American Handgunner Jan/Feb 2013 Digital Edition - Page 24

PISTOLSMITHING the inside scoop on pistolsmithing techniQues aleX hamilton SquareS t to dress-up the inside of a frame during a cylinder he lowly file is a tool that has been used to produce more products than pos& slide shop 1911 Build class the huntington’s sibly any other. Since around 1,200 BC, in the hands of skilled arms makers, hosted. suzi spent two full days learning watch-makers, toy manufacturers and thousands of other craftsmen the simple to file before the class started and file has been used to create some of man’s finest products. Most of all, said she was glad she did! Alex has found go these old “filers” were taught their skills within a Guild apprentice od old fa sh io ne system where they worked their way “up the ladder” to the journeyman d golf balls dandy file handles make level or higher. Colt revolvers, Winchester rifles, Sharps and Spencer , and rifles and scores of other arms, were created by skilled men as they filed keep that pointy-end fro m skewering drop-forged and cast parts “to fit” the guns we covet today. As an interesting side note, one of the first lessons filers had to learn your palm! was how to file a 2" steel cube into a perfect sphere using an 8" bastard file. The word “bastard” designates the number of teeth on the face of the file in relation to the roughness of the cut, which were graded rough, middle, bastard, 2nd cut, smooth and dead smooth. There are more grades, but too numerous to mention here. This cube-to-sphere exercise was elementary in that most students learned to accomplish this feat in their first year. SphereS Into here, Editor Roy’s wife, suzi, uses a 6" Bastard file always the basics i see good quality files of all sorts. There f you would like to do a little are lots of reasons to buy good gunsmith work or would like to ones, then take care prepare yourself for metal working of them. just as the old filers did, you must, like in most learned skills, begin with the basics and learn to use a file. For elementary gunsmith technique and skilled proficiency you must learn to use the two files most used in a gunsmith shop — the 6" and 8" bastard files widely available from Home Depot, Brownells and most hardware stores. I have tried most brands, but Nicholson has made the most consistent high-quality files I have used in the 42 years I have been beating the hell out of pistols, revolvers and rifles. Our old buddy Leonardo designed the machine to create the file, and Nicholson simply perfected it. Whatever you do, don’t use a file without a handle on the little pointy end. That is for what that pointy end is intended for (to install a handle upon!), and was designed like that for your safety to prevent the unpleasantness of running a file through the palm of your hand. There are loads of commercial wooden safety handles, but not one single holder matches the safety, usefulness and aesthetic appeal of a simple golf ball. Fitting a golf ball handle is easy if you measure the diameter of the pointed end of the file about a half inch from the tip. Choose a drill with that approximate diameter and drill the ball with the that drill. If you’re on a budget, can’t afford golf balls, or don’t have a golf course nearby where you can steal a ball from some duffer who hits his balls in the rough, you can get by with one ball. In a single ball, you can drill 10 to 20 holes to fit everything from needle files to a horse-hoof rasp. You can also have some fun and buy a box of new Titleist balls, drill them for file handles and send your golf buddies into heart-wrenching shock. Great fun. 24 If you look on any gunsmith’s bench you’ll of uSeS DozenS I n today’s modern manufacturing industry and the advent of computerized machines, the file has been relegated to mostly removing burrs and sharp edges. But in the gunsmith shop the file still sees considerable use. We use files to fit and blend match triggers, high-rise grip safeties, match barrels, dovetail sights and a myriad other custom tasks, including draw-filing flat and round surfaces. You should always carry a 6" bastard file in your shooting box to be used to file the tops of fixed sights and bring your groups into the “X” ring. Filing is one of those basic skills everyone should know. And keeping a small cross-section of good quality files in your shop or tool box is the mark of someone who does more than replace parts — they can now make them, modify them and fix them. It also impresses someone who knows tools, when they visit and see what you have. And there’s some merit to that too! There are hundreds of specialty files for the tiniest jobs, such as de-burring the “hand” window in revolvers or checkering a pistol grip. You’ll find a complete listing of these dedicated files in Brownells or MSC catalogues. * WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • JANUARY/FEBRUARY2013

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