Nicholson Files and Home Depot blow it again

Saw files from Nicholson Files and The Home Depot

I recently slated Nicholson and Home Depot for the low grade files Nicholson have now become as they transfer their file production to emerging or emerged nations for manufacture. Remember that although they did this to cut costs, the price stayed the same. I would that the extra money they made went to Mexican people to improve their lot but that’s not realistic. I would that the quality came close to what we had, but neither is that the case. If we do not say anything what standards of quality we once had will disappear and that is so as successive generations don’t know what the standards were.

Here is a truth about a Nicholson saw file now. The saw files made in Mexico have file teeth that consistently break at the corners as soon as you start using them. They didn’t used to do that ever. Now they do it with remarkable consistency. That means that instead of getting several saw sharpenings from one saw file, perhaps ten to fifteen, sometimes you may get only two or three. That then means that the saw file now costs $15-20 in real terms. The reason is that if the corner breaks, the file stops cutting.

File geometry may not be obvious to the casual observer. Remember that though you think you see three sides to a saw file, it actually has six facets comprising three wide flat faces you can see and three small flat faces that are difficult to see but create a gullet in a saw with three facets and not as you might think, two. If the small face fractures and breaks as they now do, then the file stops cutting on the larger flat faces.

Now here is another slip in standards by Nicholson files. My friend Tom has had some adverse experiences lately not the least of which is a recent saw file purchase from our famous friends…you guessed it…The Home Depot. Remember…”You can do it, we can help.” Well, with help like this, who needs help?

Tom recently bought a saw, which I will post on later. It was a brand new saw made by the famous and now infamous Two Cherries Company of German engineering fame and sold by another famous brand name of Robert Larson Inc. These two companies get the absolute accolade for producing, distributing and selling the absolute and very worst of worst saws in the world, ever. Now Tom drives to The Home Depot to buy a saw file, which we now see from my previous post cost three times as much because it does one-third the work. He drives home and sets to to sharpen his saw, but finds that the saw file keeps “tripping up” as he progresses each stroke. He doesn’t give up. He’s used to filing saws and knows what he is doing. Perseverance, it’s said, produces endurance so he keeps trying with the same failure. Examining the saw file he discovers he has a very stepped version never seen before in a Nicholson file. The file is another product now made in Mexico for or by Nicholson. There is of course no way that the file will or can work because of the stepping.

Yes, if you contact The Home Depot they will say we will gladly exchange it, but that’s not the point. Now Tom must drive back to his friendly Home Depot place  to buy another file that does one-third the work and pay twice the petrol to do it satisfaction guaranteed!

Both the Home Depot and Nicholson have responsibility for their flawed product. No longer can I recommend a Nicholson file of any type even though I have used their brand now for almost half a century of saw filing. As for The Home Depo, they really don’t know anything about anything really, but remember, even without their help, “you can do it.”

26 comments

  1. Robtrout5 says:

    Bravo Paul for speaking out. Its such a pity that famous brands succumb to the lure of cheap production and abandon what they stood for. The positive side is it will allow opportunity for another company to fill their place. Someone that can produce something that does the job.The same is true of good hacksaw blades.

  2. Bryan S says:

    A couple of months ago I was driving around looking for a starter coil for my lawn mower. I hit an old country feed store that used to fix mowers.  They didn’t have any parts, but I noticed they had a hardware store in back that looked like no one had been back there for a few years.  Walked out with 3 “Made in USA” Nicholson files.  :) :) :)

    • Darrell says:

      I just had a similar experience. I went to the local lumberyard/hardware store and saw several dusty saw files. Pulling them out, they are Nicholson, Made in the USA 6-inch extra slim. I bought all of them (4). That should last me a while.

    • Unfortunately, we have relied on companies and given our trust to Nicholson and The Home Depot. Both have pursued selfish interests ad forsaken their responsibility to produce and sell tools fit for purpose and so they forfeit our trust as end users. They have misjudged the power people at last have to give unbiased feedback and so ensure that other fellow craftsmen and women are not duped into believing they maintain good standards. Furthermore, they do dictate what we buy by putting all competition out of business first, by undercutting all competition, and then offering their model. Following that they demand lower prices of production that then affacts the producer on the shop floor. Standards fall and we, the consumer are left with no choice. The companies concerned may never even notice how we feel, but they must earn our respect back by producing and or selling tools of quality fir for purpose.
      Unfortunately I cannot recommend any saw file maker because I know of none. Just as the chameleon changes colour to blend into the background and the serpent slithers into the grass, companies hide behind the reputation of men who had integrity and cared about and established the good name. Remember Record and Record Irwin tools and equipment are mostly made in Asia. The company was once owned by Record then Record Marples and then American Tool and then Praxair and now……Rubbermaid. Imagine how they care about tool users and craftsmen.

