Introduction to filing wax

hand holding a ring with a thumb supprting it from the back, other hand os filing over the top

Choose your file

You want to use both hand files and needle files on wax. Hand files to do the majority of the filing and needle files for all the details and clean up. You can use wax files, or the same files you use on your metal pieces.

Wax file

Wax files are coarser than metal files. It makes filing quicker and easier. Especially when you have to file large areas.

wax file on a bench peg

Wax files leave a coarser surface finish. Which can be a nice texture for your final piece of jewellery.

bombe ring from purplpe wax with a coarse texture from a wax file

But if you want a cleaner look for your wax pieces, you have to finish filing with a regular metal file.

2 rounded settings, one is filed with a wax file, one is filed with a regular file

Regular files

Regular files work perfectly on wax as well. It takes a little longer, but you get a cleaner looking finish on your wax.

regular hand file on a bench peg

But using my metal files on wax will make them blunt! Sure. Eventually. But so does filing metal. Files get blunt when you use them! Use your files on wax and then clean them before you use them on metal again.

And if you really want to keep wax and metal tools separate, you can always get a second set of metal files for your wax.

Start with a clean surface

The first thing you do when you start a new project is file the surface clean. It might sound like a useless extra step. This wax comes straight from the factory, what’s wrong with it?

unfiled wax slice. Ridged surface from machine is visible

But if you take 5 minutes to prepare your wax before you start, it makes everything that comes after this easier.

Marking is easier and better visible on a clean surface.

piece of wax with one side filed clean and a circle marked. The other side is unfiled and has a ciorcle marked on it as well. The circle on teh filed side is easier to see

Measuring is more accurate from a clean surface.

collage of 4 photos. top left unfiled piece of wax, bottom left that piece is measured, you can see it's measuring from the high points and gaps are visible. Top right same piece filed, bottom right that opiece is measured, now it's touching the entire surface and measures accurately

Glue, beeswax and tape holds better on a clean surface for when you want to transfer a pattern or mark around a stone.

So take those 5 minutes before you start and file your surface clean.

This includes filing the surface of your ring tube after it’s been used! File the surface flat before you pierce your next ring. You now have a true side to take your measurements from.

left unfiled ring tube, right filed ring tube

Use that hand file

It’s easy to use a hand file when you file something big. But you also want to use a hand file on small pieces.

Filing with a hand file is so much quicker than with a needle file. You cover more surface area with each file stroke. And you can put more pressure on a hand file.

Small piece of wax supported completely by middle finger and it's being filed with a hand file

Yes, it’s scary to put that big hand file anywhere near your tiny piece of wax. But sometimes you have to be brave!

Your small wax is safe with your big file, as long as you...

Support the part you're filing

Have you ever broken a piece right at the point you are filing it? I have! Wax is more fragile than metal, so it can use all the extra support when you’re filing it. Place a finger right below the part you’re filing. Your finger can absorb the pressure of the file and push back against it. With this extra support, the wax is less likely to break.

When you file a ring, place your index finger inside the ring for support.

hand holding a ring with the index finger inside the ring to provide extra support during filing.

When you file something that sticks out, support it with your thumb.

hand holding a ring with a thumb supprting it from the back, other hand is filing over the top

Or any other finger, depending on how you hold it.

hand holding a ring with the middle finger providing extra support behind a section that sticks out

Whatever you file, find a way to support it as much as you can.

Of course wax can still break, but you reduce those chances by supporting your wax. With support covered, you also want to make sure that you...

Protect the part you don’t want to file

Have you ever filed a place you weren’t supposed to file? Me too! The best way to prevent that from happening is by protecting the part you don’t want to file. The best way to do that? Cover it with your thumb!

hand holding a ring with the thumb covering the top of the ring that I don't want to file

Your thumb has some padding and can take the file bumping into it.

hand holding a ring with the thumb covering the top of the ring that I don't want to file, and the file is touching the thumb

And if you want to get real close, run the side of the file that has no teeth against your thumb. You can file right next to the part you don’t want to file this way.

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