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Steel files vs. diamond files

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As in many situations, it depends on what kind of material that you're working. For most woods, I'd stay with steel files because there are many tooth patterns and shapes that allow quick removal of wood, and the final tooling marks can be removed with abrasives.  For metal, diamond files might be more suitable because of the hardness and random arrangement of the diamond particles reduces tooling marks. Also, my diamond files have grits that are too fine for quickly shaping wood. 


For myself, I only use diamond files and stones for sharpening metal tools, and use steel files that I clean with a plastic or wire brush.  One thing that I try to avoid, is using a particular file for both wood and metal, because sometimes metal fragments that are in a file's surface might be transferred to the wood.  

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Steel files are the way to go, diamond impregnated ones seem to cut too fine for wood.  


After buying cheap ones and then later purchasing some Vallorbe needle files (I think Grobet USA is the same company), I can say it’s one of the best purchases I’ve made.





If you want to hog lots of wood, woodcraft has some great needle rasps. 

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In theory, files (with cutting ridges) are for metal and rasps (with individual cutting teeth) are for wood. Certain woods may dull quite quickly on wood or are too fine, so that they clog quickly and become ineffective, requiring frequent cleaning.


Diamond impregnated 'files' are similar in action to sandpaper, i.e. they have many, but geometrically not very well defined cutting edges. Diamond files come in many different price ranges and qualities, but unlike their grading is not as well established as for the 'cut' of files. So, unless you can inspect what you buy, it may be difficult to know what you get. Diamond files typically also have less well-defined edges, so are basically not suited to work on sharp inside corners.


In general, I am using cheap diamond nail-files (the first one I bought some 40 years ago and it is still in use) for working on flat surfaces, but steel needle-files for producing geometrically correct cut-outs etc. I found diamond needle-files less useful, except perhaps the round, rat-tail ones.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would not use diamond-files on (soft) metal. In comparison to a good steel-file they leave fines scratches on the surface. Also, cheaper ones tend to loose their diamond studding. Files have oblique cutting ridges with a defined geometry that smooth the metal, while diamonds have an undefined geometry and may stick out more or less, hence the risk of scratching. There are diamond- or boron-nitrate-files for honing, but this is another story.

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Chock, the kind you can buy for a Blackboard are good fillers for files. With a clean file just rub the chock over the teeth, knock the loose chock off and it will help prevent plugging. I use in on files and rasps, transferring chock to your work should not be a problem, wiping a rag over the teeth before use should prevent that.  Use diamond hones for edges, never had a diamond file in my hand.


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Ahoy Mates


As an old tool and diemaker of over 45 years and model maker for over 60, I have used both and for the diamond files I love them on wood and steel for fast cutting and also use steel files. They both have their places.


I like the open cutting of the diamond's,they are like sandpaper,but for shapes and controled filing the steel ones are the best. Just make sure they are not stacked on each other or just tossed into a drawer.


Check out a jewler's supplier for files,they will have quality ones which cost more but will last you forever. The ones you get at a discount place mostly are not worth the price.


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