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nicholson files

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I don't know the answer to your question bluejay but I do know Nicholson files are no longer made in the USA, they are made in Mexico now. The USA made Nicholsons are fortunately a fairly common flea market find and that's where I get mine. I have not tried the Hecho En Mexico versions yet and won't ever bother because they have gotten horrible reviews on several internet forums. Just google "nicholson files made in mexico" and read all the horror stories for yourself on the various forums. So... If you want quality files to use just do as I and probably an awful lot of folks do and chicken hawk your local flea markets yard sales and farm auctions.


I hear good things about this brand, Swiss made~




If you want Nicholsons to use as knife forging stock I'm sure someone will be along with the particulars for you.

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I know as of at least a couple of years ago, the Brazilian files where through hardened.  One got dropped in my store and broke.  It still wouldn't cut as good as a rusty old Black Diamond.  Our mill files still say "Made in USA".  I'd read somewhere that Nicholson used 1095, or something similar.  The ones I've played with forged and heat treated similar too.

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They are(were anyway) made from simple carbon steel of around 1.25% carbon content.I still use them and they act just like they always did..Ive seen several spec tests done on them..In thin sections, oil quench..The tink fairy will visit you in the water often..Normalize,normalize....normalize..

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I sent an email to APEX customer service, and received a phone call from their materials guy, Russ. He couldn't tell me the exact alloy that they use due to company policy,but he gave me some info about what they do use.

1. Machinists files have used the same alloy for over 50 years, Russ has been there 47 IIRC. Rasps, and other lesser files are a lower carbon alloy as a really high carbon isn't needed to work with hooves/wood. No matter where the files are made, they all meet the same specs.

2. Some machinists files are either case, or pack hardened, to add even more carbon.

3. He said treating them like W1 for heat treating would be a good choice.

4. They have had to deal with counterfeit files from Asia. Some copied their logo very well, but it hasn't been a problem for a few years now.

So, those are the deets straight from the factory. Russ was quite nice about the whole question and answer session I gave him, and I understand trade secrets, so I an grateful for the info he afforded us.

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  • 1 month later...

what kind of steel are nicholson files made of?are they oil or water quench?


My research suggest that the USA and Canada made files were made from 1095 high carbon steel.


I have made a few knives and daggers from old Nicholson files (mostly Canadian), and can confirm that they heat-treat beautifully using the 1095 HT figures. Due to the high carbon content it is not a very easy steel to treat properly in a forge, as one need to maintain pretty accurate temperatures and soak times, but using an electric kiln it's a breeze.


Spheroidize anneal at 650°C for 2-3 hours, harden at 800°C (soak for 10 minutes at this temperature), quench in brine if blade is thicker than 4mm, else in a very fast oil, and temper twice at 230°C for two hours each.


Good luck



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  • 4 years later...

A few years late to the party but almost every knife and axe blade I've made has been made from an old Nicholson file. When I first started trying to heat treat my blades I quenched in motor oil and could rarely get my file to skate without doing multiple quenches. I did more research and found that Nicholson files are basically made from W1 tool steel, which is a water or brine hardening steel. Now when I quench I either do a very quick initial quench in the oil (maybe 2 seconds) before a full quench in hot water, or go directly into very hot water. This ensures a perfectly hardened blade and I've never had a blade crack on me. If normalized and forged properly warping is not common, though if you do have a warp after the quench you have much less time to correct it than a standard oil quench, I learned this the hard way. I love Nicholson files for blades, they are extremely resilient to damage and wear. 

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