      • Knuck says:

        Paul, I haven’t had an opportunity  to actually use one as yet, but Lee Valley advertises Japanese saw files that might be worth. Be aware the price is near 3 times Nicholsons. I any one tries them let us know     

  3. John says:

    I’m going to give Grobet USA a try. I called their main number and they gave me numbers of distributors here in Ca. Their website is impressive and they manufacture for industry, maybe they still produce a good quality product.
    J Guengerich

  4. NC Kenneth says:

    Given that Nicholson is not likely to remedy this problem any time soon, what file makers would you recommend?

    Many thanks

    • I am waiting for alternative files to come in and will post a review when they have been fully assessed. Sorry for any delay, but must undergo my test and then the opportunity to put right any wrong found if found.

  5. Andrew Lovelock says:

    Hi Paul, Try the BAHCO saw files sold by Workshopheaven.com in the UK. You can get them with nice walnut handles or without and they have all the sizes. I bought one of each size and I’ll be going back for more.

    • I am in the middle of testing these now, but I should point out that these are NOT made in Sweden but Portugal. Where are yours made? This is important. Please let me know.

  6. Mike Durr says:

    I worked for Nicholson, in Notheast Phila, In the seventies, back then we manufactured a quality product.I knew when the announced that they were moving the plant to mexico the quality would change. American workers took pride in their product, and quality control was exellent. you won’t find that in Mexico

    • I like to hear that American workers took pride in their product because indeed I beleive it. I think I said it somewhere, but all the craftsmen I worked with as a boy in the 60’s used to say, “What you want is a good Nicholson file. Now that’s a file that cuts and lasts all in one.” We can’t blame Mexico or the people there, the blame rests squarely on greed, exploitation and the bottom line, which unfortunately their (Nicholson’s) bottom line is not ours and has cost us industriousness, enterprise and solid work ethic.

    • Roman says:

      Mike,

      It is indeed sad to see quality going down and jobs being exported away from home but let’s cast blame on where it belongs. Quality control went down due to the lack of training by the company and because the company was fine with that fact, not because Mexicans don’t care about their work. Mexicans take pride in doing quality work just as much as Americans do. Same as the Chinese and the Indians. When they don’t make good products it’s because the Company isn’t training them properly or giving them the wherewithal to do so. Remember, Americans made and make junk too (Harleys in the 80s. GM and Fords in the 80s and 90s)

      Glad you have pride in your work and am sad as you are about Nicholson’s loss of quality due to greed and indifference. but blame them, not the Mexicans. They are trying to make an honest living. Just like us.

  7. They have followed the sad path of so many American companies – Greed and profits are more imp0rtant that creating quality products and respectful jobs. To them it is all about bottom line profit and if that means exploiting people in third world companies, the bonuses are enough to let their CEO get a good nights sleep.

    • Paul Sellers says:

      When will American and British companies and politicians who plan our resources wake up and realise that they have sold us out and our young people. What I don’t understand is how we trust them to make such decisions for us when they have made such bad ones for decades. How many jobs are there for people making good tools in our two countries? My son applied for an apprenticeship when 25 apprenticeships were offered at Rolls Royce UK. He did get one but there were 1600 applicants.

  8. J Guengerich says:

    Unfortunately the hostile attitude toward business in the US has companies shifting production to other countries.

    The era of plentiful production jobs is long gone from the US scene and I’m not sure what could bring jobs and production back to the US. Our consumer attitude is that we don’t want to pay for quality.
    I was in H-D the other day while visiting a friend, to look at wiring for a home project. Afterwards, we cruised to the tool section and noticed that the area where they display Crescent brand wrenches had two distinctly different styles of packaging as you dug deep into the hanging wrenches. The wrenches at the beginning were the, I’ll call them NOS, US made wrenches. Three to four wrenches deeper, where the packaging changed, the newer models were made in China. I’ve also seen this recently at HD with Jorgeson (sp) clamps.
    Yes, there was a visible difference in the quality of these wrenches too.
    I bought one each of the US made wrenches, just in case I ever break my present tools. I didn’t intend or want to spend the money but hey, if Americans can go nuts buying the last Twinkies on the shelves, I can go a bit crazy buying the last of an American Icon. I can’t tell you how often me and my father use those adjustable wrenches, we wore the 6″ version on our belts, in a holster with a slip-joint set of pliers (Cee-Tee, not made in the US any longer but I have several of them too) and they came out multiple times a day on the farm.

