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Getting in to a good set of hand files

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Clock work

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#1
I have a set of maybe 6-8 import files. The set was not assembled thoughtfully. Just click and buy em. But I have come across a critical mass of really outstanding reviews of Grobet files, so I think I'll upgrade. My question is this.. is there an "intelligent" set of files/file types one would put together for their shop? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

CW
 

mikey

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brino

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#3
Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.
Clickspring likes them too:
Good enough endorsement for me.

I have also used the idea of making a safe edge on files for precision work.

-brino
 

f350ca

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#4
I'll second brino's take on safe files, use them all the time, especially on the lathe. Always heard them referred to as lathe files.

Greg
 

Clock work

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#5
Thanks guys.. I actually have a cheap set of riflers myself.. for many of them it's like trying to remove metal with a Q-tip. Thanks.. I hadn't been thinking about the riflers. So what sort of set/sizes/types would you folks recommend as a good core for the shop? Thanks.

CW
 

markba633csi

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#7
I have a few flat files, a small half-round, a couple triangle shapes, and a few rat-tails. Most are old Nicholson my Dad owned.
I grab the small half-round more often than any other- just seems to be the most useful overall file
Most of mine don't have handles- I just use them "in the nude"
Mark
 
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mikey

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#8
Thanks guys.. I actually have a cheap set of riflers myself.. for many of them it's like trying to remove metal with a Q-tip. Thanks.. I hadn't been thinking about the riflers. So what sort of set/sizes/types would you folks recommend as a good core for the shop? Thanks.

CW
Give the Grobet Swiss pattern rifflers a try - I really like them and the imports are junk in comparison. When you need controlled metal removal in a confined space, nothing I've seen works better than a good riffler file.

For general use, have a look at the Grobet American pattern files. I intend to try their High Speed Chip Breaker file when my standard files wear out, if they ever do. A single cut file removes metal quickly and is what I suggest; double-cut is fine for detailed smoothing but for shaping and stock removal you want a single cut file. They are also easier to keep clean compared to a double-cut file.

I agree that you consider a lathe file. The teeth are single cut with a longer tooth angle, providing a smooth, controlled cut that you can control with hand pressure. Both edges are safe. I use these on the lathe and for general use but I especially like them for draw filing; at least for me, I can get a flat surface quicker with these than the standard files.

As for size, I use a 6" double cut for really fine work. I use and 8" or 10" for general use and I almost never use my 12" files. The length, at least for me, has to suit my anatomy. I'm only 5'8" tall so my arms are short. That means a 8" file allows me to use a full stroke for stock removal when using my arms. The 10" is used mostly for my lathe files; gives me more reach to keep my hands clear of the work.

I have files for wood, aluminum/brass and steel. Most are flat files but I have triangular and round files, too. Seems like I use files a lot! I have separate riffler file sets for wood and metal, too.

All my files have handles on them. This is for safety but they also allow you to work more accurately.

I use railroad chalk on my aluminum cutting files to reduce pinning. If you don't have a file card, get one. Use the nylon bristle side to clear the teeth often. I rarely use the wire side but don't hesitate to do so if I have stubborn chips; I think the concept of tooth damage from the wires is a myth.

So, if I had to start all over again, I think Grobet is a good brand to go with. I would buy a good riffler file set. I would also buy (for me) 8" single and double-cut files for general use and at least one 10" lathe file. I would buy handles for all of them, a file card and some railroad chalk for my aluminum files.

Hope this helps.
 

EmilioG

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#9
Grobet rifler set is expensive but the best there is. I have two sets that my dad left me. Vintage. Not sure what the newer ones are like.
My other files are all vintage Nicholson, Grobet and Peferd (new). Most are under 12", 6-10". About 35 files total. Each one has it's use.
Also, I started using Skrooz handles with hardened inserts. Solid handles. No play. but I like the rubber handles also for comfort.
I would stay away from import files. They're too soft and won't last.
 

Eddyde

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#10
I have a set of maybe 6-8 import files. The set was not assembled thoughtfully. Just click and buy em. But I have come across a critical mass of really outstanding reviews of Grobet files, so I think I'll upgrade. My question is this.. is there an "intelligent" set of files/file types one would put together for their shop? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

CW
I think it largely depends on what kinds of work you do? But for basic coverage, I would have a couple of each flat, single & double cut, a half round and a rat tail (round). maybe a triangular as well.
 

Clock work

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So, if I had to start all over again, I think Grobet is a good brand to go with. I would buy a good riffler file set. I would also buy (for me) 8" single and double-cut files for general use and at least one 10" lathe file. I would buy handles for all of them, a file card and some railroad chalk for my aluminum files.

