For more information on Saw Files, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

PICT0147_1Nicholson edge fracture failure 

I want to resurrect my article posted a few months back warning people NOT TO BUY Nicholson saw files from any sources such as The Home Depot or Lowes or any general hardware stores any more. At The Woodworking Shows show last week I had one Nicholson file left over and as I was demonstrating saw sharpening I thought, well, I could use this new one. I pulled it out and started sharpening a Disston, got 8” along and could go no further. It stopped cutting altogether after only 8”. I explained to my large audience that Nicholson had failed to maintain standards and now imported their files from Mexico. The people hung their heads and shook them from side to side in shame. More’s the pity that Nicholson doesn’t have the same sense of shame. The people in front of me had a loyalty they thought they could depend on. This kind of fractured economics has to stop and the sooner we stop buying low grade goods because companies like Nicholson no longer deserve our loyalty the sooner we will reconcile what’s happening to the flawed economics where US makers import at cheap rates and sell their reputation to the lowest bidder.

DSC_0027So, where does that leave you in terms of saw sharpening. Well, I think the best files available in the US and Canada at a good price currently are Grobet files. In the UK I think without doubt the very best files are offered by the Swedish makers Bahco. No other files come close bar none. They are made in Portugal and are the best files ever, anywhere. I have had up to 30 sharpenings from one file! I have also had fairly good results with Stanley saw files, which are made in China.

I am sorry to have to speak out against a US based company, but I do the same when any product is not fit for purpose and Nicholson saw files are not fit for purpose. The other reason is that if you are new to sharpening, you would automatically think that the problem is you and not this make of file because of its longstanding reputation as an industry supplier. I cannot have that. The problem is not you but the company.


  1. bob easton on 16 January 2013 at 2:03 pm

    It’s such a shame to see the decline of this brand. We saw it start to happen with their other woodworking rasps several years ago. Now, the saw files. Yes, we should avoid poor quality and let the market work … let the losers will fade into obscurity

    • Paul Sellers on 16 January 2013 at 3:40 pm

      You know, Aurio rasps seem expensive when you first buy them, but they last and last forever. They are works of art because they are still hand made. They stay in business and if you need something that works well and last, you don’t mind paying for it. If the Bahco files last 20-30 sharpenings and they doubled their price to ten pounds that would still translate into 20-30pence per sharpening and about three to four years sharpening for even fultime woodworkers like myself. But when a file fails without performing even a single task there is something really wrong. I will gaurantee that Nicholson exec’s have no clue that they are now ranked amongst the very worst saw file makers in the world. They have been far surpassed by imports. How amazing is that?

      • Tim Baugh on 16 February 2014 at 1:15 pm

        Hello there,
        Thanks for all of your advice and instruction, which is enormously welcome.
        When you say ‘Aurio rasps’, do you mean ‘Auriou’? Or am I just failing to search the web?
        Thanks again

        • Paul Sellers on 16 February 2014 at 6:07 pm

          I thought that we had corrected that. yes, it should say auriou.

  2. KevinWilkinson on 16 January 2013 at 2:22 pm

  3. James Abbott on 16 January 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Are there diamond files that are appropriate for saw filing? I have seen some but they don’t look like the right shape.

    • Paul Sellers on 16 January 2013 at 7:23 pm

      I have used diamond coated fingernail files and they worked fine, but the ones I used in the video are made by EZELap and they were the best I have used for the price. There are more expensive ones but the price is so high and I wonder whether they will last long enough to pay for themselves.

