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What are rifflers?

What are rifflers?

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A selection of different riffler files Rifflers, also known as riffler files, are double-ended tools that are designed to file in tight, irregularly shaped spaces.
A warning sign to alert the DIYer to the fact that riffler file is a misnomer and rifflers are in fact rasps The term, ‘riffler files’ is somewhat of a misnomer, but comes about as they are included by many manufacturers in the Swiss files section of their catalogue. This is due to the fact that their teeth are classified using the Swiss pattern system, which is unusual for rasps.

What are the different types of riffler?

Images to show the uses for die caster's and silversmith's rifflers Riffler files come in two very slightly different types: die sinker’s rifflers and silversmith’s rifflers.
A coin making die completed and ready to go

Die sinker’s rifflers

Die sinker’s riffler files are the smallest and most precise rifflers. They take their name from the dies used in stamping coins, and are favoured by jewellery makers, instrument makers and sculptors.

A die sinker's riffler alongside a coin As they are so small and precise, they are the best type of riffler to use on fine engraving work.
A selection of silversmith's rifflers

Silversmith’s rifflers

Slightly longer and wider than die sinker’s rifflers, silversmith’s rifflers are used not only in silversmithing, but also in die making (making the body of the die rather than carving).

What else are rifflers used for?

Image of a plastic injection mould. Riffler files are used to remove any inmperfections in the mould before it is used in the moulding process. In industry, rifflers are used for shaping and deburring the moulds used for plastic injection moulding and coin stamping.
Sculptor using a riffler file to create a horse figurehead At home, rifflers are most often used for precision wood carving and sculpting.
Image of the front panel of a violin, which requires the use of riffler files to shape the curves and file inside the f holes With so many different tool shapes available, this allows artists to work to a great degree of precision, creating curved surfaces and filing in confined spaces with equal ease.

What are the characteristics of rifflers?

Image of two riffler files with differently shaped heads

Cross section and profile

Rifflers are available with a wide range of differently shaped heads that tend to be referred to more by catalogue numbers than by name.

Image of a riffler file with two differently shaped heads This is because there are not only a wide array of head shapes, but rifflers are also available with different heads at either end of the tool!

In this case, you are effectively buying two tools in one each time. Each head will have differently contoured faces that will, in turn, create differently shaped grooves and allow for a great deal of precision when carving.

Image showing a riffler file handle which is located in the middle of the tool between the two heads

Cut

Rifflers are cut on the head only, leaving the long, central section to act as a handle.

A close up of a riffler file head showing that it is stitched with rasp teeth They usually have rasp teeth, rather than file teeth. Some rifflers, however, have single cut file teeth along the edges of their heads.

For more information on rasps, see: What is a rasp?

An indication of the range of lengths in which rifflers are usually available

Size

Rifflers usually measure between 137mm (5.5 inches) and 250mm (10 inches) long.

Flag of Switzerland - home of the Swiss pattern file invented by F. L. Grobet in the 19th Century

Swiss or American?

Even though rifflers have rasp teeth, they are still classed as Swiss pattern files.

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