When I started to learn metalsmithing, Lexi stressed the importance of hand finishing my work. Part of that process involves using some of these hand files, along with sand paper and other things.
In the picture at the top of this post, I have my size 0, 2, and 4 files. For the most part, I start with my 0 file as it takes off the rough edges the fastest and then I work my way to the finer files. I don’t always need to do that, it just depends on the finish I’m trying to achieve on the edges of my metal.
All of these files are manufactured by Grobet. I purchased mine through Tevel at Allcraft. One thing I’ve learned is buying quality tools is money well spent. With proper care, your files will last a long time and you will be protecting your investment.
Generally I use the number 0 and number 1 files and my work is done. My goal is to get that nice, clean edge on my pieces. The hand finish process creates a smooth finish that will prevent the jewelry from snagging clothing or feeling sharp to the wearer.
One of the added benefits I find with hand finishing pieces is that I find it very soothing to do. I love working with my hands. As I hand finish my pieces, I feel like I’m putting a part of my soul into the piece…kind of bringing it to life with the gentle care of crafting the metal in its final form. It is a zen thing for me, no doubt.
How to protect your investment. It’s important to keep the files clean and the file cleaner, shown below, helps to pick out the bits of metal shavings that can accumulate in the file’s teeth.
This last file I want to show is is also a Grobet….it’s very small compared to the others and is used for very fine work, like gently filing the edge of a bezel. Wonderful for delicate jobs where the others will just overpower and possibly ruin your metalwork.
The number 6 file is expensive. I bought mine last year and it was over $60. It’s only 4 or 5 inches long. However it is a wonderful little file for precision work and I have found it to be worth every penny I spent. This one also came from Allcraft.
Why do I hand finish my work? The obvious answer is that it was the way I was taught. However, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to explore other options and I still come back to hand finishing my work. As I said earlier, it is a very soothing part of the process for me and, in my opinion, the end result cannot be rivaled.
Another way some metalsmiths use for their final finish work is a tumbler. I actually have one that I have never used. Ironically, I bought it when I was doing wire wrap work and knew it was a good way to work harden the wire and finish the pieces. Frankly, I just never found the courage to put my pieces in a tumbler because I was wire wrapping fused glass cabochons and I just didn’t trust the tumbling process to not harm my glass. I had these visions of chipped or scratched glass cabs with my wire work destroyed and gnarled….just never felt like trying the tumbler. Someday I’ll need to explore it on something small just to be able to compare the results.
I recognize that metalsmiths choose a variety of ways to finish their jewelry, some based on how they have been taught, some on alternative methods they’ve discovered and just enjoy, some it’s just their signature way of completing a piece. I think the way an artist finishes their pieces becomes a matter of personal preference and what they like in the final look for their work.
At this point, because I enjoy working with my hands so much, I will continue to hand finish my pieces. I find all of these files are an invaluable part of my process that allow me to achieve the look and feel I want in the personal adornments I create.
That concludes this week’s segment of Talkin’ Tools. For those metalsmiths in the crowd, what is your favorite method to finish your work and why?
Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.