Files, Why They Should be Part of Your Preps


A good set of files

I have spend some time talking to some older gentlemen and reading a book of shop theory put out by the Henry Ford Trade School in 1944.  This and remembering the past has made me realize just how important files are when you do not have access to the power tools we all depend on today.

When you don’t have access to power or are unable to replace dull or damaged tools, you really need files.  A good selection will let you sharpen many different tools including axes, shovels, and saws.  If you have to repair damaged or broken items, a good set of files will help you to fit mismatched parts together.  Files were very important pre power tools, every blacksmith had a good set and you used to see saw sharpening shops all over. Today they are hard to find in many areas.

Every prepper should have a good set of files in various types and sizes.  Now there are so many different sizes and types of files that I am not going to be able to cover them all in this post.

If you want a good set of metal files, don’t buy the cheap Chinese ones that are so widely available.  Get good quality American made ones.  One of the best places to find them is in garage sales.  Just make sure the teeth are not worn out.

Files are both available in varying grades of coarseness.  File grades are broken down into bastard cut, second cut or smooth cut.  Bastard cut is the coarsest.  Second cut is not as coarse and provides a slightly smoother finish.  Smooth or single cut features a fine grade that’s ideal for finishing work and gets surfaces ready for sanding.


file with handle

The length of the file also affects the coarseness, regardless of the actual grade. So for example a 6″ bastard cut is a lot finer than a 12″ bastard cut. This is because the shorter files are generally used for finer work. Overall, the least coarse would be a 4″ smooth or single fcut and the most coarse would be a 16″ bastard cut. The relationship between the grades of coarseness for each length remains the same.


Additional tools are required to set the teeth on a handsaw

Larger files are two-handed tools. To use almost most files, grasp the point between your thumb and first two fingers with one hand, and grasp the handle on the back end with your other hand.  Since most files come with bare tangs, it is best to add a wood handle.

In addition to the large files that we talked about above, you may want a set of small files for gunsmithing and other fine work.  Don’t forget about the tools necessary to sharpen your handsaws.

Files require maintenance


File card

Breaking in a new file should be done on brass, bronze, or smooth cast iron.  Because just a few of the teeth will cut at first, use a light pressure to prevent tooth breakage.

File should be cleaned occasionally by brushing with a file card.  These are small short-wired brushes which are used to clean metal shavings from the file.

Do not use a file for prying or pounding.  The tang is soft and bends easily while the body is hard and extremely brittle.

Hang your files in a rack to protect the file teeth when they are not in use, or place them in drawers with wooden partitions. Protect your files from rust by keeping them away from water and moisture. Do not get oil on your files.  Oily files slide across the work and it prevents fast, clean cutting.

Files are like everything else they need to be taken care of an used to get the most out of them.



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2 Responses to Files, Why They Should be Part of Your Preps

  1. john says:

    And get good handles , this is important. I haven’t bought files for quite some time , but there was a coarse cut then the bastard cut.
    If you can afford it buy a good set of “jewelers files” or “die sinkers”
    These are graded differently , such as “0” #1 #2 etc. Nicholson use to put out a good little book on files. Maybe you can still get them

  2. Danny Lee says:

    One should also have a few different sizes of “Rat Tail” files as well as the different sizes of files required to sharpen chain saw chains. If you have a few extra files set aside a coat of oil would be necessary to prevent rust while in storage. Places with high humidity require extra care with almost any metal tools.

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