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Alan Longmire

This is why I'm always recommending files to people

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I've been working on a pipe tomahawk head and finished up the filing on Sunday.  After taking the last few strokes with a 3" needle file, and seeing the 16" mill bastard next to it, I thought it would be of interest to some to see the results of drawfiling the way I do, the end result, and every single file I used on the project.

First, drawfiling.  For hawk heads, there's really not a good way to finish them totally on the grinder because of all the odd curves and stepped lines.  Well, maybe if I had a small wheel attachment, but not as I am currently set up.  I forge to shape, remove the scale and rough profile with an angle grinder, then use the belt grinder to rough in the surfaces, although it's not strictly necessary.  Once the scale is gone you can jump straight to filing, I made hawks that way for eight years before I got the belt grinder.  Once I have it as flat as it's gonna be on the belt grinder (36, 60, and 80 grit zirconia followed by A300, A160, A65, and A45 trizact), it's time to drawfile.  I start with the 16" mill bastard, which immediately shows where the belt grinder did not make it truly flat.  Then to the 12" mill bastard, then on to the six-inchers.  Mill bastard, Mill 2nd cut, then mill smooth.  After the last strokes with the 6" mill smooth, it's ready for 220-grit paper.

Burt's hawk 3.jpg

I originally took this picture to show the carbon migration from the 1084 edge steel to the wrought iron body, but then I realized I had never posted a picture of a properly drawfiled surface.  There are still a couple of 36-grit scratches on the edge steel, but that will be ground away after heat treat.  Yes, this is not yet hardened.  Also, I should mention if you don't have a belt grinder you can do the entire thing with files.  Just takes a little longer.

Next, here is the result of all the filing, both draw and push.

Burt's hawk 1.jpg

See what I mean about things you can't do with a belt grinder?  Every last bit of surface you see is the result of filing.  There was a lathe involved in creating the bowl, but files were used on the bowl while it was in the lathe chuck as well.  Note this is as-filed, it has not been sandpapered yet.  Well, the molding between eye and blade has been cleaned up with a 1/2" sanding drum for a Dremel, but that's it.

 Finally, the files used in making this hawk:

Burt's hawk 2.jpg

From the left, we have the 16" mill bastard with one edge ground safe (heavy stock removal and rapid drawfileing), the 1/4" chainsaw (setting some of the curves on the lathe), a 14" long-angle lathe file (fast stock removal push-filing, tends to leave a smoother surface than the 16" mill) 12" round file (lathe work), 12" mill bastard for intermediate smoothing, 8" half-round for setting the transition from eye to blade and shaping that little step on the bottom, the three six-inch mill files (bastard with safe edge, 2nd cut, and smooth), two 6" three-squares, one slim and one XX-slim with a safe edge (these were used to make the grooves and clean up the inside corners on the bowl), and finally, the 3" round needle file that was used to clean up the grooves.

The 16" is the workhorse of the family.  Used as a push file it cut the shoulders on the transition and the V on the eye.  As a draw file it flattened and blended the blade.   The long-angle lathe file has two safe edges (meant to be used on the lathe, it won't mar the chuck).  The round file and big chainsaw file clean up my sloppy lathework on the neck of the bowl.  The other bastard files are just used to clean up after the one before.  The three-square XX-slim with one face ground smooth can cut dovetails, but it also acts like a knife to cut very sharp straight lines for the grooves.  The slim three-square follows those lines to widen and deepen the cut, and the needle file removes the coarser marks of the bigger files.  

And that's only about a quarter of my file collection...

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Very nice.

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That's some pretty cool filework! I'd call that sculpting

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1 hour ago, Joël Mercier said:

That's some pretty cool filework! I'd call that sculpting

 

pure Finitiob!  

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I enjoy using files, but I can't claim to be nay good at it, or to even really understand the difference between the finish you get from various sizes and cuts.  (I thought I did know once, and then found out the finish is not only a function of mill, 2nd cut, finish cut, etc., but also the length of the file)

If properly taken care of, what is the life expectancy of a good quality file? (Assuming you can find one)  My "Central American made" files seem to last quite a while, but given how lowly regarded they are, I am wondering if I just don't know what I am missing, or if I just don't use them them much compared to everyone else.

 

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If properly taken care of, a good quality file can last a long time indeed.  Most of the ones in that picture are 18 years old.  My Mexico-made Nicholsons are so bad I simply don't use them.  Poor tooth-cutting, bad heat treat.  They just don't work, even on brass or silver.  I hear the Brazil-made ones are a little better, but the Mexican-made experience left such a bad taste in my mouth I've said no to any foreign-made Nicholsons.  I am a file snob, I admit it.  But considering the life and use I get from the good ones, it's not worth it to me to deal with the cheap ones.  

The most important advice I can give on file care is to treat them like a precision instrument.  Store them so they can't bang into each other, don't hit things with them, don't try to file hardened steel, that kind of thing.  I keep mine in tool rolls hanging from the front of the bench.  Or leaning on the wall where they can't fall over and the mice can't pee on them (bad rust issues if that happens).  If you make a rack for them, make it out of brass, aluminum, or hard wood.  Steel, even mild steel, can ding the teeth.

Always lift the file on the return stroke, dragging one backwards dulls them.  Brush the teeth out every few strokes. This prevents (or lessens) the phenomenon of "pinning'" where a little hard chip scratches your work.  I use old toothbrushes and toothbrush-sized wire brushes, and pick the pins out with the tip of an Exacto knife if nothing else gets them out.  

Chainsaw files are disposables. 

Always have a proper handle on your files.  This aids precision and prevents stabbing yourself in the hand.  They're cheap (around $4 each).  As you see, golf balls are good for chainsaw files.  Not so much for long flat files, it's hard to keep them indexed properly.

