Steel files into knives

Disclaimer: I am far from an expert but I’ve made a couple from files over the years that turned out halfway decent:
You need to anneal it first IMO and then retemper it after you’re done shaping it. Files are tempered harder and more brittle than you usually want for a knife blade.
 
Thread starter #5
Why not just grind it down? I don’t want to lose all the file ability.
I definitely want to leave some in. They’re thick probably alot too long and old.
I want to then use deer antler but I got that part down pat.
Why can’t I just begin with the grind?
 
You probably could. Like I said, I’m not anywhere near being a good knife maker. Just going by what I’ve been told by those who are. Take my advice with a half a shaker of salt. :)
 
Thread starter #7
Slow grind without over heating maybe?
Dad said I could use a file and it be a good one but dang that was forty years ago he said that. Just now found the ones I wanna use.:popknot:
 

Tom W.

Senior Member
If you don't anneal it first you're gonna get a blade that ain't gonna last long. It can be a file or a knife, but it won't make a good knife if you want it to be able to file, and won't make a good file if you want it to be a knife. I've made a few when I worked at the sawmill and gave them to friends for Christmas.
And after you get the contour of the blade be sure you get the bevel the same on both sides of the file.

But if you want to grind away by all means do so. It's a learning process and experience.
 
Slow grind without over heating maybe?
Dad said I could use a file and it be a good one but dang that was forty years ago he said that. Just now found the ones I wanna use.:popknot:
Fourty years ago they made good files to start with. Now.....not so much. I've read you have to watch what you start out with. Good luck and post us some pictures when your done.
 

Tom W.

Senior Member
I know I used files when I worked in the filing room. Prior to that I was the Q.C. guy.They weren't the worst files we could get, and we bought them in a box that held two dozen. When some idiot that didn't know how to use a file properly got his hands on one it didn't take long for it to get so dull it wouldn't cut Babbitt. The owners had a great idea about sending the dull and worn out files to a place in Montgomery that claimed that they could re- cut them. That lasted about two trips. When they came back you could look down the broad side and still see the teeth folded over.

BTW, stab a big white potato with the tang before you start to anneal it and when you grind it. It will help absorb some of the heat that can be detrimental to the finished product.
 
Lot more to making a decent knife out of a file than has been presented here. I can see all kinds of problems cropping up from what I just read.

Got a few questions for you:
What brand files do you have?
What kind of grinder will you be using?
What kind of access do you have available to properly heat steel?

Where do you live? If you are close to Acworth area, maybe I can help you out with some of the more critical issues you will encounter. You can pm/message me and we can discuss this in more detail. Too easy to misconstrue information here in the forum format.

It's no harder to do it right than it is to do it wrong, trust me on this.
 
Lot more to making a decent knife out of a file than has been presented here. I can see all kinds of problems cropping up from what I just read.

Got a few questions for you:
What brand files do you have?
What kind of grinder will you be using?
What kind of access do you have available to properly heat steel?

Where do you live? If you are close to Acworth area, maybe I can help you out with some of the more critical issues you will encounter. You can pm/message me and we can discuss this in more detail. Too easy to misconstrue information here in the forum format.

It's no harder to do it right than it is to do it wrong, trust me on this.
Now, this is the guy you need to listen to. He has done forgotten more about knife making than most of us will ever know.
 

godogs57

Senior Member
Job #1: I test every file to ensure its hardenable. I usually have no problems with the vintage files...50+ years old is my preferred file. Newer files? Sometimes they are only surface hardened....nooo good. Here's how you test files...

Take the end of the file and heat it cherry red. Quench immediately in water, not oil. Water. Allow it to cool and then place the water quenched part of the file over something solid. An anvil is best. With the quenched tip hanging off the anvil, or whatever, wack it with a hammer. It should snap in two. Snap right off. You now know you have good hardenable steel and can proceed. If it doesnt snap off and just bends over the anvil, leaving a 90 degree angle, throw the file away....trash.

You cant begin the process of making an acceptable blade until you perform this most important step!

I love the old files. They are simple carbon steel, but its generally good quality. More recent files...I stay with brands I trust. Nicholson, Black Diamond, Save Edge come to mind. Stay away from Belotta brand...you see a lot of these out there. They are made in Brazil and the quality varies greatly.

Good files need be annealed before working into a blade. You CAN grind one that is hardened but it's almost a certainty it'll get burned (softened) inadvertently. I anneal my blades in my heat treat oven following heat treat of my stainless blades. While the oven is still hot after I pull my stainless blades out, and I have a few files to anneal, I'll wait till the oven drops to about 900 degrees...i then unplug the oven and put in a half dozen files, close the door, and let em sit in there overnight . They'll be cooled down and annealed tomorrow morning.

Then I grind the blades, get em where i want to be and prepare to heat treat. I heat in my forge only until they are non-magnetic, then quench in a medium quench oil like Brownells Tough Quench. Be very careful NOT to overheat! Test it with a magnet when its cherry red...leave it in a little longer if the magnet still attracts the steel. Usually (for me) when it goes from red to a darkish orange...that's when I know I'm getting close.

