Home made paring chisel from an old file

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Project by Matt Vredenburg posted 01-16-2013 06:23 AM 6961 views 5 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A few weeks ago I was watching an old episode of “The Woodwright’s Shop” and Roy Underhill was using a paring chisel to flatten a piece of wood. He mentioned that the skill of paring with this type of tools isn’t used much anymore but is very useful in many applications. I didn’t have one myself and I had some old files laying around so I decided to make one so I can improve m paring skills. The final project works great. It’s very flexible which is what you want and from a strength perspective, a file works fine.

Here’s what I did:

1) Start out by tempering some old files by placing them in our oven for an hour at 400 degrees, and let them cool for a few hours.

2) Drill a hole in one end of the handle stock and turn our handle – match up a piece of copper pipefitting at the top of the handle.

3) Grind down the file ridges so it is nice and shinny and smooth – I spent extra time cleaning up the file including polishing (car polish) the finish to a high gloss.

4) Insert the file point into the finished handle, I added some 5 minute epoxy to ensure it stayed in…but I don’t think that was required.

5) Grind down the end of the chisel to the desired bevel. Ron Hock recommends a 25-degree angle for paring so went with that recommendation. BTW – Ron is always a good resource for sharpening and replacement blades. I highly recommend his book, “The Perfect Edge: the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers”

Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments.

-- Matt, Arizona

9 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117239 posts in 3726 days

#1 posted 01-16-2013 06:44 AM

these look great good job.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Tom Godfrey's profile

Tom Godfrey

488 posts in 2325 days

#2 posted 01-16-2013 11:49 AM

This post came along at the right time for me. I have been thinking for the past several days how to make something like this. I need a tool to cut groves about 18 inch wide when I make honey dippers. The use of a old file should work great for me but I plan on putting the bevel like a parting tool. Not sure of the correct bevel to use so have to keep looking until I find that information or either keep playing around until I get what I want.
Thanks for the post.

-- Tom Godfrey Landrum South Carolina (

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2203 days

#3 posted 01-16-2013 01:19 PM


-- Joel

View grfrazee's profile


388 posts in 2288 days

#4 posted 01-16-2013 03:48 PM

How much flexibility were you able to get out of the steel after tempering? Honestly, I’m surprised it flexes at all given the material.

Looks like a great project, and definitely one I’d like to try if I get the time.

-- -=Pride is not a sin=-

View LaPala's profile


24 posts in 2144 days

#5 posted 01-16-2013 04:03 PM

Brilliant, I always love homemade tools.
One question about the tempering, files are already tempered and hard; is the first step done to “soften” the file so it will become flexible?

-- Make love with wood.

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 3613 days

#6 posted 01-16-2013 07:03 PM

Awesome looking chisel. It’s another angle for using files I had not considered. From a blacksmith perspective, I think some of the finer points, of the defenition of, tempering, hardening, anealling, normalizing, etc. may be slightly off. I hope that made sense.
I figured a file would snap instead of flex but it sounds like you got the metal treatment right!!!! I’m giving this a try!!!
You might want to reharden and temper the cutting edge so it will keep an edge but leave the length of the file soft so it will continue to flex. I hope I didn’t sound critical, you have a fabulous chisel that I intend to copy, right down to the shape of the handle.
I also watch every episode of “Woodwright’s Shop,” I can get my hands on.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View John's profile


341 posts in 3947 days

#7 posted 01-17-2013 03:58 AM

very nice! I’ve seen knives and awls made from old files, but this is a great new idea and something most of our shops can use; thanks!

-- John - Central PA -

View Skillet's profile


67 posts in 3599 days

#8 posted 01-18-2013 02:03 AM

Nice info. I bought a cheap scraper that’s thin. I want to make it into a paring chisel too. Thanks for the post.

-- Skillet, Louisiana

View Skillet's profile


67 posts in 3599 days

#9 posted 01-18-2013 02:03 AM

Nice info. I bought a cheap scraper that’s thin. I want to make it into a paring chisel too. Thanks for the post.

-- Skillet, Louisiana

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