Hope this helps.
That is a really wonderful and appreciated response. Thank you so much for taking the time. I now have a plan (your plan:).

Thank you to everyone who replied. Much appreciated.

CW
 

mikey

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#12
I totally forgot to mention Pferd files but Emilio took care of that. Pferd has a Flat File Plus that is very much like Grobets chip breaker file. @darkzero has this Pferd file I believe and can tell you more about them.

I think Grobet and Pferd are about on the same level. Nicholson was also good in the old days but had some quality control issues. I don't have any Simonds files but they're another popular brand.
 

Clock work

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#14
Awesome... so I'm at Dunkin Donuts this morning talking on the phone wth a friend about this with the plan to selfishly blow a bunch of $ and get me some nice files when I get home. So I hang up (lol... old terminology surviving) and a guy at the next table says "you ain't going to like Grobet files... at least Grobet USA... made in India". Swell. I won't get into the details but my day job has introduced me to "made in India" and....... no thank you... ever. Back to the drawing board.
 

Clock work

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#15
A literal festival of weasel words... I can't even tell if they make them in Switzerland anymore but no matter. The fun has been thrown into a sack, worked over by a bunch swarthy no-necks with baseball bats and tossed into the river.

There's a process I call "slob-enabling"... the process of making a technology or service more accessible to a broader range of people.... lower the cost... make things easier to use... reduce any/all barriers to entry in order to grow profits. Sounds like it's all unicorns and rainbows on the surface... great... let others in to play. But what ALWAYS happens is some never-done-ANYthing slab of cubicle meat with his MBA in memorizing administrative minutia back at the manufacturer notices it's just not worth it to keep supplying the early-adopter/innovator/high-standards end of the market and pretty soon all you can buy is junk put together by a bunch of guys that drive ox carts to work, followed by the third stage of the problem... the market just stops caring... forgets how to care... and takes whatever you throw at it. I really thought this activity would be a gorgeous creative respite from the mounting BS and herds of excellence-averse slackers in tech but my God, it doesn't end. Four hours that my ancient carcass does NOT have to spare.. just to fail to try to give myself a little treat of something nice. Had the money... wanted someone else to have the money... but can NOT spare the heartbeats. Thanks for all who made such great and sincere suggestions. I truly appreciate it. It was extremely good of everyone to take a shot.
 

mikey

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Awesome... so I'm at Dunkin Donuts this morning talking on the phone wth a friend about this with the plan to selfishly blow a bunch of $ and get me some nice files when I get home. So I hang up (lol... old terminology surviving) and a guy at the next table says "you ain't going to like Grobet files... at least Grobet USA... made in India". Swell. I won't get into the details but my day job has introduced me to "made in India" and....... no thank you... ever. Back to the drawing board.
You can still buy Grobet American S-files. Made in the American patterns but still made in Switzerland.
 

Doubleeboy

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#17
I totally forgot to mention Pferd files but Emilio took care of that. Pferd has a Flat File Plus that is very much like Grobets chip breaker file. @darkzero has this Pferd file I believe and can tell you more about them.

I think Grobet and Pferd are about on the same level. Nicholson was also good in the old days but had some quality control issues. I don't have any Simonds files but they're another popular brand.
35 years ago when I worked in a shop I spent a lot of time with a file in my hands. We bought Simonds resharps with safe edges in boxes of 100. Those were by far the best files I have ever used. When I left I took a handful with me that were well used, (not stolen) they are still my go to files. Sadly what happened to Simonds is worse that what what happened to Nicholson, the current quality is worthy of china or india. I think Mexican made Nicholson is better than current Simonds. A good file should last a long time if not dragged backwards with pressure and it kept reasonably clean.
 

Tonyss454

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darkzero

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I totally forgot to mention Pferd files but Emilio took care of that. Pferd has a Flat File Plus that is very much like Grobets chip breaker file. @darkzero has this Pferd file I believe and can tell you more about them.

I think Grobet and Pferd are about on the same level. Nicholson was also good in the old days but had some quality control issues. I don't have any Simonds files but they're another popular brand.
Sort of like a rasp for metal. Ok not really, not nearly as coarse & aggressive as a rasp would be for wood. It's great for faster material removal when you need to shape something. I've only used mine on aluminum & plastic though. Not sure if does well with steel or if it's even recommended. They don't clog as easy on aluminum which is nice. Sadly I don't use mine often & haven't in quite sometime. Haven't had a need to do any shaping by hand.

I do love the long angle ("lathe") files though. I like them so much I bought a case of the Pferd ones.
 

