Introduction: Make Disposable Files

Picture of Make Disposable Files

I had a need for a dozen or more small files for only a few hours. 

Rather than pay out for tools that would then become unused clutter, I decided to make a set cheaply enough that I wouldn't mind throwing them out when they weren't needed any more.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
There are very few things needed:

  • 6mm dowel. I bought a 2.4m length for £1.68. Cut to about six inch lengths, that's enough for 16 files.
  • Sandpaper. A pack of 10 sheets cost me 89p, and I only used one sheet to make the set.
  • PVA glue and masking tape - both from "stock".
That's it. Sixteen files for less than 20p each.

Step 2: A Ripping Time

Picture of A Ripping Time

Rather than cutting the sandpaper, which might have damaged any blade I used, I just folded and tore it.

I was using cheap sandpaper; if you use better-quality paper, it might prove harder to rip neatly.

The sheets tore into four strips that were conveniently the right width to cover half a piece of dowel, and then into small rectangles that wrapped around the dowel once.

Step 3: Wrap It Up

Picture of Wrap It Up

Smear the back of the paper with a generous amount of glue. PVA is the basis of both craft and wood-glue, perfect for fixing paper to wood.

Wrap it around the dowel, then tape in place until it dries.

Step 4: Done

Picture of Done

I didn't time myself, but, apart from drying time, a full set of files took about 30-40 minutes.

Something to remember is that they are still sandpaper at core, and have the same limits - they clog very easily on green wood. If you are going to use them on green wood, you need to replace the cheap sandpaper with proper "wet and dry" abrasive paper, and a glue that will put up with being dipped and swirled in water during use.


zposner (author)2016-12-19

Nice, simple idea to have on my mind in case I ever need something like this.

Kiteman (author)zposner2016-12-22


MandalorianMaker (author)2015-08-17

Neat idea, I will have to try this!

Kiteman (author)MandalorianMaker2015-08-17

Cool, post pictures when you do,

sdfgeoff (author)2014-05-31

I do this with dremel bits, get the felt polishing drums and use white-glue to glue a strip of sandpaper around the edge.

One thing I do there that may be good here as well is that I wind the sandpaper around the drum a couple of times. On the dremel, it wears off quickly, and so instead of having to remake it, I can simply unwind and tear off a loop of the sandpaper. (the PVA doesn't stick well to the sharp side).

It does mean that it isn't perfectly circular though.

Kiteman (author)sdfgeoff2014-06-01

These don't get the high-speed battering that a dremel would.

Fikjast Scott (author)2014-05-31

I like the tape idea to hold the paper to the dowl. great job

Kiteman (author)Fikjast Scott2014-05-31

Thank you!

Machine (author)2014-04-05

Very tidy idea. I'll do that. I occasionally need to file small things and your idea is perfect.

Kiteman (author)Machine2014-04-05


bullzebub (author)2014-03-21

theseare great if your dowel is thin enough to fit the chuck of your drill. bites much better than normal round files since normal files are directional.

another good idea is to glue sandpaper on a flat surface ... i used to attach one directly to my workbench.

bsmith152 (author)2014-02-23

actualy a file comes in diffrent sizes and hardnes. ur store baught file is usaly 65 hrc on the rockwell scale. sand paper has no hardnes. so what ur making is acrualy a sand paper stick.

Kiteman (author)PACW2014-03-05

xkcd rocks!

Kiteman (author)bsmith1522014-02-23

...that is used the same way as a file.

The point is, this is a disposably cheap alternative to a normal file.

notimeoff (author)2014-03-04

Nice post, I have bin doing this to my shop pencils for years, there just right with and inch or two of sand paper and I still have a pencil :-)

snoopindaweb (author)2014-03-03

Shouldn't be too hard to recover the dowels if wanted.?

Kiteman (author)snoopindaweb2014-03-04

I guess not, but if you're lazy, and near a camp bonfire...

snoopindaweb (author)Kiteman2014-03-04

They would be handy camping, light too.

jimmysymo (author)2014-03-04

Really good idea,have voted for you. Iv;e worked in wood carving 40 years and this is a good cheap tool good luck.have a good day.

Kiteman (author)jimmysymo2014-03-04

Thank you!

PACW (author)2014-03-04

My other great Kiteman/File theory:

Because the World Wide Web is actually World Wide, many times people from different countries mingle online. I have heard a rumor that Kiteman lives in a country other than America, where they speak English- just not very well. In fact he once had a spanner under the bonnet of a Lori. So it is possible that some words may be more elastic in some places than others.

Kiteman (author)PACW2014-03-04


mc2517 (author)2014-03-03

some two-sided tape is even better than the glue. you can make some great emery boards using the same technique with thin flat wood stock, tongue depressors, etc

Kiteman (author)mc25172014-03-04

It's better if you have some. It's not a "stock" material in my shed.

mc2517 (author)Kiteman2014-03-04

hasn't gone out of production. used for installing golf grips and other applications. comes in widths 3/4" and up.

