Gesswein Tool Tips

Hand Files: When Your Jewelry Deserves a Fine Finish

Early on in my jewelry making career, I primarily wanted to visualize an idea and work hard to make it real, so I rarely brought anything I’d fabricated to a final finish. When I got started in the craft, I was more interested in jewelry making than making jewelry, and over the years as a teacher, I’ve created hundreds of demos and samples, and the majority of those have never been brought to a finished, wearable, sellable state either. Don’t get me wrong, I’d owned really great files, but I’d never spent time finishing edges or surfaces because I was so focused on other processes. I would file a little here or there, but I used most of my bench time not making things to wear – and I’ve been just fine with that.

I’ve always instructed my students to start with the most important file of all: a good quality half-round hand file, and I own a few of them in several cuts and sizes, including Grobet’s 2-cut Half-Round Swiss Pattern Precision File (6300620) because half rounds are truly the most versatile files you will ever own. The shape is essential for ring making and dozens of other fabrication tasks, so I include a basic 2-cut half-round hand file on my “jeweler’s dozen” hand tool list for beginning students.

Now that I’ve taken more of an interest in the edges and surface finish of my work, my personal collection of files has expanded to include shapes, sizes, and cuts I’d never thought about owning before. Experience has shown me that it’s impossible to make nicely finished jewelry without a file or two – or three, four, or dozens – including not only hand, but needle and escapement files too.

For these, Grobet files are my brand of choice, and I habitually reach for my Set of 6 INOX Needle Files in cut 0 (6020051) because the assortment of shapes is perfect for post-sawing clean up; with a barrette, half round, round, equalling, square, and triangle, you can perfect virtually any edge there is.

These superior hardened steel files can stand up to really tough filing situations, and as a mixed materials artist, it’s nice to know I can use them on steel, hard plastic, laminate, wood and jewelry metals as well. The yellow handles make them easy to identify in your file stand and I really couldn’t fabricate without them now.

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Helen Driggs
Helen Driggs

Metalsmith, Teaching Artist, Author

Read more about Helen's inspiration and experience here.

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