Restoring Rusty File and Making a New Handle With Electroetching

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About: I'm a maker by nature but not by profession. I do all sorts of creative stuff and I want to share these things with you. I will mainly be posting all sorts of crafts on instructables for now but maybe I'll d...

A while back I found this old file for I think 3 euros. It had some rust and the handle was usable but not very good. it seemed to be made of cardboard and the band around the neck was completely rusted off. I have used this in couple of my previous projects. It was usable, but a little dull so I decided to sharpen it and do a complete makeover but removing the rust and making a new ergonomic handle. there was no need for the typical straight file handle as you can only use one side of the file. I decided to make a curved handle which will be much nicer for my wrist because the grip will be much more saw-like.

My orginal design also had some checkered carvings on the handle but as I found a beautiful grain of wood that matched the curve of my design I felt that carvings would have been too much. In this project I also wanted to experiment with electroetching. I etched a simple but beautiful pattern on the collar I made for the handle.

Step 1: Sharpening the File and Removing Rust

I started my hammering the handle off and removing all loose rust. I disassembled the file. The file was attached to the "file holder" with 2 screws with piece of cardboard in between to protect the other side of the file. The spike that was inside the handle was pretty badly corroded so I run that quickly on a belt sander just to take off the worst corrosion, but just removing all loose bits of the rust by hand should be enough. After that I sunk the file and the "file holder", the actual file was attached to, in vinegar. I didn't have long/tall but narrow container so I took a large plastic box and rose one side up a little so I didn't have to use as much vinegar so submerge the parts. I had the parts overnight in the vinegar. After that I washed the parts with water to neutralize the vinegar and dried them to prevent them from rusting. After this all the rust had either fallen off or it was loose I used a nail brush to while washing the file to remove rest of the rust from that and the "file holder" I ran across wire wheel. Wire wheel is easier but it would make the file dull(er) again.

Step 2: Making and Etcing the Collar

I cut a piece of 2.5 cm steel tube to a little longer than wanted length. I wanted to have a little extra tube to make the etching process easier. After cutting I took off the surface rust from the tube with a power file by putting screw in a vise to hold the tube while the power file was spinning it around. there were holes in jaws of the vise which prevented the piece of tube from flying off unless the screw bent or broke. If the screw is not secured well this could be very dangerous!

I made the wanted pattern on the part with 1mm wide masking tape and sprayed over it with regular primer paint. After I removed the tape I had now my patter masked with the paint on the part. I also sprayed the inside of the tube. Then I sunk it in salt water and attached the part to positive wire from my power source. I also put another piece of steel in the solution. This piece was attached to the negative wire. I scratched part of the paint off get contact for the wire. The wire was attached to area which I was later going to trim off because I was quite sure I could etch too even though I did not submerged it (it's easy to get the area vet). I used 15V and maybe 2 amps (It's not precise and only affects the speed). I turned the part around every once in a while to prevent it from only etching from one side. The electricity will take the easier route. I also cleaned the forming oxides from the etched surfaces with a paper every once in a while.


After I was satisfied I removed the paint with acetone, polished the surface a little with metal polishing compound and a polishing wheel and sanded the ends of the tube to wanted length.

Step 3: Making the Handle

I found a piece of oak which had grain that matched the curve on my design perfectly so I decided to use that for the handle. I drew my design on the wood and cut a rough shape out. I didn't want to be too precise as I was going to sculpt the handle later with an angle grinder.

I used a drill press to drill a hole in the middle of the handle for the file. The hole should be smaller than the spike on your file at largest and deeper than the spike so you are able to hammer the file in there. The metal collar will prevent the wood from splitting. I took the file, which now had no handle but was freshly sharpened and field the area, I wanted to put the collar on, round so I can fit the collar on.

I took an angle grinder with I think 60 grit disk and sculpted the wanted shape roughly. I couldn't sculpt teh inside curve with the disk so I sanded that with round end of my belt sander. Then I smoothed out the surface on a flap disk in a drill press. This was much more flexible than the disk on angle grinder, which gives me smoother surface.

Step 4: Finishing the Handle

After I was happy with the shape put linseed oil on the handle to
protect it I put multiple coats on the handle so it should be protected fro a while. And I don't really inted to get it wet or anything. I also poured oil in the hole as well. You could also completely submerge it to the oil for best result. The oil fills up the fivers in the wood preventing water from entering. After oiling I glued the metal collar on with epoxy and hammered the file in the hole tightly. When doing this be gentle as files can be brittle as they are very hard. In this case I hammered on the "file holder" so I didn't have to worry about that too much. And now the file is finished. Did I put too much effort on a file handle? maybe maybe not? depends on the point of view. I have no intention to sell this so spending hours on it as a hobby I just a lot of fun for me and a way to practice my skill and learn electroetching.


Thanks for reading my instructable! Check out also my other projects and my youtube channel which is my main platform where I'm sure to put all my projects.

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    6 Discussions

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    MrMetal

    7 weeks ago

    The vinegar bath not only removes the rust but also removes enough metal to effectively sharpen the file teeth. Not as good as new but better than it was.

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    twit7503

    7 weeks ago

    wow.... tytower... I a true and blue newby who wants to get it right the FIRST time. Repeating a process does ingrain lessons but it you know ahead of time what to expect, lessons don't have to be repeated (ie, the wheel does NOT have to be re-invented). Can you be more specific about your "They can be ground down slowly to make very good scrapers and even wood chisels and knives." comment? I want to learn the right way to do the best with what I have available. Thank you!!!! tjw

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    Saerotwit7503

    Reply 7 weeks ago

    Slow grinding probably means either cooling down a LOT during grinding or
    using a slow-turning grinding wheel that has a box with water and cools the ground item during grinding :)

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    tytowerSaero

    Reply 7 weeks ago

    Well no slow grinding means exactly that . If you grind the end of a file to a chisel point it is a chisel or a scraper. To get to a chisel point though if you grind too quickly it will heat the metal and cook it . That softens the hardened steel and it must be re hardened or tempered again which is not easy to get right . So just a little off at a time and cool it with your finger . That way you will not get it too hot.Knives a lot more work but if done right hold a fantastic edge.

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    tytower

    7 weeks ago

    All files are hardened steel because they have to cut softer steels . So the rust starts on the sharpest point normally and metal is lost to oxidation . To make this file useable again you have to sharpen its cutting teeth which is usually done before it is hardened .

    How have you approached this or are you just happy with a very dull file?
    They can be ground down slowly to make very good scrapers and even wood chisels and knives.

    1 reply
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    twit7503tytower

    Reply 7 weeks ago

    I have not had time as of today.... plan to start trying to revive many tools in spring time. Thanks for sharing!