Kiteman (author)mc25172014-03-04

I know that, I just didn't have any myself when I made these.

PACW (author)2014-03-04

I have two theories as to why Kiteman used the word "file" improperly.

The first theory is that he didn't use the word improperly. Although I am frequently obsessive about word misuse I know that being too precise in definitions can hinder understanding - which sort of defeats the purpose of communication.

I use sand paper and files and rasps and emery boards. But I refer to my emery boards (sandpaper on a stick) as nail files and everyone knows what I mean - which is just as well because emery boards aren't made with actual emery!

The way a tool is used is as important as the actual configuration when referring to it by name.

Analogous question. . . . . At what exact point does a tool stop being a serrated knife and starts being a saw?

desertsniper (author)2014-02-21

​I think your "N" key has gone rouge!!
"Awesone"and "thanknyou" lol

PACW (author)desertsniper2014-03-04

Maybe he's southern and what he meant was, "Aw, son, that is brilliant." And thanknyou is so obviously short for "I am thanking you"

fzbw9br (author)2014-03-03

files are for metal

rasps are for wood

Kiteman (author)fzbw9br2014-03-04

The difference between files and rasps is not in the material they work, but in the shape of the teeth or grooves:

fzbw9br (author)Kiteman2014-03-04

Hey, I stand corrected.

that was a good link. Thanks for that!

Kiteman (author)fzbw9br2014-03-04

You're welcome!

uncle frogy (author)2014-03-04

I have had no trouble cutting any paper if I fold it where I want to cut and then run the knife from the back (paper) side most difficult paper is the coarse 80 and higher they're harder to fold. regardless of the quality

nice idea you could match curves with different diameter dowels.

uncle frogy

Kiteman (author)uncle frogy2014-03-04

I like the diameter idea!

Monsterguy (author)2014-02-24

If a nail file can be metal or sand glued to a stick, I don't see why these shouldn't be called files :)

Kiteman (author)Monsterguy2014-03-04


tootall1121 (author)2014-03-03

This is one of those things, when you see it, you slap your forehead and go Duh, why didn't I think of that! By using various papers, grits, and types, along with various shapes, a guy could get in any little crevice. Thanks a lot, this will come in very handy when I repair guitars, or build them from scratch. With high grade wet dry paper, they should actually last a little while.

Kiteman (author)tootall11212014-03-04

Cool, thanks for the comment!

submark (author)2014-03-03

Fishing rod makers and finishers have made rasps and files to fit cork handles onto rod blanks by using discarded or cut up sections of old broken rods. A rod has a progressive taper, so different sections will have different profiles and can be coated with different sized grit. Other materials such as wood, metal, and plate glass for a perfectly flat surface make useful cheap abrasive surfaces and can be contoured to fit different shapes and forms .

By coating the desired section with a thin layer of epoxy and then dusting whatever size and type of grit desired onto the epoxy, a semi permanent rasp can be made. It is necessary to keep epoxy turning about the axis of the rod or stick until it sets or it will sag or drip.

I have tried other adhesives in the past, but solvent based or rubbery contact cements were not so good. Pliobond was OK, but it needed several days to set up and toughen.

Kiteman (author)submark2014-03-04

You ought to post an Instructable on that idea!

WaltG (author)2014-03-03

The fact is that adulterated file made
this way comminutes itself: to be a file the gritting substance ought to
be uniform and harder than the material it meant to treat.

Using the process described it's quite dubitable.

Ori Roundtree (author)2014-02-25

These would be an excellent addition to any EE lab. My fingertips always get torn up and dried out by the fine-grit sandpaper that I use to strip the ends of magnet wires; a few of these lying around could prevent that. You have just invented a way for me to keep exactly the grit I need in my pen case at all times.

You have my vote for the woodworking contest!

Kiteman (author)Ori Roundtree2014-02-25

Thank you!

Kiteman (author)2014-02-21

I am entering this project in a bunch of contests - if you can see a "vote" banner at the top if the page, I'd appreciate a hit.

dan3008 (author)Kiteman2014-02-22

How does it fit into the full spectrum laser contest? lol

Anyway, you have my vote for the maker olimpics :)

Kiteman (author)dan30082014-02-22

You can enter anything you like in that contest - the contest is about Making, not just laser-cutying

Tarun Upadhyaya (author)2014-02-21

That is a very neat Idea, I always felt the need of round files in many projects :)

About This Instructable




Bio: The answer is "lasers", now, what was the question? If you need help, feel free to contact me. Project previews on Tumblr & Twitter: @KitemanX
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