Correct technique for draw filing
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  1. #1
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    Default Correct technique for draw filing

    Dear all,

    As a hobbyist, I learned how to file from books and online articles, rather than in a class/shop setting.
    It's always mentioned that the file should only cut on the push stroke, the pressure should be taken off or the file lifted off the work on the return stroke. This is due to the cutting teeth geometry, the sharp teeth edges would roll over if pressure is applied on the return stroke. That part is quite clear to me.

    What is not quite clear is the proper technique for draw filing.

    Simonds' Files Facts says:
    Single-cut files are used for sharpening tools, finish filing and draw-filing.
    ...
    Draw-filing. This is an operation in which the file is grasped
    at each end, and with an even pressure alternately pulled
    and pushed over the work. The file remains perpendicular
    to the direction of motion.

    Nicholson's Guide to Files and Filing says
    Drawfiling consists of grasping the file firmly at each end and alternatively
    pushing and pulling the file sideways across the work. Since files are made
    primarily to cut on a longitudinal forward stroke, a file with a short-angle cut
    should never be used, as it will score and scratch instead of shaving and
    Shearing. When accomplished properly, drawfiling produces a finer finish than
    straight filing. Normally, a standard Mill Bastard file is used for drawfiling,
    but where a considerable amount of stock has to be removed, a Flat or Hand file
    (Double Cut) will work faster. However, this roughing down leaves small ridges
    that will have to be smoothed by finishing with a Single Cut Mill file.

    So it seems that when draw filing, equal pressure is applied on forward and return strokes.
    I don't really understand why is this ok when draw filing? To me it seems that when you draw
    file, the teeth are presented to the workpiece at a smaller angle, slicing rather than shearing (like holding a woodworking plane at an angle to the direction of travel - reducing the "angle of attack"). This would be true only in one direction (push or pull - depending on which hand holds the file's handle), the other direction would drag the teeth backwards over the work (again, at a smaller angle) - why would this be effective at cutting, and why wouldn't that dull the teeth?

    Just trying to understand...
    --Gene

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    You are correct, the teeth only cut in one direction. It's ok to maintain contact on the opposite stroke, just no pressure. I'm surprised that neither company made that clear.

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    Some resources specifically say to apply equal (light) pressure on both strokes, e.g.: What is draw filing?

    I found another resource that specifically mentioned the topic I'm trying to figure out, here's what they are saying:
    The reason sawing back and forth is acceptable in this case has to do with the diagonal teeth of the single and double-cut files. As the file is drawn back and forth newly cut material forces the material off the teeth. With the double-cut variety of file both strokes of the file are cutting into the material reducing the chance of dulling.

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    Just a heads up for those who don't know.

    On the subject of single cut files for drawfiling and deburring etc etc, the little 6'' flat millsaw files used for chainsaws like these oregon chainsaw flat file - Google Search are a nice fine cut, good and best of all cheap.

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    They are (or, at least, were) made for Oregon by Valorbe. Very nice files.

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    Hmm, I was taught that drawfiling is done with a single cut file. I suppose one could do it with a double cut, then it would make sense to put pressure in both direction.

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    N' before I forget completely (it's me age ya know ) When draw filing DON'T forget your chalk.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Screwmachine View Post
    Hmm, I was taught that drawfiling is done with a single cut file. I suppose one could do it with a double cut, then it would make sense to put pressure in both direction.
    That's what I thought as well. Ok, if using a double-cut file, then whichever direction you go, one row of teeth will be going in the "wrong" direction, so indeed it seems that applying pressure in both directions would make sense (if assuming the whole idea of draw filing with a double-cut file makes sense).
    But when you draw file with a single-cut file, do you apply pressure only in direction, or both?

