Friday, September 17, 2010

A Great Tool Set For Woodworkers, The X-Acto X73610 Needle File Set Does Fine Work!

The Good: Good tools, Comparatively inexpensive
The Bad: Handle wears out over the years.
The Basics: A generally high-quality product from X-Acto, the X73610 Needle File Set is a great tool collection for basic, artistic woodworker's needs.

Back when I was in high school and college, I worked at a wonderful little art supply store. Locally owned, part of my compensation package was receiving a generous discount on the merchandise the store sold. As a result, I evolved the projects I was doing from the more craft (and business!) oriented projects like candle making to oil painting and bookbinding, which I have kept up with even now. But the real benefit of getting the discount was that it encouraged me to try some new things. One was woodworking (I still have some staffs I made back in the day!). While I never got terribly good at woodworking, I did get some good tools in and one of the indispensable ones I used was the X-Acto X73610 Needle File set.

X-Acto has a long reputation for quality, if disposable, blades, so the idea of picking up a woodworking tool set from the brand made sense to me. With the X73610 set, the brand reminds users just why they have the high reputation for quality as this is, largely, a great set at comparatively lower prices than most file sets.

Like most X-Acto products, the X73610 Needle File set is one that trades on interchangeability to lend value to the overall product. As such, this is a wooden handle with five X-Acto files (there are six, but two of them are identical), which may be changed out as needed. The handle is a 3 1/2” wooden and metal handle which features a screw-top locking mechanism. The varnished wood makes for easy gripping, though on more vigorous projects, one's hands may slip if they become sweaty.

To use the X73610 set, simply pick up the handle, choose the file you want to use and attach it to the handle. All of the X-Acto needle files that are included in this set have the exact same bases, a 1/8” wide tapered base which slides into the hole at the top of the handle. Once the file is pressed firmly into place, simply twist the ring at the top of the handle to secure the file within the handle and you are ready to go to town on wood!

The X73610 includes five different tools: a round file, a square file, a half-round file, an equaling file and a knife file. The round files (there are two identical ones) are 1/8” in diameter cylindrical files which have a point and allow one to smooth or shape wood in a full 360 degrees. The square file is approximately 1/4” wide for the file's 2” working surface and that is rectangular. This is a good file for smoothing out edges or creating relief in wood that has very sharp corners. This can make for very dramatic patterns in wood. The knife file is a tapered file which has a sharp tip and is good for working in more complex shapes one might be trying to put into wood. The half-round file is a 1/8” wide file that is flat on one side and rounded on the other, which may be used to make very soft corners. And for the answer most people are probably waiting for, the equaling file is a thin file with the finer grain on both sides of the blade. This allows for smoothing out the insides of very thin holes with a regularity that cannot be gained with more coarse tools. The half round file is actually the one I used least.

Largely, I used my X73610 to make designs on wooden boxes and to file ornamentation into wooden staffs I had made. I was generally working with softer woods: the staffs were usually made of pine, though the boxes were maple or cedar (gotta love that smell!). I used the Needle File Set quite a bit for the two years I was most actively doing that type project and only sporadically since.

The only real problem I had with the X73610 Needle File kit came with the handle. The files themselves held up remarkably well, though I did have reason to need to replace a few of them after a year of use, simply because they were wearing out. They are intended to be disposable files, though, so getting even a year's worth of work out of them is pretty impressive (I still have the set's original equaling file and half-round file. But the handle is part of the reason I stopped enthusiastically working on the woodworking projects which had consumed me for a time. The handle wears out more rapidly than I would like.

The files for this Needle File set only stay in if the locking mechanism works and my experience with the X73610 Needle File set was that with heavy use, the channel the files go in and the locking mechanism itself become worn out. Under pretty constant use, the pressure ring could be tightened fully, but the file inside would wobble. Unfortunately, when this occurs there is nothing that may be done other than replacing the handle and that may be hard to track down, off-line.

That said, the X73610 Needle File set turned out to be a great investment for me. It is far less expensive than purchasing five (or six) solid file sets. These tools are intended for fine filing work, like one would do with ornamental woodworking, not heavy filing (or rasp work). But for those looking for an affordable, basic set of woodworking tools, the X-Acto Needle File set lives up!


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© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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