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1 hour ago, Alan Longmire said:

 

pure Finitiob!  

Prosperetous!

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1 hour ago, Joël Mercier said:

Prosperetous!

Do you mean "preposterous?"  You question my finitiob skills?  While you are the undisputed master of the art, I think I am a competent student! :lol:

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What is draw filing? Probably a noob question.

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Draw filing is pulling (drawing, in old British speak) or pushing a file sideways down the length of the metal.  It is a fast way to flatten uneven surfaces.  If you pull the file towards you, the handle should be in your left hand.  If you push it away it should be in your right.  It's kind of like using a cheese grater rather than a knife, if you follow.  Normal filing or push filing along the length of the file is faster cutting, and is what makes the shoulders.  Draw filing levels the surface and erases the marks from normal filing or grinding.

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A lot of technique in this thread.

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I tried to find a link to Don Fogg's Arctic Fire presentation of draw filing, but couldn't find one anywhere on the Internet (not just this forum).  Does it exist out there anywhere?  I have the DVD, and definitely recommend watching all Arctic Fire videos for anyone!  

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Can you draw file with a regular Double cut bastard file?

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5 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

 

pure Finitiob!  

 

3 hours ago, Joël Mercier said:

Prosperetous!

You guys :rolleyes: :lol:

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3 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:
4 hours ago, Joël Mercier said:

Prosperetous!

Do you mean "preposterous?"

Yeah, I had to trade some of my English skills for more finitiob cause I had no room left in my brain.

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12 hours ago, Conner Michaux said:

Can you draw file with a regular Double cut bastard file?

Yes indeed.  Just leaves a rougher surface than a single cut.

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28 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

Yes indeed.  Just leaves a rougher surface than a single cut.

Would that also mean that it doesn't matter which direction you have the file handle pointing?

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No.  The teeth are still angled to cut in one direction only, the overcut is just at a slightly different angle to the upcut.  

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This is a great thread! The humble file can do anything a 2x72 can do and a whole lot more! One other technique I use from time to time is "hot rasping". I use old rasps that have the most aggressive cutting action knocked off of them already. My farrier keeps me supplied with rasps that have lost a little of their bite. I bring the work up to forging heat and get it in the vise and then go to town with the rasp. It will shave material like hot butter and quickly too! This is only for hogging out a lot of material fast but it's another way to work around not having access to a really strong, aggressive grinder.

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As I  have never even attempted a hawk, you guys that make them have all my respect.  Thanks for sharing.  Nice thread!

 

Gary

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Lovely job draw filing and finishing.  I'm particularly impressed with the area around the eye and double chevron ornament you added there.  Just finished a pipe hawk class with Jay Close and we were instructed to change directions for our filing in this area (perpendicular to the longitudinal filing done on the blade).  I'm guessing you did you final passes hand sanding in the same direction as the blade for consistency?

Also you mentioned peripherally that you turned the bowl on a lathe.  It looks as though you made the body of the hawk using a wrap and weld method.  When we did our hawks with that kind of post connection to the bowl we went with integral construction (all parts made from a single piece of 1x1 mild steel with a  HC bit welded in).  If you don't mind sharing secrets, how do you form your bowl on the lathe and how are you attaching the strap to the rest of the hawk (silver solder or brazing)?

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No hand sanding yet in that pic!  All drawfiled after cutting it out.  And yes, that gets tedious in the tighter parts outside the chevron.  You see, drawfiling with a 6" mill smooth file leaves a finish equivalent to 220-grit paper.

Well spotted on the bowl.  There are as many ways to make a pipe hawk as there are smiths who make them, and it's been that way since they were invented.  This particular head is a reproduction of a specific piece and had to be held to dimension, which limited how I could do it.  The one this is replicating was forged by wrapping, but with a lump of iron left on the strap for the bowl.  I tried that and failed miserably.  That method involves starting with a 1" square section wrought iron bar about 6 inches long.  Isolate a 1" cube in the center of the bar and forge the rest out flat and 1/4" thick, then forge as normal for a wrap-weld hawk.  Before you wrap, though, you drive a sharp punch into the bowl preform, then forge it on out over a small mandrel.  It was going great until the wrought decided I was abusing it and split the bowl.

The one in the picture was forged from 1.25" round wrought iron tie rod.  I left the back of the eye about 1/2" thick in the center, blending down to the 1/4" thickness of the rest of the strap.  Then I drilled, tapped, and countersunk it for the bowl (3/8-24 NF) using the milling attachment on the lathe.  Once the tapped hole was there, I milled a flat spot centered on the hole, about 3/4" in diameter.  Then I took the end cut from the original bar of iron and forged it to 1" round.  Stuck that in the lathe and made the bowl by drilling and turning, leaving a nice flat shoulder 3/4" in diameter on the eye end of the bowl (made a nifty little adapter tool thingy to be able to hold the bowl by its threaded stem while drilling it out, no pics of that).  When the bowl is threaded into the head, the machined flats meet without a gap.  A little Handy-Flux and a bit of Harris Safety-Silv 56 brazing rod later, it became one piece.  Then the round files are used to sculpt and blend, the flat files are used to blend, and it looks like a one-piece forging just like the original.  There is a hair-thin line of brazing rod showing on the lower part of the neck, but this will be browned so it will be invisible.

A lot more work than I usually do to them.  Mild steel heads from me are usually just threaded and brazed or set on a stud and brazed.  

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Wonderful detail on construction of the bowl.  Given me a lot of good ideas.  Look forward to seeing this one finished and (hopefully) etched to show all that lovely wrought iron.  Thanks!

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You're welcome!  And unfortunately the guy wants it heavily browned, so no etching.  All that lovely grain will be hidden.  Oh, well.  At least it'll have some engraving and silver inlays. 

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Dude. I'm speechless . Following

 

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