clear out chips by spinning the drill bit as you tilt it side to side. If the bit is really sharp, the lands will actually cut some material away at the same time.

New file handles in 52 minutes

Not too bad for a task that I would most likely have put off far too long.

Handles are actually an important safety feature when using a file. You're going to be putting some significant energy into getting the file moving across the work. If you bear dawn a little too hard, and the teeth catch, those sharp corners of the tang are gonna go right into the meat of your palm.

So when it comes to files, you should always get a grip!


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