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The Files Every Machinist Should Have in His Toolbox

files every machinist should haveRecently I was putting together my Christmas list and I asked my friend Barry Young for his opinion on selecting files for the machine shop. I have a set of inexpensive needle files that are adequate for plastics and soft metals, but they haven’t held up well when I’ve used them on steel. I needed to upgrade to a better set of files and I had my eye on a 12 piece set of Nicholson needle files. But before I added them to my Christmas wish-list I wanted his opinion. The following was his educational reply:

“Hi Tyler,
Nicholson makes excellent American-pattern files, I do not care at all for their Swiss-pattern needle files. For those, get files from Glissard or Grobet.
Grobet are easiest to find. The 33.907 model number Grobet is an excellent 6 piece set (all you will ever need) of fine files. In needle files you want the finest cut you can get. Cut 6 files are wonderful. Cut 2 (coarser) are readily available while cut 6 (fine) are harder to find. The 33.907 is Cut 6 (fine).

Grobet 6 piece set (cut 6 #33.907) Fine

Grobet 12 piece set (cut 6 #33.909) Fine

For an explanation of files check out this PDF, which is an excerpt from Machine Shop Know-How.

I have a set of 6 Glissard Cut 6 (fine), a set of 12 Grobet Cut 6 (fine) and a set of 12 Grobet Cut 2 (medium) as well as a set of 8 Grobet rifflers which I have used a total of once for about two minutes. I do not recommend that you buy any of those at all. Just buy the Cut 6 (fine) Grobet files and learn to use them. You do not need the 12 piece set but if you feel the need get a 33.909 set.
That takes care of needle files. To round out your set of files you will need:

Which leaves us with all but the most important of files: the smoothest, longest pillar file you can find.   That’s about it. I don’t see much need for the barette’s or other fancy shapes. They just don’t get used enough.

Hope that helps!
- Barry”

Thanks Barry!

If anyone else would like to chime in with their file expertise please do so by joining the discussion via the forum link below.

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About Tyler

Tyler is a hobby machinist and 3D printing aficionado. He teaches computer programming and web development at Highline College near Seattle. Tyler founded Projects In Metal in 2008 because he was frustrated by the lack of free plans available for hobby machinists.