    When I returned home the next day, I went to one of my local hardware stores and every Crescent brand tool was made in China. Good thing I bought them when I did.

    Don’t look to see these companies coming “home” any time soon. We spurned them and I don’t see them coming back. I don’t buy the HF clamps, I buy a better, US made clamp from my local lumber yard, Universal Clamp Corp is stamped on them along with Made in the US. They cost several times more than the HF knock-offs but the quality is far superior.
    I did score two boxes of vintage NOS, US made Nicholson Taper files off ebay the other day. Like Paul has stated with the planes, there are plenty of vintage examples left out there. Since there isn’t a quality US manufacturer of files that I’m aware of, ebay will be my hunting grounds for files.

  9. jmpurser says:

    Paul you just saved me some money that I can’t afford to spend twice. I was reading “The Woodworker’s Guide To HAND TOOLS” by Peter Korn and he mentioned Nicholson files favorably. So I jumped on the internet to track them down specifically to find what saw sharpening files they still made. And Google said you had something to tell me on the topic.

    Glad I listened.

    Having read these other comments I’ll point out two as of yet unmentioned villains in this drama: “Free Trade” agreements (beloved by both of our American political parties) and the declining wealth of the working class. For the last 30 years we’ve worked VERY hard to make rich people richer. Productivity of labor has exploded and wages have actually decreased. It’s not hard to see the result. People don’t have the money to buy quality even when they can identify it.

    Now we’re caught in a vicious cycle. People who lost their jobs to WalMart (Or Home Depot) are shopping there because they can’t afford any place else even if there IS some place else. So WalMart gets more powerful and demands lower costs from suppliers. The Suppliers can’t pay an honest wage so they pack up and leave, first for Mexico and then for China, Malaysia, etc. and someone else loses their job. It’s a race to the bottom and God help the winner.

    Personally I don’t think merely expressing our concerns will change this. But it’s nice to know there are a lot of other people out there just like me who really care about it.

    And people do care. I was in Home Depot the other day looking for a drift punch. A young 20 something clerk came over to ask if he could help. He’d never heard of a drift punch before so I asked him if there were any better planes than the ones we were standing by. So help me you could SEE him reluctantly going into “I’m going to lie to you” mode. He stumbled a couple of times and then started in with “Some people say these Buck planes are okay…” and then he drifted off and sighed. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t even pretend he was selling an honest product. I told him I understood, he had a job to do, and I left resolving to look elsewhere for tools and lumber too if I could help it.

    I think about that kid and I feel sorry for him. Can you imagine a 30 or 40 year “career” ahead of you trying to “help” people by selling them tools that embarrassed you? I have no idea why that kid still cares but he does. So do I. And so do a lot of other people.

    • There is a sadness in feeling so hamstrung, but then again I think when politicians and journalists tell us what direction we should be taking I know there is something wrong with the picture and that we need to worry.

      • jmpurser says:

        But that sadness and frustration is one of the reasons why what you’re doing is so valuable I think. Whatever else when it’s you and a piece of wood the result is real and you were in control of the whole process.

  10. Rick Hill says:

    Thank you very much. I had a couple of Nicholsons in my Cart from Amazon (Just to avoid Home Depot) and am now removing them to continue my search. I am looking real hard at Grobbet due to the fact they have files that fit my specifications and have some USA manufacture. However, they are double the price and like any former Nicholson fan I only like to buy a file once, so I will go there if I be satisfied they are quality.

    • Juan-M says:

      You might consider the file Paul used in his saw sharpening video:

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Bahco-4-190-06-2-0-Double-Ended-Sawfile-6in-/121159462399?pt=US_Hand_Tools&hash=item1c35aaadff

      I like this ebay seller; I’ve bought from them before. They’re UK-based, but shipping is free and it doesn’t take all that long to reach the U.S. In terms of size, the closest match to my saw files is a Grobet-Swiss 5-inch double extra slim taper. But taking into consideration the double-ends, the Bahco may be the better deal.

      Another possibility are Corona files, if you live near an OSH (Orchard Supply Hardware) or I suspect Lowes may carry them too, but I’m not sure. I only used one so far, but it worked pretty well for me and I plan on trying some more.

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