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    Yes can confirm. Oregon files are still made by Vallorbe and are incredibly good value for money.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gene-pavlovsky View Post
    That's what I thought as well. Ok, if using a double-cut file, then whichever direction you go, one row of teeth will be going in the "wrong" direction, so indeed it seems that applying pressure in both directions would make sense (if assuming the whole idea of draw filing with a double-cut file makes sense).
    But when you draw file with a single-cut file, do you apply pressure only in direction, or both?
    Myself ? - only one direction - and on the push stroke.

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    I was taught pressure only on the push stroke, have yet to find a die filer that works on that principle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Limy Sami View Post
    Myself ? - only one direction - and on the push stroke.
    And I generally prefer the pull stroke.

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    I have had good results with draw filing. I can get an almost mirror finish if I take care with the technique. I have not had any lessons or read any detailed descriptions of how it is done. So I have developed my own technique; but perhaps there are better ones. Here is my take on it.

    A standard, single cut file has it's teeth angled at, what I assume, is a good angle for standard filing by a right handed person who will hold the file handle in his/her right hand and use the left hand to guide the far end of the file.

    It is called "DRAW" filing. To my mind this is like sawing with a Japanese saw, you cut on the stroke toward your body. They say you have better control that way. I have two Japanese draw saws and use them frequently. I agree that the control is much better on the draw stroke. My US style, carpenters saw sits in cobwebs and I always load my hack saw blades to cut on the draw stroke. So I assumed that "draw filing" means filing on the return or draw stroke. That is how I do it.

    I suspect that the idea of using the forward stroke when draw filing came from the fact that if you keep the handle of the file in your right hand, then it will not cut on the draw part of the stroke. With a standard, single cut file and the handle in your right hand, you can only cut on the forward stroke. So that is how many people apparently do it.

    I take the trouble of swapping hands for draw filing. I hold the handle in my left hand and use my right hand on the end of the file. This way it cuts on the draw stroke. I find that I have better control this way and I can produce an excellent finish this way. The better control also seems to make it easier to control dimensions while draw filing.

    That's my method and unless someone comes up with detailed instructions for a better one, I am sticking to it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Illinoyance View Post
    And I generally prefer the pull stroke.
    You day tomato I say tomato / whatever floats your boat / as long as it doesn't frighten the horses etc etc etc

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    Quote Originally Posted by Illinoyance View Post
    And I generally prefer the pull stroke.
    Lots of ways to get a job done, but techincally it ain't "draw" filing any other way BUT "draw" AKA "pull".

    My favorite cut for the file is actually the "long-angle lathe bastard". Nicholson's nomenclature. As with same cut when filing on a lathe, they clear better than files with conventional angles to their cuts.

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    Keep in mind the companies that recommend pull + push draw filing are in the business of selling files, not necessarily preserving them.

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    My technique is identical to EPAIII's description. I still put the blades in my hack saw the normal, Western, push-cut way. I was taught that draw filing was for a fine finish, so I usually reach for a single cut file and IME both single- and double-cut files cut better in one direction than the other. (That direction being pulling with the handle in my left hand.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by fciron View Post
    My technique is identical to EPAIII's description. I still put the blades in my hack saw the normal, Western, push-cut way.
    Ermm... the handle position, "near end" of the blade, is deceptive on that one.

    Our so-called "push" is actually a "pull" off force transferred through to the blade anchor at the far-end of the hacksaw's frame. Blade would go all sidegodlin were it otherwise. Try operating it with too little tension, it does exactly that.

    A jeweler's saw is more honest. Has to be to get by with far less stiff a frame.

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    Thermite, no argument there. I just wanted to emphasize that I'd reached the same "pull with the file handle on the left" conclusion without doing everything else backwards. 😁

    I'm a blacksmith. When I use a jeweller's saw I don't even mount the blades in the frame. I find it saves time if I just break them and give up. 😑

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    Quote Originally Posted by Screwmachine View Post
    You are correct, the teeth only cut in one direction. It's ok to maintain contact on the opposite stroke, just no pressure. I'm surprised that neither company made that clear.
    That's how I was taught. Is it possible that proper drawfiling involves a burnishing stroke?


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