Saw files, saved edges and recycling files

Saw files from the US going down the cheap tubes

I suppose there is a possibility that I sharpen more saws than most woodworkers do because for about twenty years I have sharpened the saws students use and then again I have sharpened my own saws now for one year shy of 50. With an average of 100 saws between the two schools and then about 20 of my own, that’s a number of saws I am responsible for. My micro-bevel saw sharpening method cuts down on the edge fracture normally associated with 30-degree saw sharpness and also the need for two saws for cross- and rip-cutting and you can follow the video here to see if that’s something that appeals to you.

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It has as you know saddened me that Nicholson files have lost the wonderful worldwide reputation for integrity it was once known for. I posted recently that I could not even sharpen one full hand saw with a Mexican-made Nicholson saw file and nothing has changed since I posted on the failure about nine months ago.

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Here is some of the dilemma I have found in my research. I recently discovered that my friend Tom had  found a local sharpening company that used and sold saw files for sharpening chain and handsaws that were made in Portugal by the same company producing files for the renowned Bahco files. In actuality, this company resharpened files here in the USA as well as importing other files from Europe. I then discovered that the files they used were resharpenable 2-6 times per file too (depending on the use) and at a much less cost than a new file. I contacted Saveedge to see if I could visit and talk to them about the files but they told me that unfortunately Companies like Nicholson came in at such a low price, they could not compete in this corner of the market  and so you see that this global market and lack of domestic loyalty is HARMING us, the consumer, because we only have choices as far as these giants will allow us.

Here I am at the Ohio Woodworking Shows show filing my saw with the Portugese file and it cuts like a dream. This is how the show looks before the show is set up of course.

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The Xenia, Ohio based company was established in 1976, but they really had no choice as the Nicholson files forced down prices without maintaining equal quality but their mexican files look the same as the old Nicholson’s. We are not comparing apples for apples here.
The files I tried were of course saw files and I used a couple of the files recognizing that they looked and felt like ones we use at the UK based New Legacy School of Woodworking. I couldn’t at first say that they were the same, but the heat engraved trade mark gave them away and I found that they performed identically as far as I could see to the Bahco files we buy that are made in Portugal. These Portuguese files are a credit to the makers in Portugal regardless of who that might be. I have sharpened upwards of 30 saws with one file and of course this depends on the hardness of the steel used to make the saw and of course the resilience and hardness of the files themselves.

I so wish we could have supported them before they decided to stop importing the quality files they do. They have found a niche market providing Farrier files, which of course also work equally well on wood. They also make laminate files that are high quality so my hopes are not c.

I could never buy a Nicholson again. And don’t please suppose that The Home Depot has no responsibility in this. They may not even know what poor quality files they are being supplied with, but they do set price limits. Thankfully, Grobet files are quite readily available and I tested out the Veritas files in their practical packaging over the past few months. They equal and even surpass the quality Nicholson was once know for. Did you know that Nicholson files were once accepted as the very best file makers throughout the world bar none?

12 Comments

  1. Ed on 2 March 2013 at 4:44 am

    Do you think a beginning saw-sharpener could use a bad file, not realize it, and think he or she was just filing improperly? Or, is it obvious that the file is poor? Does a failed file just not cut, or does it cut unevenly and make a saw that to a beginner might look sharpened, but in fact will cut poorly?

    • Paul Sellers on 2 March 2013 at 11:01 am

      I certainly think that many people could feel they are the problem and not the file. It is not obvious that the tool has falied because to the unaided file the small. flat edge on the corner is not obvious. Remember that what looks like a three-sided file is actually six-sided, three large facets and three very small. If the small edges fail, the file cannot cut because that small facet is so instrumental in cutting and so stops the saw file functioning when fractured the wall all Nicholson files now do.

  2. Bob Easton on 2 March 2013 at 10:59 am

    The race to the bottom has been commonplace forever. Sometimes, it’s benefits people to be able to buy “commodity” class goods at the lowest prices. Yet sooner or later, we all become discerning buyers in one way or another … for example, seeking out real furniture as the college days Scandinavian bargains fall apart.

    So it is with our tools. We saw you recently using the ubiquitous “shark tooth” yellow saw (in a parking lot) but know you prefer better. That’s why we have the premium saw makers today. They provide the better quality as the commodity manufacturers race to the bottom. …. and the bottom is all that gets sold in the big box stores.

    There are a lot of brands that were once great that now swim at the bottom. Yes, it’s sad that Nicholson joined their lot, but we have plenty of choices in this world an you just gave discerning saw sharpeners another fine choice.

    THANKS for telling us about Save Edge. Now, all we have to do is find where we can actually buy them.

  3. Eddy flynn on 2 March 2013 at 12:49 pm

    in the last week or so i bought an 8″ extra slim taper file made by Olympia from Toolstation ,as im new to sharpening saws i bought a Craftsman-made wooden saw vise,PARAMO 255mm BRASS BACKED TENON SAW and an Eclipse 77 Saw Set Pliers and with mr sellers on the Ipad i thought i’d have a go at this sharpening lark but by the time i got 3/4 of the way down the length of the saw the file was as shiny as a new penny i thought it was the way i was using it but after reading this blog maybe im not as useless at this as first thought ,as this file has a lifetime guarentee it will be going back today i know i should of waited for the Bahco to come back in stock oh well another lesson learned keep up the good work paul

    • Paul Sellers on 3 March 2013 at 7:42 am

      This is the very reason. You should return it to Toolstation as they are responsible for the tools they sell and if you don;t they will not know. I took Nicholson files back to the Home Depot

  4. Paul Sellers on 4 March 2013 at 8:44 pm

    For saws with teeth 14-16 TPI I use a 4-6″ XXslim taper.
    For larger teeth 10-13 TPI I use a 4-6″ Xslim taper, for 6-10 TPI I use a 4-6″ slim taper.

    • David Watson on 25 June 2013 at 3:08 am

      I noticed that some files have a ppi on them along with x slim or xx slim. How does the file ppi affect which file is used for which saw tpi.
      Are all x slim taper files the same ppi?

      The lie nielsen file page list files in this way.

      http://www.lie-nielsen.com/catalog.php?sku=files

  5. William on 19 April 2014 at 4:58 am

    Paul, this is great information to know. I have several quality saws (Dyson) that will need sharpened before use and knowing which files to buy is great.

    I have a really good Nicholson flat 8″ Mill bastard. I have used this file for the last 8 years and it is starting to wear out.. Although I only use it to tapper rigid plastic plumbing pipe, so it fits into the fitting all the way to the end of the hub when glued.

  6. John Lee Phillips on 17 May 2016 at 6:37 pm

    Hi Paul! I got very excited when I realized the other day that Save Edge is in my hometown of Xenia. It is about 5 min from my house. However, it is very disappointing that they won’t sell direct to the customer!!! Frustrating!!! Where was the Ohio Woodworking Show you attended where you tried these files? Thanks for all you do Paul! Have a wonderful day!

    • Paul Sellers on 17 May 2016 at 6:51 pm

      Sorry, beyond memory recall when I travel to 12 states in twelve weeks.

      • John Lee Phillips on 18 May 2016 at 8:26 pm

        Haha! Understandable! 🙂

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