Steel files into knives

Anvil Head

Senior Member
Pretty interesting selection of files. The Lion Head is quite intriguing and one I'd try to save the log and incorporate to show when the knife is finished. Same with the last one, just cause I like cool logos/brands. I would still water quench test the steel on the leading end. Don't quench the entire file, just the first two inches or so. It doesn't take a cave man wallop just a good tap.....wear safety glasses please!

The Simmons is a pretty sure bet for high carbon, the others will need testing as above. The Heller seems to have varying results for different folks and the ones I've tested have been on the lower range of enough carbon for knife blades - somewhere in the high .5% to .65% for their farrier's models. So I just use them for wrap-around hawks.

Bottom line on all is the initial testing for hardenability, then being careful with the thermal cycling (heat-treating) when you get to that part of the project. If you do the normalizing step to remove the hardness and grind the file into a blade, don't worry about overheating while grinding, just keep a bucket of water handy to cool it off as you grind. You will recondition the steel later during HTng. Do not grind all the way to sharp, leave the "cutting" edge about the thickness of a dime - too thin will cause possible issues during final hardening quench like warping and/or cracking.
Make sure your grinding is smooth and even on both sides.

Note: Be sure to do the last 3 step normalizing process before you do the hardening and tempering steps. This will greatly increase the quality of you final results.

You have not stated how you plan to mount the handle material. Expand on that and we can give you some helpful tips there as well.

Oh yeah, last but not least - if the files are still usable, use them up first. No need in wasting a useful tool. A less aggressive way to remove rust/crud from old files is to soak in a container of warm white vinegar for a day or two. Most will clean right up with a light wire brushing that won't damage the teeth so much as a wire wheel.
Thread starter #25

Mr Bya Lungshot

Useless Billy Volunteer DJ.
Ok thinking about heating the tips of the black diamond first and then the lion head.
Both those are special to me and dont wanna screw up. The BD was my fathers and he said make a knife outta this one when its filing abilty is gone. The tip is long and is real bad so why not bust it off and make a knife from daddy’s file. The lion head file too had a bad spot at the tip but I hate to start with the best. The other files are all great as files still. Taking it slow and sure and probably show up at one of the here now pros house rather than ruin my chances.
It’s the final product I’m after so time is not the issue its the techniques and knowledge I’m learning and waiting on to get it right the firsttime.

The handle will probably be antler on one and some special wood on the other.
I’ll pin the antlers with brass rod or brass nut n bolt for lack of the proper term for handle connectors.
I’m definitely open to new and old ideas.

Anvil Head

Senior Member
Sounds like a plan. Don't worry about doing something "new" unless you plan to go electric or use plastics. Everything else has been around and done since man first discovered how to make tools. Someone has surely done it before over and over and over. And, I might add, with a whole lot less tools than what we have available today.
Glad you intend to take it slowly.
Sent you a private message.


Senior Member
Here's an old one I rehandled for a friend. The original was rosewood and not pinned. I told him I could pin it but he choose not to. I really like the blade. He has no clue who made it, was given to him 30 yrs ago. It was pretty nasty and I'm not set up for metal polishing :( Cleaned it up best I could. Don't know nutn bought knife makn.


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Thread starter #28

Mr Bya Lungshot

Useless Billy Volunteer DJ.
Just rehandled my custom handmade but boughtfacepalm: knife yesterday with antler. I don’t think its a file knife but it could be???
Yours is what I want. The file part exactly would please me bigtime.
Once you have that who cares what handle is on it, its still just a file.:rockon:

Anvil Head

Senior Member
Just looking at it, it might be that there were no pins originally as the file may never have been normalized or softened for work and reheat-treating holding its original hardness. The owner (gifted) probably liked the look without pins. Two things the pins do - stabilize the scales so the glue joint is not shocked or easily broken, and retains the handle encase the glue does release.

The blade looks nice and the grind look well done. Shame he doesn't remember the maker.
If the file was ground into a blade "as is" with no heat-treating - the bulk of the blade will be a bit on the hard side for a working blade and prone to be brittle, easily chipped or broken.
gd57 brought up another point as well. Unless the maker was reasonably experienced with grinding and heat control, there are possibly "soft" or burned spots along the cutting edge where the blade got too hot during the grinding. The thinner the ground part gets the trickier. Way more prevalent in blades made this way. No way to be certain with out testing.

I prefer to redo the HT on any steels I use so I know for sure where things stand.


Senior Member
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?
I’m pretty sure I sent you a message saying I’d be glad to give you some advice with Old File Knives. I’m no master bladesmith but I’ve sold file knives for $425 on ArizonaCoustomKnives. They just have to be done right to be as good as purchase known steel.
Raley Lane
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Thread starter #33

Mr Bya Lungshot

Useless Billy Volunteer DJ.
The Heller file is still as new so I’ll pick another to make a knife. Probably the lionhead if the steel is right and I’d imagine it is.

Anvil Head

Senior Member
My invite still stands as well. If you'd like to "save" the Lion's Head logo to show up on the finished knife, I can help you with that. Not difficult once you see how it can be done.
On the "file" look, that's no real issue. Now if you want it to still cut as a file, you are looking at a couple of problems:
1 - Back to grinding at full hard with all the risk mentioned prior.
2 - If you plan to sheath it once complete, the file portion will quickly eat up the sheath. It will also cause some resistance when cutting, dependent on material being cut.
Most makers I know (including me) will grind/sand/or hammer the file teeth down to a smoother surface. The teeth still show but are no longer aggressive.

Below are a few I've made from files. Could not find one with a saved logo stamp, but have done several. Remember, I forge all my blades to shape and re-heattreat all my steels.

BoDag2.jpg Bowie 1b.JPG brtedfrge1.jpg Conf D Guard Bowie 1.jpg Knives.JPG Rifleman.JPG
Thread starter #35

Mr Bya Lungshot

Useless Billy Volunteer DJ.
@Anvil Head I’m coming to you first as your the closer master oh and of course up their with the best.
Id rather have a great knife with a lionhead on it than a file.
@godogs57 is on my list for visits as well but I’m bringing him a different set of files.
Then when done I can say two of the best people in the world taught me how to make these. Another guy offered help too and he’s not too far for a file knife either in toccoa. Just hunting and working but definitely gonna go forging.

Anvil Head

Senior Member
You would not go wrong visiting with Raley (Toccoa). He does fine work and is a gifted smith.