Bob Korves

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#20
Nicholson production moved to Mexico some time ago, and those were terrible files when they replaced the USA made Nicholson files. However, lately the Mexican made Nicholson file quality has been improving, and they are now worth buying again, on a cost/quality comparison. The problem is telling the earlier bad ones from the later better ones that both say Mexico. If it says Nicholson USA on it, and is in good condition or new, buy it for sure.
 

mikey

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#21
Thanks for the eBay link, it's on the way to me

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk
Tony, that set goes for almost $300.00, retail. Seller said it looks unused; if so, you got a great deal!
 

brav65

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#22
+1 on the Nicholson files from Mexico I took a risk and ordered a set at a steep discount and have been very happy so far. We will see how they last but for the money they work well.
 

mikey

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#23
One of my 10" Nicholson lathe files is made in the US, another is made in Brazil. My Grobet Vallorbe one is Swiss. I guess you have to look at the country of origin before buying anything nowadays.
 

darkzero

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One of my 10" Nicholson lathe files is made in the US, another is made in Brazil. My Grobet Vallorbe one is Swiss. I guess you have to look at the country of origin before buying anything nowadays.
Most definitely! As you know true of companies like Starrett & Mitutoyo & many others. Grobet too, IIRC the Grobet USA line, some are made in China, some were made in India.
 

guitarman0023

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I picked up several black diamond files from a flea market, they have done very well for me after cleaning them up and putting handles on them.
 

Bob Korves

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#26
Good stuff is made everywhere in the world. It is not really fair to diss whole countries for the quality of some of their exports. We just need to judge it for what it is, and that can be a moving target. I remember when Japanese and Taiwanese exports were terrible. It is often what is ordered by first world countries, and if they demand the very cheapest stuff, that is what they will get. It is not really correct to blame the exporting country as a whole for filling orders in the ways buyers demand. Still, we want to sort out the chaff and find the treasures,, so we pay attention to the sources of our tools. We should probably pay more attention to the brokers who make the deals, though that is not often knowable.
 

mikey

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Good stuff is made everywhere in the world. It is not really fair to diss whole countries for the quality of some of their exports. We just need to judge it for what it is, and that can be a moving target. I remember when Japanese and Taiwanese exports were terrible. It is often what is ordered by first world countries, and if they demand the very cheapest stuff, that is what they will get. It is not really correct to blame the exporting country as a whole for filling orders in the ways buyers demand. Still, we want to sort out the chaff and find the treasures,, so we pay attention to the sources of our tools. We should probably pay more attention to the brokers who make the deals, though that is not often knowable.
Very well said, Bob. Cleveland Tools went to Mexico and I cannot tell the difference between the US and Mexican made tool bits in use, although my preference is the older US-made Mo-max bits.
 

Clock work

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Good stuff is made everywhere in the world. It is not really fair to diss whole countries for the quality of some of their exports. We just need to judge it for what it is, and that can be a moving target. I remember when Japanese and Taiwanese exports were terrible. It is often what is ordered by first world countries, and if they demand the very cheapest stuff, that is what they will get. It is not really correct to blame the exporting country as a whole for filling orders in the ways buyers demand. Still, we want to sort out the chaff and find the treasures,, so we pay attention to the sources of our tools. We should probably pay more attention to the brokers who make the deals, though that is not often knowable.
Hi Bob... Please don't take this personally because you seem like a fantastic person and I, literally, seek out your posts among a small handful. So with that important forward to this, I could not disagree more profoundly with your statement about pattern-matching on the country parameter and it is based not on things I've heard but on direct relevant personal experience.

The fun part of my job for 35 years was 911-type response to designs that would not come on line... "rescue consults". My phone would ring and my butt is on a plane that day or the next to, typically, a room full of smart guys with advanced degrees from name brand schools who have spent weeks or months trying to make their prototype work reliably, but which is producing low-frequency-of-occurence failures with "symptom migration" (the failure indicator moving around). I transitioned early on from "examine the design" to "examine the designer". My time solving the problem went from weeks to hours because it turns out people are WICKED massively predictable.... I just have far too much data on that point to worry about it being reversed in my final years. There is a very strong age component, and off the scale for one group the last 15 years. There is a very strong company culture component.. Until a few years ago, I could tell you the huge differences in the kinds of design screw ups companies around your location. And there is an equally huge regional component that showed up in the "error complexity"... was it a stupid mistake one of my former students should have nailed in their sleep or was the guy operating in dense, challenging complexity/innovation most wouldn't even think to attempt. One of those is Germany and one of those is India... I'll let you guess:) The point being paying really close attention to all the human factors that surround screw ups put food on the table because it's effective.

