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How to create decorative patterns with files

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Silver bracelets with carved patterns that have been created by using files Files can be used to shape patterns on metal and stone bracelets, as well as on the backs of knife handles and blades.
Silver can be filed easily as it is a soft metal It’s easiest to work on soft metal such as silver. If you’re working on steel then you will need to do it before it is heat treated.

How to make a filework pattern on your knife

Image of a filework rope pattern on the back of a knife blade When filing a pattern on a knife, it’s easiest to make a repeating pattern on the back of the blade. Rope and vine motifs are among the most common choices of pattern.
Image of a piece of paper ready and waiting for a DIYer to plan out their filework pattern before they cut it into their knife tang Before you start, it’s worth planning your pattern on a piece of paper. That way you can see what it will look like before you do anything permanent to your knife.

Example pattern – filing a vine on a knife blade

Image of a knife with no filework that is ready to be decorated by a DIYer This example explains how to create a vine-like pattern on the back of a knife blade, but this technique could just as easily be used on a silver bracelet or any other thin metal surface.
Image of a vice, marker pen, steel rule, round needle file and three square needle file which are all used in creating a vine filework pattern on the back of a knife blade You will need a vice, a marker pen, a steel rule, a round needle file and a three square needle file.
Image of a knife secured in a vice with its blade pointing towards the floor, ready to be decorated with a repeating pattern through the use of needle files

Step 1 – Secure knife

Clamp your knife firmly in your vice. You’ll need to clamp the handle so that the blade is sticking out to one side, with the sharp end pointing downwards towards the floor.

Image of a knife blade that has been marked every 8mm with a line

Step 2 – Create guidelines

Using your rule and marker pen, mark lines across the back of your blade every 8mm (3/8“).

Image of a DIYer starting to put a pattern onto the back of their knife by making notches with a round needle file

Step 3 – File round grooves

On the side of the knife that’s facing you, use your round needle file to file grooves at 45° on alternate marker lines.

Image showing that the DIYer should file to around half of the file's depth File each one to around half way down the file’s depth.
A knife with round grooves filed into its back This should leave you with a series of semicircular clefts that will form the base for your vine pattern.
Repeat the process Repeat this process on the other side of the blade, filing grooves on the rest of the marker lines.
A wavy pattern left by filing along the width of the file Once this is done, take a look at the pattern from above. You have now created a wavy line, which will form the base of your vine.
Image of thorns, which will be represented on the vine pattern by cutting notches with three square files

Step 4 – Create thorns

Your next step is to use a three square file to create triangular grooves alongside your circular ones. This will add thorns to your vine.

Image to show where the triangle file should be placed during the thorn location process Line up one of the pointed edges of the file alongside one of your semicircular grooves, on the side closest to the blade.
Illustration of a 45 degree angle Tilt the point of the file around 45° towards the point of the knife blade.
Image showing that the DIYer should file to around half of the file's depth File your V-shaped notch, again aiming to go about half way into the file’s depth.
Image of a thorn that has been added to the vine pattern by using a three square needle file You have now created your first thorn!
Image of a piece of material that has been decorated with a vined filework pattern Repeat this process, filing a triangular groove alongside each of your semicircular ones.
A knife with a vine pattern filed all the way along the back of the blade and along the tang Your pattern is now complete, and your knife blade is decorated with a thorned vine pattern.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Image of a DIYer whose creative spark has been captured by decorating the tang of their knife with a filework pattern Once you’ve had a go at making filework patterns, you might find that it captures your creative spark.
Examples of different filework patterns on knife tangs Using differently shaped files, and working at different angles on the workpiece, you can create a wide range of different patterns.
Image of a DIYer practising filing decorative patterns on wood If you want to test out your ideas in 3-D, you can always try filing them onto a piece of wood or scrap metal.
Image of a DIYer getting creative It’s time to get creative!

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