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Learn Mechanical Engineering at Home Series – How to use a file?

written by: Ricky • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 10/21/2008

Have you ever wondered what mechanical engineering is all about? I cannot make you a certified mechanical engineer but certainly you can learn a lot about mechanical engineering by reading this Learn from Home series on mechanical engineering.

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    Since the past couple of articles you have been reading about the various types of files used in a mechanical workshop. But it is a different thing to learn about types of files and a totally different thing to learn filing. While the former is quite easy and can be picked up by reading these articles, it is the latter part which his more of an art and needs to be learnt slowly by practical application. I can go to the extent of saying that the best way of learning the process of filing is to actually observe an experienced person doing it on a work piece, but then it certainly helps if you have a bit of theoretical background in addition to the practical lessons.

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    Learning to File

    Materials Required

    • Small rough pieces of work
    • Used file

    You must have noticed that I have told to use rough pieces of work, which is obvious since you are just doing practice and not producing anything new for manufacturing or sales purpose so you should use useless pieces and not costly better pieces.

    The file also should be a bit used one since a brand new files cuts a lot and hence not good for practicing for a beginner. If this logic does not get digested just compare it to like say what you require when you learn to drive a car. You obviously do not want to use your brand new car and make it go to the workshop straight away. So you normally start off in an old used car and then as you master the art of driving, you apply your skills to better cars.

    Grip the work piece in the vice in such a manner that the face that you want to file is held distinctly up from the vice jaws and is parallel to the ground i.e. horizontal. Then hold the handle with your right hand and the blade end with the left hand (lefties please adjust the hands as per your convenience). The shank should be kept flat on the face and the file should be moved forward keeping it horizontal and applying pressure at the same time. Now this is the difficult part and requires practice for you will find in the beginning that despite your best efforts the surface comes curved in the beginning but you should not stop practicing. During the backward stroke just lift up the file from the work piece until it reaches its start position again. This is because the teeth are designed to cut in that direction only.

    Also try to get a feel of the metal you are working with and estimate the force required to remove a specified amount of material since different metals have different hardness and so require different force. Also remember to clean the file in between with a wire brush to remove the debris between the teeth so that they cut properly.

    There are several actions that will require practice such as draw filing, filing a dead level and so forth. It would not be feasible to explain all of them here, so I suggest that after you read this just watch this video and then get on to practice – after all practice makes a man (or a woman) perfect.

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