File Handles


I must admit that in the past I have used a file to just remove an edge from a part rotating in the lathe and it has grabbed and pushed the file back into my hand. You only do this once to realise that all files need to have handles to protect you from the tang.file-handles-001You can buy handles from a number of toolshops and online, but I find the process of making them very therapeutic and the end result is rather pleasing. The first thing is to find a scrap of hardwood, I have a bin of offcuts.

file-handles-002In this case I have a piece of beech. This is a fine grained wood and is perfect for handles. The offcut needs to be longer than the tang on the file.

file-handles-003The first thing to do is to drill a hole in the wood the depth of the tang and just about the same diameter or slightly smaller. If you just want a push fit then slightly smaller will work well.

Again, take your time to get the hole centred and make sure that you are drilling on axis with the piece of wood.

Two handles, cut to length, drilled and then sanded around the end where the file is going to fit.

It is worth sanding and smoothing the end closest to the file as this is the end that your fingers will be holding onto and you really don’t want rough edges.

Don’t worry if the handle is lopsided, I actually think this adds character and when using the file this really doesn’t matter. However, I would suggest you try some different shapes and see what works for you first.

file-handles-004The next thing I do is glue the file tang into the handle. For this I use gorilla glue or a 2-part epoxy – either works really well with metal and wood.

You can just use a good push fit, but I rather like the fit and forget nature of this type of handle. Also, if you use a push fit you might want to make the handle a good thickness to ensure that there is no chance of the wood splitting. Although, beech is a good choice as it is a tight fine grain and is tough.

Note that the Gorilla glue will expand and ooze out from the handle for a while, just wipe off the excess glue and leave. Do be careful not to get this glue on your hands as it is not very nice.

file-handles-006Once the glue has set, I normally leave it for 24 hours, then you can just cut away the excess glue and sand back any glue left on the wood.

Now you can sand the handle down and round off the edges. I use a disc sander for this as it removes a lot of material quickly and gives me a great amount of control as both hands are free.

Just beware with a disc sander to use good dust extraction and to also wear a face mask.

As mentioned earlier, I tend to round the handle on the sander to give a nice shape.

file-handles-007The final two handles glued and smoothed.

Once the handles are glued, sanded to shape and set you can then use a fine sandpaper to just finish the shape.

Spend as much time as you like at this stage to get the handles smooth. It is a good idea to try the handles and get a feel for any edges or corners that need more sanding at this stage.

The next step for me is one thin coat of varnish. I like a good old fashioned hard gloss varnish that brings the wood colour out and stops the file handles getting too grubby in the workshop.

file-handles-008The final file handles all smooth and varnished.

The file handle shape really is up to you, for this pair of round files, one a bastard file and the other a fine cut file I made the handles roundish in shape.

For some of the other handles I made them more pebble shape.

I will have to hunt around in the offcut bin and try some other types of wood.

I’m not sure gluing a file handle in place is the correct thing to do, but must admit that this works very well for me.

About Nigel 326 Articles
I've been making models since I was around 7 years old and using a lathe from the age of 11, a self taught engineer with a passion for making model engines.

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