I’d like to pick up a set of good machinist files. I know Nicholson’s got a pretty good USA rep, and there’s the usual Chinese gobbledygook brand names. I’m not looking to go broke on a killer German set or anything, just a set for general use, and I think they should have good handles too - or maybe recommend handles as a second purchase.
So what’s a good set of general files, maybe with handles, maybe in a roll too?
In my personal opinion Nicholson files may have been excellent back in the day before my time but I have found them disappointing. When I had my machining business we would use them simply because were available but I’d find they’d start to get dull very quickly, often after less than a year of use, while I have some 40+ year old Oberg (Swiss) and Eclipse (England) files I inherited from my father that were not well cared for and yet they are still going strong. If I had to put together a set today on a budget I’d pick a couple of Simonds Multi-Kut for the larger/rougher sizes and then use American pattern Grobet S series for the rest. These are nice Swiss-made files but are not to be confused with the much more expensive Precision line with European pattern. They are only slightly more expensive than Nicholson. For handles I really like Skroo-Zon. They are wood handles with a steel threaded nut inside that bite onto the tang of the file. They are cheap, they’re comfortable, they don’t work loose like plastic handles can, and you can reuse them when your files get dull and you need to replace them.
Fantastic! I was just thinking about this myself. Thanks Mecha!
I can find American pattern Grobet files, but I don’t see an “S” line (not even in Grobet USA’s website).
And Amazon sells a lot of Swiss pattern, but not American pattern (that I can see.) Do you have a source for these?
Perhaps I am not using the formally correct name, but I’ve been buying them from:
…the site is a bit strange. First you pick the general style of file you want, then you can select the maker, length, and cut type.
FYI, I have not tried to buy Simonds files from Artco. I couldn’t figure out which of Simonds several lines they sold, so if you order Simonds from them I’m not sure which ones you will get.
And just to clarify the Simonds models I had recommended earlier for the larger/rougher sizes: they are specifically “Multi-Kut Maxi-Sharp”. Visually you can identify them because the Multi-cut feature looks like X’s all over the file while the Maxi-Sharp makes them black in color.
While we’re talking about files and such I also want to mention Liogier rasps. But first, back to Nicholson. I had often read in several older but well-regarded books that the old Nicholson patterns 49 & 50 shoemaker’s rasps were of great value in shaping wood stocks for shotguns or rifles. I went looking for them and I kept coming across dealers catering to either gunsmiths, shoemakers, or fine woodworkers that all said the same thing: we used to sell these, they were great when there were made in the USA, but Nicholson moved production to Brazil and now they’re so bad we won’t sell them, sorry. I stumbled across a company in France called Liogier who made rasps by hand–I didn’t even know that was a thing–and apparently they made a copy of the classic Nicholson 49 & 50 pattern. They were not cheap but I went ahead and ordered a pair. When I finally got my hands on them? Epiphany. They cut so amazingly easily compared to any rasp or file I’ve ever used, even in tough hardwoods. Remember when you first used Knipex Cobras or a Pliers wrench and were wowed with how well they worked? These are on the same level. An eye-opening experience for sure. Now that I had learned it was possible for a rasp to be an efficient sculpting tool and not something that simultaneously mangles the workpiece and gets stuck when you try to push it, it was game on. I’ve placed two rather large orders since then ordering a variety of additional shapes. I also asked them to custom-make me a rasp like the No. 49 but a couple of steps coarser and they were happy to oblige. It is shocking how fast the coarser “grits” remove wood, easily competing with power tools. If you do woodwork these are tools to consider. They are not cheap but given how well they perform I feel they are well worth the money. I don’t do all that much woodwork, it’s really just for personal projects, but these are such a pleasure to use that I will be ordering more.
Thanks, good info! Appreciate the help.