Restoring my granddad’s files

One of my favorite scenes from the movie Crocodile Dundee is where he pulls out his knife with the quote “that’s not a knife”. In that respect you have to look at one of the giant files in comparison to a normal-sized one to appreciate that “That’s not a file. That’s a file.”

These files are really huge and it was fun to restore them.

Getting the rust off

Earlier this year my dad passed away and I  inherited these files that he got from his dad. They are huge and my granddad used them to  build carriage wheels and later car bodies at a short time in history when they  were made from wood rather than metal.

The first step is to remove the rust. I make a quick form out of cardboard and shrink  wrap to use not more acid than necessary. I am using citric acid for rust removal  and let the files soak over night.


I rinse the files under clean water and  remove most of the rust with a brush.


After drying the files with a hot air gun they get a short treatment with WD-40 to  prevent rust building up again.


Making the handles

The handles will be made from oak. The lumber  is milled on one side and cut to rough length. I will inset the handle opening  by 1 cm from the end so that I can turn the wood directly between centers. These files are hand forged and therefore each  file looks different and is not fully symmetrical.

To ensure that they sit straight in the handle I mark one side and trace the part of the  file that should sit in the handle with a pen. From each side of the handle I remove  half the thickness with a router.

The two halves are glued  together and dry over night.

This method works for all  files except this huge one.

For this to fit in the handle I measure carefully  the dimensions and transfer them on the wood.

I then use a saw to cut out  the shape from the handle. If the wood is clamped at an angle it  is quite easy to stick to the line. To make woodturning easier I glue a wooden block  to the end of the handle to close the opening.

After the glue has dried I put the handle  on the lathe and turn it into a cylinder.


On the cylinder I can use my laser cut  template to mark a couple of reference points.


The first depth Mark has to be  precise and I therefore use calipers.

As the others are only for the visual look using the lower part  of the laser template is precise enough.

I then create transitions  between the marked areas. Lastly the handle is sanded to 240 grid.


Ferrule and putting the file in the handle

Before cutting off the ends I transfer  the mark for the right side of the file.

As the ferrule I use part of a water pipe.  I cut a slice of it off on the bandsaw.


A few gentle taps with the hammer  drives the file into the handle.

The files turned out beautifully. I honestly  don’t know what to do with them but having these impressive tools sitting on my tool  wall will hopefully spark an idea.
Leave me a comment: What  would you do with such a file?

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