Building Your Own Filing Machine From A Kit

Files are a very useful important tool if you’re machining your own parts. They can do plenty of shaping themselves on smaller parts in particular. Powering such a tool just makes sense, and a die filer or filing machine is essentially just that, reciprocating a file up and down for you. They’re highly prized amongst clockmakers and model builders, and [jeanluc83] decided to build one at home.

The design chosen was the MLA-18 filing machine, for which castings and parts can be purchased from a company called Metal Lathe Accessories. However, it’s far from a simple screw-together kit. [jeanluc83] goes through the full process of painting, machining, and assembling the kit, which takes quite a bit of work to do properly.

Notably, the design is quite old fashioned in that it does not include its own power source. Instead, the MLA-18 filing machine is fitted with a pulley, such that it can be driven from a motor on a bench. A 1/4 horsepower motor running at roughly 1725 RPM is recommended for best results.

Filing machines aren’t exactly something you’ll find at every hardware store or Harbor Freight, so you might find building your own is the right way to go. Hackaday is, after all, full of examples of hackers building their own tools!

16 thoughts on “Building Your Own Filing Machine From A Kit

  1. This design seems a bit single-ended. I have seen others that hold the file in a C-frame, keeping it straight and vertical.
    One example is the This Old Tony video:
    (Clickspring also has a video of a similar device)

    Were I to be building one, I would definitely be looking for the more rigid design.

    (Or, actually, I would be pestering a friend who has a real industrial Swiss one not working to part with it)

    1. Traditional industrial machines are single ended. The are also known as die filers, as they are used to clearance punch dies, and to dress molds. There is often not clearance for overarm support, so the files are rigidly held at the bottom for a pull cut so they don’t lift the part and can be used with large parts.

      There are also filers that resemble (or are) scroll saws, with the overarm. To use these, the work must clear the frame, and for internal work, the file must be insert with the work in place, which is not always possible even it it clears the frame (trust me. I have been there. I do not have a true die filer at home and have taken jobs to my place of work a few times for this reason)

      A proper file is quite stiff, and a proper filer has a very rigid mount, so the single endedness is not an issue.

  2. I have a couple of older machines. The major problem today is finding the proper files. They need to cut on the pull stroke, otherwise they lift the work on every stroke.

    1. If you’re into this sort of thing like I am you probably have heard of the event Cabin Fever Expo.

      There’s a guy there every year who only practically sells files of every type and make- at reasonable prices. And by files, I mean proper ones. Old swiss diemakers stuff, modern Grobet & Vallobre, old Nicholson. I’m betting he would know where to find pull stroke files because I don’t know if I’ve ever even come across those myself.

      I suppose an easy way to get one would be to grind a handle on the opposite end of any file and cut the handle off the original end, you’d get what you want.

      Martin Model & Pattern is a great small company that also sells a casting kit for a die filer machine- check them out.
      I’ve got a Quorn universal cutter grinder casting kit from them, their quality is very good, and they’re based in the states.

      Hemmingway tools in UK doesn’t have a die filer, but similar types of people will like their selection of tool projects.

      Not affiliated with any of these guys- I’ve just been a past happy customer of all.

  3. I made one from a small ruined 4 stroke single cylinder diesel engine. Removed the camshaft and valves etc, bored the piston central and attached a die file holder & removed the rings, fitted a table in place of the cylinder head and belt driven it from a pulley on the crank and drove the motor on the other end of the belt with a vfd. Its not as newsworthy as a mla, but then, its about 5% of the cost & most of the work is already done.

  4. I found a machine in the trash years ago, it ran via a belt and a motor it had a chuck or clamp that held a triangular file and a arm in a fixed position with an axle or mounting point above and more to the center of the device than the crank arm with the chuck on it . Strange device indeed the kicker was the third “arm” which sat 90 degrees to the centerline of the fixed arm and it had no tool holder it just had a flat slightly curved end , not unlike a bent flat bladed screw driver but beefy. My friend and I were stumped at what this was when we hand cranked the machine the tool holder arm made a very flat pass past the fixed offset “axel” arm. We also found 1 adjustment that changed the tool holder arm to make 1 , 2, or 3 strokes before the pointed 90 degree arm made a single movement across the center line of the fixed “arm” .??? very strange but built for a reason I thought about this and developed a hunch a few days later I put a file in the chuck and a large non carbide circular saw blade on the fixed axle, it took minor adjustment and viola ! The machine was doing the job it was designed for sharpening saw blades 1 tooth at a time setup adjustment set the depth each file pass was to take the angle of the file pass 1 2 or 3 passes per tooth and the stroke of the pointed arm, which advanced the blade tooth by tooth as each was filed to sharp! tool was later positively identified as an early model Foley Belsaw saw blade sharpener! a very specialized filing machine.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.