File Cleaner
© Frank Ford 2009; Photos by FF

Quite a long time ago I learned that the best tool for cleaning a file is NOT the traditional wire brush "file card," but in fact, a piece of soft metal or hardwood, pressed into the file teeth and pushed diagonally, shoving out the bits of metal or other debris in the file. The tool immediately forms to the shape of the file teeth and does a great job without dulling the file.

That said, it was only recently that I discovered my favorite material for the file cleaner is bamboo. It's incredibly tough, fibrous stuff, and really stands up to the use. I have a small stand of bambusa oldhamii growing in the yard and it now reaches well over 40 feet high. It's a giant timber bamboo, and some of the culms are really thick-walled. I just split pieces for use as file cleaners:

Problem is that I never seem to have one of my file cleaner sticks handy when I need it. Since they're disposable they're always on the floor, in the trash, or, more likely, covered by tools and junk on the bench.


Around 1975, I was talking to my old pal, David Soffa, and I admired the elegant fountain pen he carried. I asked him how much it cost, and when he told me, I said I could never spend that kind of dough on a pen because I was always losing my pens. His reply: "Listen, when you spend seventy-five bucks on a pen you WON'T lose it!"

Well, I bought one of those pens, and sure enough he was right - I still have it. I've applied that little lesson to other things over the years, and now it was time to do the same with my file cleaner. So, I spent some time making this handle for my bamboo pieces:

It has a dedicated hanging hook right near the rack of files, and what do you know - it's always right there where I need it.


It may work only marginally better than a naked piece of wood because it has a nice comfy handle, but that still makes it a handy dandy thing around the shop:

Every so often Mr. Beltsander trues up the end to keep the fibers cutting their best, and I'll stick in a new piece of bamboo when it gets much shorter than this.


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