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Needle files are used by engineers, craftworkers, jewellers, metalsmiths, and modelmakers, to shape surfaces, clean up edges, and refine details. Art Clay, dried but not fired, files easily. Art Clay, fired, files like solid silver.

This German-made chrome-vanadium set consists of the six basic shapes: flat, tapered, round, half-round, square, and triangular. They're about 140mm long, easy to use, and comfortable to hold.

You can learn more about files at the The Art Clay Club. It's a free resource, 24 7 52: you don't have to register, log on, or remember a password.


Very few shops sell jewellery tools, so you may decide to buy a complete set of engineering files instead. Before you do, here are some general comments:

Engineering files are designed to rough-shape: they're often called first-cut. Jewellery files, often called second-cut, are about half the size, have much finer teeth, and are precision engineered for delicate work.

Generally, Asian imports use regular steel, inadequately hardened. They're often rebranded, repackaged, and repriced: so it's hard to know what you're getting.

Tests on bright metal show that the file surfaces are uneven, with irregular teeth. The files leave scratches on softer materials, such as silver, gold, and copper, which may be hard to remove.

If you look closely at the ends, the files look as though they've just been snapped off a long strip: the handle tip is sharp to hold, so it will cut your palm, and the file tip is unfinished, making detail-work difficult.

Jewellery files are not designed to file spring steel or stainless steel wire or strips. If you want to work with these, or other hard materials, you probably need to use a rotary grinding disc.