  4. Tobias on 17 January 2013 at 1:04 am

    Hi Paul,

    as You are speaking about sawfiles and sharpening saws I was wondering if you could make a youtube video about sharpening a handsaw. You’ve already shown how You sharpen a plane and a chisel which was helpful, too. But sharpening a tool with ONE blade/cutting edge -be it knife, plane, chisel, axe or whatever – isn’t a problem for most woodworkers (after some practice). But sharpening those many, tiny teeth is a great miracle to me and many woodworkers I know. I’m sure it is not that complicated but all other woodworkers I know have chosen to use those saws from Japan because they can’t sharpen western-style saws (And sadly most of them barely use a handsaw or even handtools in general). So no one there to show us. Those saws from Japan come sharpened and stay sharp long due to hardened teeth tips but once they are dull they are scrap. I prefer tools that I can give to my grandchildren in 50 years or so (hopefully I will have some and hopefully I can get them into woodworking). For me using european/american tools has to do something with cultural preservation. Most tools were used for centuries and they have done their job well. So why use tools from other cultures (they are good, too. but in my opinion they just don’t belong to the american/european tradition; we have such a rich woodworking tradition/culture with so many tools and techniques: they just HAVE TO BE PRESERVED for coming generations). But a dull western-style saw is worthless. All other descriptions I found so far are way too complicated (20 pages+, describing how a saw works in 5 pages of scientific language, then describing how a file works in 4 pages of scientific language and so on …; I don’t want to write my master thesis of engineering about saw sharpening, I just want to sharp my saws!). You have a very great way to keep things simple but efficient and working which I really admire. So could you please do that someday? I have two other questions not according saw files/sharpening: Is there a source of ordering your book and DVDs in Germany without ordering it from the US or the UK which costs a lot of shipment and in the case of US customs? And will the video-series of the workbench construction be continued? Very sorry for my long comment but I really had to ask.

    Kind regards

    • Paul Sellers on 17 January 2013 at 11:35 am

      If you go to we recently concluded a saw sharpening presentation that’s simple and very effective and mostly one I have used for nearly fifty years now.
      You will need to subscribe but it is free because all of our techniques and methods instruction is free.

  5. BradCO on 18 January 2013 at 12:41 am

    Paul, I appreciate you calling out Nichols’ files for their substandard quality for sharpening saws.

    The company’s sales for such products should fall based on what it currently sells. That’s the only thing that will hold them accountable for the junk they’re putting out. And either they will find ways to boost the quality of their products, or stop making them and dumping them on the public.

    In the mean time, your suggestion for Grobet files is appreciated. In the US I can get those from Lee Valley mail order, tools for working wood, and, if I’m not mistaken, that’s the brand that Lie-Nielsen sells.

    • Paul Sellers on 18 January 2013 at 1:47 pm

      Thanks for this. I am sure people will be looking for makers that go beyond the second-rate. I could not believe that Nicholson could stoop so low but I am less surprised by the disloyalty of large companies and that includes The Home Depot and Lowes who have pretty much ousted all of the old main street hardware stores that had local care. Bit like Wallyworld and such who admit no failure now that they are making new promises to buy domestic stock items without admitting guilt that they were the ones that created the demand for cheap imports 25 years ago when they abandoned their slogan “Made in the USA”. GB was the same with, “I’m backing Britain” too. This so called global market leaving jobless young people can be directly attributed to nothing more than careless greed all around.

  6. Paul Sellers on 7 July 2013 at 1:38 am

    Its a six inch file extra slim

  7. Islandboy on 22 December 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Paul, I get so much contradicting information regarding which file to use for my saws. For instance, I just bought a very well used pre 1928 D8 saw. As expected it needs some love. I have seen on different sites that for an 8TPI I will need anywhere from a 5-7 inch file ranging from a fine taper to a double extra fine taper. That’s just for ONE saw. How do you figure out what length and taper profile saw file to use?

    • Paul Sellers on 22 December 2013 at 10:22 pm

      The size of the teeth determines the size of the file and the size of the teeth is governed by the number of teeth there are to the inch of run. A saw file should be twice the height of the saw teeth. This makes for even use of each face so that if the file is rotated to another corner of the file you get even wear. A 12-16 TPI saw tooth needs a 4-5″ XX slim (double extra slim) taper file. I suggest finer (smaller) teeth be avoided in general because they are difficult to sharpen but not impossible. You need a good eye, good light source and a steady even handedness. Such fine teeth can be wiped out in a single stroke.The 4-6″ standard extra slim taper file has faces wide enough for saws with 8-10 TPI so that’s the file for you and I prefer the longer file for longer cuts with less pressure or less frequent strokes.