Do not quench in water! Do not quench in a fast oil either. Medium oil is what you need for files.

After quench and the blade is at room temp, run a good file across what will eventually be the cutting edge. It will skate across the blade like glass....its heat treated correctly at this point. If the file digs into the blade significantly, it didnt harden..A little teeny tiny bit of digging in is ok. Then on to the tempering process. Tempering will reduce the hardness of the steel just a smidge, which is what you want. It re-aligns the molecules in the blade and gets the blade ready for its job in the field. I temper at 375-400 degrees for 2 hours....three times.Now you're ready to finish the blade!

This is the cliff notes version of how I make a file knife....there are a number of other steps in my process, but this will get you started.

Happy Thanksgiving yall
 
Pretty well presented gd57. I concur with pretty much everything you wrote.

General
>#1 is very important - always test before proceeding with all unknown/mystery steels. Even same brand name files are not all equal. For example, newer Nicholson's are not the same alloy composition as the older ones. Belotta's, India's and Pakastan's are all over the page. Even Save Edge, while reasonably consistent, runs in the .57 to ,60 range in carbon content. Marginal on the low end for blade quality steel, which means you have to be very tight on temp control during heattreating to get best results.
>While yes, 900 deg and down in a slow cool does soften a file, it is not "annealed" per say, but just low end normalized. True annealing is a much more sophisticated physical change on the molecular scale. Still works just to normalize, just getting terminology straight. If you don't have access to a trustworthy heat treat oven, you can also normalize files in your fire place or pit by burying them in the coals when you shut down for the night. Fish them out in the morning.

Lungshot
> I don't grind my blades, but forge them to around 90% finish. If you plan to forge them out, make sure you grind down past the edge of the teeth/cuts on the files edge and up the sides of the file a good 1/4". Otherwise you are just forcing cold-shuts (micro-cracks) into the working edge of your blade which is not good. If you grind not a big issue.
> Once you have shaped your blade by either method you need to re- normalize three times: 1st at quench temp and cool to touch 2nd right at non-magnetic and cool to touch and 3rd at dull almost black red and cool to touch. Cool to touch means allowing the blade to cool slowly out of cool moving air - best method is sticking in a bucket of vermiculite or dry wood ash for a slow cool each time. It's time to drill any holes you need in the steel now, before you harden it again.
> You have not said if or what kind of forge you have access to. Temp control is pretty important from this point on. Judging temps in a coal forge require a good bit of experience, gas forge is somewhat easier as you can see your blade, regulate and control the temps better. The magnet will work as described, but you must be diligent in watching the colorization change in the steel and get the entire blade that shade with no bright spots. This too, takes some practice to get right.
> If you don't have ready access to a "professional" designated quench oil, you can substitute warmed canola oil - heated to 120 degrees prior to quenching (candy t'meter or turkey t'meter will tell when ready). Not quite as fast as Tough Quench, but sufficient for most file steels with the exception of the Nicholson Black Diamonds and Simmons (they are 1095 steel and require a faster quench oil, like Parks 50 for best results).
> Use the tempering process gd57 described. Again these temps need to be as accurate as possible. While using the wife's oven can work, cooking ovens are all over the page while trying to control temp - they cycle high drop to low over and over to regulate temp. Not the best scenario. Put an extra oven t'meter in that you can watch without opening the door and keep an eye on it until you are comfortable with it's stability.
>> Preheat the oven prior to doing the hardening quench on the blade so it is up to heat when quench is completed. Do not linger once the blade is at handleable temp. Proceed directly to the oven. Hesitating can induce stress cracks in a lot of higher carbon steels as the blade continues to cool internally.
Word to the wise - use soap and water to remove as much Q oil from the blade as possible before putting into the oven!
Try 375 first then test the sharpenability of the blade. If it's too difficult to put an edge on go to 400 and retest, may have to go as high as 415 with some steels. You want to achieve an edge that you can maintain in the field with minimal effort and that wont chip or break when you hit bone.

Still a lot more to this than has been mentioned here, but it should get you started. Just remember it's supposed to be fun. You can get a lot of enjoyment skinning that deer/hog with a knife you made yourself. Heck, it may become your new-found addiction like it is for us.
If you really get to liking this - go spend time with an established knifemaker or two, or three. We don't all do everything the same but we aspire to produce the best we can from our efforts. You can learn something from every shop you visit to find the way that best suits you.
 
Thread starter #19
82518376-1942-4E69-A043-030D5B71FC77.jpeg 7494EF63-C7DE-4763-BE13-5FBDAE8DDD8A.jpeg 6C534610-AAD5-4F3A-85D1-3D403F8723E6.jpeg F5001302-B383-4E3C-97D6-708A687A311C.jpeg F069DBF4-4582-4D32-A0CA-2335E30FB4F2.jpeg 82518376-1942-4E69-A043-030D5B71FC77.jpeg Heres two I hand picked for knifes or files. I use both often. I beat the rust off with a wire wheel. Are these top quality for knifes or??? Seem to be excellent files.
 
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