Oh they may be labeled the same size but that’s where it ends.
In the old days Simons and Nicholson files were made in the US then Canada and at some point overseas. Them moving production isn’t the issue at hand it’s more about the production quality dropping. The outcome is non-uniform sizing and improperly hardened files.
Files are hardened in batches and to some degree it’s impossible to have every file be the same hardness but you’ll find as you use them some files last forever and others last ½ a saw a real issue if you’re buying files individually. Short life can also be compounded if the lack of production is mixed with inconsistently shaped throughout a run.
Take a look at the three sides of a triangular file. Each one needs to come to a clean right angle and be consistent through the box, or boxes you buy. Without the consistence, when you switch to a fresh edge, your file will not seat properly in the gullet producing misshaped teeth. If this happens mid sharpen your back to square one. My advice: stay positive, re-Joint, re-shape, re-sharpen.
examples of common problems
Flat edges. The file edge on the left does not come to a sharp right angle like the one in the right side image. This is the same file and if you were shaping or sharping the a saw and switch between these edges it’s sudden trouble.
best practices when buying
- The simplest is to buy from someone you can trust. Email me. I’m happy to recommend a few online venders.
- When buying more than one file, check files edges for sharp right angles. If the box looks bad, send them back. Hardness can’t as easily be checked, but if the seller is reputable, they will stand behind it. When a file is done is a subject for another time, but I find when they loose there bit on the metal it feels like the file is sliding, similar to a burnishing effect.
- Last but not least! Buy vintage. This option is not for the faint of heart. Finding old file caches is as much an art as saw collecting. I was lucky enough to find one local to me (see picture at the top). Mind you, these caches normally come with strings like a crotchety store owner, ridiculous prices, bad hours, or a combination of all three.
However, if you’re buying vintage tools, you most like enjoy the challenges