I have a large assortment of 'really useful' files, thin section /
various profiles etc but these are now getting past their best.
Where' s the best place to get replacements? There used to a be a
local shop that held a massive range but thats gone now.
Most of the uisual big mail order places only seem to sell sets of the
most common 10" ones, or sets of needle files. I've bought a few at
various ME exhibitions but they all turned out to be pretty poor
quality (made in India).
Any ideas helpful
A good refurbishment can be achieved using sulphuric acid of 'battery
strength'. Physically clean the file of anything that can be got off,
(especially oils etc), then suspend over night in battery acid. This
etchs the steel tending to re-form the points. Rinse and neutralise
the file afterwards with an alkaline, then dry and oil to prevent
Obviously this is not a substitute for new files, but it can give an
old friend a new lease of life. Beware that many modern files are only
case hardened with softer innards.
ps the late Ken Whiston (of 'have you seen my cat' fame used to offer
this as a service)
I have read of this but never tried it, must give it a go sometime.
If you really do want "good" files, go to the Eternal Tools website.
Their product index is a bit confusing as it only lists "needle files"
but if you go to page:
you will see that they do sell genuine Grobet Swiss files up to about 8"
length (depending on shape) in cuts 0 to 6 (very, very fine).
The price of these files is high, but they are excellent, and an oiled
No 6 cut hand file is excellent for removing the odd tenth from a turned
part and giving a near-mirror finish.
I did a fair amount of searching a few months ago (I needed to replace
some worn out ones I got cheap from Shesto a few years ago) and could
not find anyone else in the UK who stocks a decent range of Grobet (or
similar) files. If anyone knows of another importer, please let us know
- I don't think Shesto stock them any more, probably why they were
selling them off.
With the recent large reduction in the size of diamond hones and
burnishers, it may be that these would do the fine finishing jobs even
better, must try them sometime soon.
Saunier in his "Watchmaker's handbook" suggests: either of two
1. clean file with potash of soda disolved in water to remove
grease. Clean with Hydrochloric acid if rusty and rub with a metal
brush or piece of coke to remove pieces of metal.
Now immerse in mixture of 1 part nitric acid, 3 parts sulphuric acid
and 7 parts water. As the action of the acids becomes less energetic
owing to the combination with iron the temperature must be raised,
since rapidity is a condition of success. The time the files should
remain in the bath varies from 10s to 100s or more; the roughening of
fine cut files is much more rapid than coarse.
On removal, immerse in lime, wash and dry and cover with mix of oil and
2. Clean as above. Support in dish of water resting on two cross
wires so whole surface in contact with liquid. Add strong
nitric acid in proportion 1 part to 8 of water, mix and allow to
remain for 25 mins. Remove, wash in water, rub with hard brush,
place again in bath to which a second eighth part of acid has been
added and leave for 50 mins. Remove, brush, add one sixteenth part
of conc. sulphuric acid and replace file in bath. Wash in
water, lime wash and dry.
"The file will be found to possess both qualities and appearance of a
I'be not tried it personally but was shown this by an acquaintance who
told me that he had found it successful in restoring old files. I'm
not sure how easy nitric acid is to obtain in sensible quantities!
Seems good files disappear. I once was happy with F.W.Dick files. When I
bought a new set, I was quite disappointed. Vallorbe or Grobet will be my
If you have the chance to look at the files before buying, make that check:
Look along the file. One side has to be straight, the other one a slight bow
(convex) in the first half.
I think we have discussed this one fairly recently.
Vallorbe is the Swiss town where Grobet files are made.
I may have said all this before, but I suspect that there was/is a
cluster of file makers in Vallorbe, like the cutlers of Sheffield or
Solingen, but I have not seen reference to other makers any time
recently. Am a right in thinking that the various marks: hare, pistol,
fish etc on the file tang indicated different makers?
Thnanks for all the useful pointers and ideas folks! I'll certainly
try one of the cleaning methods on a couple of real old favorites, but
some of the others have gone long past doing their duty, and deserve a
long and happy retirement
A bit OT but as a retired Telephone Engineer in Warrington I used to visit
Peter Stubs works & saw the very good file production taking place.
I remember in the 1950's they still had a couple of chaps who could hand cut
They only did it that way at exhibitions to demonstrate the old & new ways.
Nowadays their main product is silver steel bar. No more files.
seeb http://www.naesmyth.com/bio/jn12.htm for the very early days.
My G G grandfather forged files at home for Stubs.
Isaac Lord, Ironmongers, of High Wycombe seemed to have a reasonable
range of what looked like reasonable quality files last time I looked.
They had an old fashioned "non-self service" display of different shapes
in boxes down to the small 6" sizes; not just badly cut coarse 10" files.
http://www.isaaclord.co.uk/ appears to be their websitei but I have
only ever visited the shop.
They didn't have any #8 cut in a hand shape which is what I was
looking for though. In fact I don't think they had any #8 cut at all.
I did a search for decent files a while back, and discovered that
Axminster Tools (www.axminster.co.uk/category-Files--
Engineers-207038.htm) keep a reasonable range of Valorbe genuine swiss
files at very reasonable prices.
For anyone in the area, Handley & Back in Runcorn (Astmoor) had a
selection of Old Stock files on offer last week. Lots of the ones you
never use, like square, but a reasonable selection in all sizes,
various makes some unidentifiable.
Here in Western Canada, I have found the US made "Nicholson" files to be top
quality. Alas, I don't think that they make jewelers/watchmakers files. For
the latter, the Swiss "Grobet" files are the very best.
Totally OT, when the CEGB was privatised a colleague and I went to different
successor companies, but we kept in touch especially on safety-related
issues. One time he asked me about a wear problem and I said that I would
just dress out the damage with a 10 inch bastard file. And their email
system bounced the message for using a rude word.
hi,i have just joined and noticed that you were at the avaliability o
good files,i have about 250 brand new files,some are made i
switzerland some in portugal the rest in england,i have sizes fro
6inch to 12 inch of various sections and cuts,also have 50 small woode
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