..I saw a video yesterday describing garage level (more or less) metal working and quenching and realized that what the guy did, I can do without too much issue.
what he did was experiment with basic routines (both in pre quench treatment of steel as well as quenching methods and normalizing before quench) and then break the quenched/tempered steel apart and examine the grain with a macro lens..
...I just realized, I have a variety of microscopes and these small experiments aren't hard to do. I suspect that the important part of what I'm doing is annealing the steel and not breaking any rules (vs. just shaping, reheating and quenching). I don't know that the hammering does anything other than ensure that I'm getting a lot of heat to the files and then after the last heat, leaving the hammered bits to sit in the forge and cool slowly. The file steel and 1095 don't oxidize much being kept near critical so giving them a partial normalizing isn't a big deal, and if they get a little over temperature, same (vs. more highly alloyed steels where bad things happen at certain temperatures and you can see poor results - I held XHP in the heat too long at a high temperature and ended up with a big shiny spot on one part of the iron and variable hardness in the same quench elsewhere - that was a lesson learned there - less time to screw around in the open atmosphere - in that case, heat, quench and a good long temper.
AS mentioned below - I'm surprised that the files don't soften as much at the same tempering temperature as 1095 (400F with 1095 and you're not inclined to do much more. Files still skate a little bit on my stones and do better at 425 or so, and are still even a little hard there - noticeably harder than 1095 at 400F).