      • Islandboy on 23 December 2013 at 2:09 am

        Would a 7″ double extra slim file be too slim for the D8? They don’t have any extra slim files at my local Woodcraft.

        • Paul Sellers on 23 December 2013 at 4:31 am

          Any saw file will work. They are not always ideal that’s all. Down the road you will want to match the file with the saw, but then again, usually I make do with two or three files rather the having a gaff dozen.

          • Islandboy on 23 December 2013 at 7:13 am

            Great! Thanks Paul. Your YouTube videos are awesome too. Thanks for your time sharing your skills with the rest of us.

  8. Offshore Organbuilder on 27 February 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for your advice – invaluable as ever.

  9. Offshore Organbuilder on 27 February 2015 at 3:29 pm

    On a related matter, is there any particular brand of saw set you would recommend, or are they all much the same?

    • Paul Sellers on 27 February 2015 at 3:44 pm

      I have just written this section of my new book. You can buy either the Somax, which is a good Japanese replica of the older pre-plastic handled Eclipse, the ones made from bronze, or you could go to eBay and pick up a good old Eclipse which I think is still the best of them all. It shames me to think that for two decades Eclipse had no sense of responsibility and allowed others to replicate so good a product. I wonder if Thomas Flinn saw company couldn’t do something about this as they are working diligently to try to reestablish the British name in tool making and supplies. I’ll drop them an email I think. Who knows?

  10. John Hinton on 4 April 2015 at 4:13 am

    Nicholson Webstore Return Policy:

    Our goal is that you are completely satisfied with your purchase. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with the product you have purchased from us, please call us within 30 days of receiving your shipment. We will setup a return of your purchase. Our products carry a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects. For warranty claims, please contact us via the number below. Your trust and satisfaction are very important to us.

    Nicholson Customer Service

    Phone Contact: (800) 621-8814
    Email Contact: [email protected]

  11. Ralph Cansler on 4 September 2015 at 2:16 am

    Grobet files are made in China also. Does anyone have experience with these China made Grobet files? Thanks.

    • Paul Sellers on 4 September 2015 at 3:11 am

      Can you say how you know this, Ralph? Also, you say “also”, intimating something else is? Just want to be clear we know the source positively on my blog.

    • John Hinton on 4 September 2015 at 4:03 am Hi, Paul I purchased this file set a while back and it does say these are made in China.

      • Paul Sellers on 4 September 2015 at 4:28 am

        Thanks John, very helpful and always want to make sure our information is good.Disappointing but good. So sad to see what’s happening. See what happens, a couple of years ago we espouse that grobet is a good European maker being sold by Veritas and next they ship operations to China.

        • John Hinton on 4 September 2015 at 6:36 pm

          The other grobet files on Amazon saw Swiss procedure does not mean made in Sweden.

        • John Hinton on 4 September 2015 at 9:24 pm

          I have used them some but not very much. So I can’t make a food evaluation yet.

  12. Ralph Cansler on 6 September 2015 at 2:41 am

    Sorry I wasn’t clear on the question. Yes, a seller on EBAY responded to a question about the source of the Grobet files he was selling and said they were made in China. I had a Google response that indicated Grobet files are made in other countries (India for example). The Grobet files from China cost about 4 dollars USA. Just wondering if the quality is the same for all Grobet files no matter where they are manufactured?

  13. Nik on 22 September 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Paul et al.,

    Could you please confirm that the Bahco made in Portugal are better files than the Vallorbe swiss ones?

    What about Pferd?

    I want to bay a few and would prefer to get the best.

    Many thanks

  14. david parks on 18 March 2016 at 11:07 pm

    I have had the same experience with Nicholson files and I no longer support them, their product is just awful and the files they had coming out of Brazil were worse then their Mexico made files. I guess they just don’t care anymore.

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