I get why products move... note comment on "slob enabling". That's pejorative by design. I don't respect how easily product and service arbitrage takes place either on the customers pressure side of the equation or the talking haircuts all using the same play book instead of actually thinking for a living. The unfun/crappy part of my job for 35 years was running my company (dumbest thing I ever did was start it). I worked closely with big companies on a business level, mostly director and up, to combine our tools/patents with their products. I ended up with a lot of data on this subject of regional differences and the "thinking" that went in to it as well as the significant vulnerabilities and long-term costs it creates for the manufacturer. I resented the living hell out of the great engineering/product cultures around this and other western countries that were literally disassembled, permanently so consumers farther and farther down the economic spectrum can "participate"... utterly and completely abandoning any responsibility to the early adopters.. the innovators... the actual SMART guys in the customer base who made their product space possible in the first place. Slob enabling always displaces a product or service space backward. Nothing good happens. It takes great cultures and institutions apart and destroys them.

I used to fly. A lot. 150kmi typical year. United had this AWESOME fleet of little old ladies DEN, HNL, SFO, DTW and maybe a couple of others that helped out "1k fliers"... before flying was all Greyhound refugees... that could take a travel problem about to take money off your table and elegantly make it go away. Ungodly amazing skills. They KNEW me... They KNEW the system... They SLAUGHTERED problems every single call. United canned them and gave me a call center in India... no matter what you needed it wasn't in their stupid sing-song fault tree and it ended in "I'm terribly sorry Sir". The beautiful thing that organically formed over decades was summarily executed and replaced by utter know-nothings because they work for $8500/yr instead of $75k/yr and that made some talking haircut look good one month. Screwing their best customers in the process. And themselves. Bigger is more vulnerable/fragile and tight margins across vulnerable/fragile customers also makes you more vulnerable/fragile.

I realize well that "sucks" or "rocks" are stochastically expressed ratings... they aren't causal but more statistical. Things don't suck because they were designed in India but that result tends to be well-correlated to the item under consideration, particularly if you are a sophisticated/selective user.. it's your best bet. One can view it as blame, or one can alternatively view it as data-driven decision-making. I can't put seeming to be nice (when I'm truly not!) ahead of making the best possible decisions.

It's not just me... since mid-1990, I sit in on a business study group every Monday I'm not busy with 7 other company owners... up to 9-digit sales. No hot dog stands. The bulk of that time has been how to make our respective companies great and how to be a great place to work. It's almost NEVER about money.. it's alway about excellence. Money chases excellence.. not the other way round. Slob-enabling has been much discussed and studied with regard to its impact on a whole plethora of aspects by each of us for a long time.. decades now. Yes.. the crowd of potential customers from the middle and left side of the big Gaussian get cheap products and services. But at a cost.. the innovation train tends to grind to a halt too because the guys who made up the old market were viewed as disposable.. they drove innovation. Not the new guys. The probability of institutional collapse soars. Know-how embedded in the institutions are lost and it can't be recreated ("dark ages effect"). And lots of people suffer so the lower boundary of the addressable market can be pushed down.

Recognizing regional performance norms just works. It's not the totality of making a successful decision but it's in there. It's first order. And remember what I said at the beginning... nothing personal here. I'm disagreeing as strong as I can politely with your idea but still plan to go looking for your posts after I send this. You take care.

LOL.. this thought just barged into my head. I had a Royal Enfield in college. Lucas electrics (headlight would famously just "go out" when I was hauling a$$ on moonless nights thru woods in town here).. my college assigned me a parking space because it leaked oil like the Exon Valdez and they only wanted me to ruin one space. Total POS. Oh.. it finally backfired thru a carb and burned thru a fuel line that wiped out the whole bike. I remember my dad asking "What could they have done to that thing to make it less reliable????". I just realized they ultimately figured that problem out:)
 

Bob Korves

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#29
Great post, Clock work. I do know and have much experience with what you speak of. Yes, slob enabling. My original post was written from the standpoint of the clueless retail buyer, not an insider in any way. In that case, we must make our decisions based on incomplete data. Our personal experience, plus, to a greater or lesser degree, input from others' experiences. Making smart decisions in that environment is not easy (in fact, almost impossible), but we try to use the data we have and what we can glean to pick our best choices. In a near vacuum, we can blame everyone, do nothing, or do the best we can with what we have. Failing having better data and knowledge, we make the best guesses that we can... This type of end user decision making process takes place billions of times every day, and life goes on, imperfectly...
 

petertha

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