Files don’t get the attention that planes and chisels receive, but they are cutting tools too work best when they’re sharp. Because files are made of hardened high-carbon steel and their teeth are numerous and small, the easiest way to sharpen them is with an acid. I’ve used vinegar—acetic acid—and drain cleaner—sulfuric acid. The acids react with the iron in steel, removing metal from the surface. A dull cutting edge is rounded over with wear, and as the metal dissolves, the radius of the curve diminishes and the edge gets sharper. Before putting acid to work, the file needs to be cleaned. Anything stuck between the teeth will prevent the acid from getting to the metal. A wire brush will get some of the debris left by the work, but a file card, with its short, stiff wire bristles will do a better job.
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