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The Newbies Arena Are you new to knife making? Here is all the help you will need.

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Old 10-25-2018, 06:10 PM
Loggerhead Loggerhead is offline
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Carrollton, Ga
Posts: 10
Nicholson File

Question: my tool & die friend gave me a box full of used files. Ive read (I think) that I need to put in a toaster oven @400 for 2 hrs to temper it down. Is this correct? I plan on making a few blades from them. Thanks in advance

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Old 10-25-2018, 06:41 PM
Doug Lester Doug Lester is offline
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Location: Decatur, IL
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I would recommend that you heat them to just above non-magnetic and let them air cool. Tempering to 400 would still leave the steel rather hard to grind and machine. After you have shaped your blades from the files and ground your primary bevels in them you will want to repeat the process again then heat them a little hotter and quench in warm canola oil. If that doesn't make them hard enough that a file won't bite into them then you might need to go to a warm brine solution. After you harden the blade to where a file will skate off the edge then you can proceed to temper at around 400 and proceed to finish grinding and sharpening.


If you're not making mistakes then you're not trying hard enough
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Old 10-25-2018, 06:50 PM
Loggerhead Loggerhead is offline
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Carrollton, Ga
Posts: 10
Thanks Doug
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Old 10-25-2018, 10:33 PM
jimmontg jimmontg is offline
Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Now live in Las Cruces NM.
Posts: 1,345
Not to contradict Doug

Now what he's talking about is to heat to fourteen hundred plus degrees. First the anneal and then the hardening cycle. That's a full heat treat. If you have that capability then go ahead, best way to do it, start from scratch.

Now I've tempered Nicholson files down and I did it at 2 hours at 425 degrees. They are about RC58/59 hard then, maybe a little less, but are easier to grind than a file that isn't tempered. If I want them a little harder I went with 400, but that was old 1960's early '70s Nicholsons. I still have three of those files. Actually some makers only cut out the profile of their knives and HT them and then grind the bevels, that's no different that grinding files. I may have done that if I had had a wet grinder, but I always ground 90+ percent of my bevels before HT, those hardened knives are tough to grind.

Now if you want to temper the file and grind it that is ok too if you do not have a method to do a full heat treat. The big thing to remember is that when grinding do not let the blade get hot. Keep a large container of water close and a towel to rub excess water off before you start grinding again if you're using A/O belts, but otherwise don't worry about a little water. Reason I say use a towel with A/O belts is I used to have a small 1x42 grinder and water would break down the bonding agent of cheaper belts and make mud. lol Also use new belts and when it starts to bog down change the belt, it makes the job a lot easier.

I have made some pretty decent knives from files and the very first knives I ever made were made from files. They were filet knives that really held an edge very well and were easy to sharpen while I filetted two tons of rock fish. I worked on a fishing boat in the '70s and most affordable knives went dull way too fast and that's why I made those knives.
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Old 10-26-2018, 02:18 AM
epicfail48 epicfail48 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Springfield Mo
Posts: 95
Jim and Doug both already went over the broadstrokes, and did a good job of it too. My opinion on the matter is if you just want to try grinding out a first blade in order to play around and make something somewhat useful, go ahead and temper the file at 400-450f and have at with the grinder. Youll have to be a lot more careful with heat control, and you can give up on the idea of drilling holes or sawing anything, but the end result will be a knife without a lot of time or resources invested.

If, however, your intent is to make a good knife, youll want to anneal and stress relieve the files first, do your rough grinding, then redo the heat treatment, then the finish grinding and the like. More steps involved, but a better end result. As the files are you dont know how theyve been used and abused, if the original heat treatment was good, what stresses are pent up in the steel and so on and so forth.

Honestly, if this is going to be the first knife youve ever made, id skip the files for now and get some good, virgin steel. Bit opposite from what people usually recommend, starting with the scrap then moving to the good materials, but theres so much going on when youre learning to make knives that sometimes it pays off to take any unknowns out of the equation, like what steel those files are even made of. Save the files and other mystery until youve got a bit more experience with known steels under your belt
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Old 10-26-2018, 08:16 AM
Loggerhead Loggerhead is offline
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Carrollton, Ga
Posts: 10
Thanks for all the replies and advice. I've banged out a few knives only from hardened
steel with my carbide drill bits and my bench grinder.

I'd like to start a blade with some soft steel as I know it will be easier
to work with. Could I do the heat treatment myself? What would I need to do this
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Old 10-26-2018, 08:34 AM
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Ray Rogers Ray Rogers is offline
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Location: Wauconda, WA
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Yes, you can do the heat treat yourself. I'm sure others will be happy to fill in the exact details of how that can be done but before you immerse yourself in that check out these Sticky threads at the top of this forum: BEFORE You Heat Treat Your First Blade and Finding 1080 or 1084


Your question may already have been answered - try the Search button first!

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Old 10-26-2018, 12:36 PM
samuraistuart samuraistuart is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: San Antonio Texas
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This really depends on how you plan on making your knife, and more to the point, what equipment you have. If you have access to a belt grinder, you can use them as is. They're in the 64HRC range, which is a little hard. If you want to bring them down to 60-61 so they're a little easier to grind and make a tough blade out of them, temper in that 400f-450f range. 2 hours 2 times is plenty. No hotter than 450f.

Now if you have access to a heat treat kiln, another route to take is to take the files as received and "temper" them at 1200f for 2 hours, one time. This we call a "bladesmith's" anneal, and it spheroidizes the steel making it butter butter soft to drill/grind/ etc. The problem with heating up to critical and allowing it to air cool, because files have extra carbon in them past the eutectoid point, the air cool will soften the file, but the resulting structure is known as lamellar pearlite. This structure has alternating sheets of soft, hard, soft, hard, soft, hard. Easy to grind, not so easy to drill or machine. The "bladesmiths" anneal is so much better, IF you have the ability to do it.

Regardless of the anneal you use, it will need to be re-hardened and tempered. So if you don't have the equipment to do any heat treating, the best approach is probably to go ahead and temper it ~400f-450f, and grind away. Good luck!
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Old 12-04-2018, 07:57 PM
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Andrew Garrett Andrew Garrett is offline
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Nampa, Idaho
Posts: 3,584
I spoke at length with a guy at Nicholson years ago. I explained that I made knives from their files and asked what steel they were to get the 'straight dope' on heat-treating it.
He was adamant about not sharing their trade secrets (i.e., steel type), but he explained that if I were to heat treat it exactly as I would W-2, I would get the best possible results.
I read between the lines. I should add, that this was after hearing many times that Black Diamond files were a version of 1095 (very similar to W-2).

For all of these files and steels, I heat to critical, quench in 140 degree peanut oil, temper one hour at 400. Done.

Andy Garrett
Charter Member - Kansas Custom Knifemaker's Association

"Drawing your knife from its sheath and using it in the presence of others should be an event complete with oos, ahhs, and questions."
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