Better File handles

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Blog entry by Karson posted 2430 days ago 3471 reads 13 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Better File Handles – An article by Bob Patrick in December 1989 Vol. 2, Number 6 – Projects in Metal.

A friend from the Mason – Dixon Woodworking club is getting ready to move and he was getting rid of all of his old issues of magazines. His wife suggested that I might want them instead of putting them in the trash. I got 3 boxes of old Fine Woodworking, Wood and Woodsmith along with some misc magazines.

I was getting ready to pitch some of the magazines that I didn’t have any interest in and I ran across an article called Better File handles. The author was a metal shop teacher and the Technical Studies department head of a Vancouver secondary school.

He wrote that in his 20 years of working on projects he felt at times that he was fighting his hand tools. So he has modified some of his tools so that he could be at peace in using them. One of his most valuable modifications has been the making of his own file handles. He states that he never liked the file handles available for sale. They were either too short, often too thin or too fat and little thought has gone into the various shapes that they come in. So he set out to design a better file handle. He noticed that small files come with small handles and large files come with large handles. Handles are made to fit the hand and the hand doesn’t change size, so it seemed to him that there should only be one size of handle.

Some that he used and made

So he started turning handles and experimenting with shapes and various types of wood. He doesn’t think that metal or plastic make good handles because they are so cold. He found through experimentation that the most comfortable handles were simple in design, about 1 5/16 in diameter and about 6” long. Square handles were uncomfortable and those with finger groves were not being held with the fingers in the groves.

He has rolled all of his experimenting up into a formula that is very comfortable to him.

Measure your hand from where the fleshy part of your thumb starts at your wrist to the end of your longest finger. (A) his was 7.248” Take the length of your longest finger where the skin is attached to your hand. (B) his was 3.071“. Subtract B from A and divide by pi 3.1416 = D Diameter of handle. With finger and thumb together and pressed lightly on a flat surface ( C) , add 1 7/8” and it becomes the length of your handle (L sub a). (L sub b) = L sub a – 2 ¾”. So the length of the handle is made up of 5/8” ferrule, 1 7/8 where your finger and thumb hold the handle, 1/8” transition flat, L sub b length, 1/8” cap area.

Look at the pictures

What he uses now.

You can see the shape and make-up of the handle. I’ve not tried it, but mattsanf posted a project on 8/21/2007 called New Rasp Handles and I just found this article so I thought that I’d post it.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware †

15 comments so far

View brunob's profile


2275 posts in 2669 days

#1 posted 2430 days ago

Another good reason to need a lathe!

-- Bruce from Central New, if you'll pardon me, I have some sawdust to make.

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

638 posts in 2633 days

#2 posted 2430 days ago

Thanks Karson! I never gave that a thought to change the handle on my files but it does make sense.

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 2434 days

#3 posted 2429 days ago

Thanks for posting this Karson. When I looked at the last photo, it seemed to click for me that this is a good handle design. The handle just seems to nest perfectly in the hand. If I ever get a lathe, I’ll have to give this a try!

-- Robb

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4433 posts in 2462 days

#4 posted 2429 days ago

Thanks Karson. I’d have to agree with all of it.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 2799 days

#5 posted 2429 days ago

Thanks Karson.
I designed and made new handles on all of my carving chisels.

I guess I should do the same with my files

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Greg Mitchell's profile

Greg Mitchell

1381 posts in 2569 days

#6 posted 2429 days ago

The handles that mattsanf made got me to thinking of making new handles for my rasps. Every handle on my rasps are different sizes. Thank you for the information!

-- Greg Mitchell--Lowell,

View mattsanf's profile


34 posts in 2463 days

#7 posted 2429 days ago

Interesting article! I’ll try this out on my next attempt.


-- -- Matt Sanfilippo, Pittsburgh, Pa.,

View hObOmOnk's profile


1380 posts in 2627 days

#8 posted 2429 days ago


I’m a rusticator but I love ergonomics and a good fit.
I make all of my file and rasp handles with bark-on hickory twigs.
I choose twigs that fill the hand and are comfortable to grasp.
I lightly sand the bark surface with coarse sandpaper, wipe clean,
then soak with tung oil.
After drying, I drill a pilot hole and gently tap in my file or rasp.

The trick is to find a twig that feels just right.

Other wood crafters in my area buy my rustic handled tools.

-- 温故知新

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10850 posts in 1615 days

#9 posted 1529 days ago

thank´s for sharing it Karson


View a1Jim's profile


109257 posts in 2077 days

#10 posted 1529 days ago

The science of handles , Cool Karson. interesting article and information.

-- Custom furniture

View Cantputjamontoast's profile


319 posts in 1932 days

#11 posted 1467 days ago

As always Karson thank you.

Thank you for enrichimg this website

-- "Not skilled enough to wipe jam on toast!"

View bigike's profile


4028 posts in 1788 days

#12 posted 1467 days ago

very good info thanks for the heads up!

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View Randy_ATX's profile


638 posts in 942 days

#13 posted 230 days ago

Just found this after a lj search for file handles. I see its 2199 days old. :-) Any suggestions on how to get the file properly set into the handle? Drill a progressively smaller diameter hole and tap it in?

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View Karson's profile


34796 posts in 2900 days

#14 posted 230 days ago

Randy: I would guess that would be the way to go. Just remember that files are hard but fragile so be careful, I’d hit the end of the handle and hold unto the file. The wood fibers should bend down as the file handle is driven on and those fibers should give enough friction to hold it in place.

make sure that you have a metal support around the beginning of the hole to keep it from cracking.

post a picture as you you get it on.

i could also suggest making it red hot and burning your way in, but I don’t know if that would work. Blacksmiths used to use a lot of heat in putting wood and metal together.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware †

View Karson's profile


34796 posts in 2900 days

#15 posted 230 days ago

Here’s a Finewoodworking forum on attaching handles.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware †

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