Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

A Swiss cut hand file set?

I’m looking to put together a versatile 6" cut swiss pattern hand file set. Any suggestions on files/cuts for a beginner set I can expand on later is appreciated.

I have lots of files. By far and away, the one that I use the most is a #2 Swiss flat file followed by a #4 Swiss flat file. I also have and use a set of medium needle files. You might add a #2 Swiss half round and possibly a triangular. Don’t scrimp on files. Read the catalogs and then by good ones. Learning to file is an essential skill and one to work on. Add wet/dry papers in different grits attached in some way to a paint stir stick or on a small clip board will help you to refine a surface. I now do a lot of what would be done with a file by using medium rubber abrasive wheels on my flex shaft and various grit belts on my lapidary expansion wheels. Remember to save your little bits of metal so that you can send them to a refiner. Good luck…Rob


Get the best files you can, and treat them well.
These days I use abrasive disc’s, rubber wheels and DIY abrasive sticks and split shafts much more than I do my files, but mastering filing had to come first. If you cannot get to the point where you feel or see the flat even surface, shortcuts will never get you where you have good joints.
At Bowman, decades ago now, we first learned to file on 2 beginner projects.
The first project involved sawing a roughly 6x1mm X @ 4" flat brass strip into 6 equal lengths. We then had to file all edges ( except 2 we could call our ends), so that our instructor could place the sections at random on his bench, end to end, and push from the ends.
If any of our joints "boxcarred " ( buckled) or slid sideways, we went back to filing.
The 2nd project was similar, but was executed on round, 2 or 3 mm brass rod, which the instructor tested by placing the sections in a shallow groove, and pushing in from the ends. This added a whole new factor into mastering a square flat joint, and took quite some time to master for many of us.
We were encouraged to cheat in any way we could, which helped each of us learn that only a hand file and skill was going to get us to the final goal of “seeing” and “feeling” when your file had created a perfectly flat, square and even surface.


This is really one of those “you get what you pay” for things. Spend a good dollar on good files of what ever style you use or go to Lowes and buy a Nicholson flat file every year or so. I will admit to having both types. And the reality is I will use the one thats with in reach.

I think that you would do well to buy the best you can afford and then buy better when the opportunity presents.

Look outside the industry. I have a single cut file that is 1 /12" wide by 6" long by 3/4" thick. It is used by guitar mechanics to level fret boards on stringed instruments. It trues up long saw cuts just fine. It can be very handy.

Good Luck and have fun.

Don Meixner



i would venture to suggest:

swiss cut #0 (coarser, to remove metal faster)

  • flat file
  • half round RING file

swiss cut #2 (a bit finer)
(…after this cut#2, I am usually moving on to emery papers 320,400,600,800, etc…)
(with wooden dowels, flat popscicle sticks, etc)
(my cut#4,6,8 are in needle files and escapement files)

  • half round file
  • barrette file (put safety edge on it)

then get a good 6 pc set of needle files
swiss cut #2, then later swiss cut #4,6,8 (in sets or individual favorites)

  • flat
  • barrette
  • half round
  • square
  • triangle
  • round (is tapered)

(put safety edges/ sides on them)

then get a good 6 pc set of escapement files if you want smaller than needle files
(in same cuts as above)

just my personal thoughts

p.s. do not use your jewelry files to shape and modify steel tools…get less expensive but quality files from the hardware store to dedicate to these tasks

(omg, my old laptop is getting senile!)


1 Like


I personally love the below habilis files…

they are smaller than hand files, bigger than needle files, and are thick/ rigid, and do not flex.

Glardon Vallorbe® Precision Habilis Hand File Set, Swiss Cut #1, Set of 5

(weird…link will not post…)

there is another brand of key files (similar size to habilis files) that I bought, with wooden handles…the files are thinner and less rigid, and the flat file flexes a bit too much for my liking…

Friedrich Dick Key File Sets, Set of 6


1 Like

Thanks everyone for the recommendations and tips! A supplier had sent me some tools I hadn’t ordered or paid for and amongst them were a really nice set of files. After sending them back I had a look at my metal files and instantly realized why people spend so much for good files. The files I sent back, WAY nicer than the files I bought at my local big box store.

Julie, the Habilis set is gorgeous. If I only was able to have one #, would #1 be better than #2? I always heard #2 is the best general purpose?

1 Like

i think they were only offered in cut#1, at Rio Grande…perhaps more cuts offered elsewhere…?

although cut#2 would be nice…too…a wee bit finer and less grabby

although the cut#1 is very nice, and i don’t find them grabby at all…cut#1 being definitely less grabby than cut#0



hi again,

i amend my original hand file suggestions:

delete cut#2 barrette file

perhaps better to put money toward a good set of needle files!


1 Like

Thanks for the info Julie

1 Like

I bought these to start. Thanks Everyone.

1 Like

Your link goes to “Page not found”…

Not sure why but if you search for the 5 file set on that site it lists as $112 but when you go to buy it it was $18.50.

I agree with the recommendations. I would also suggest a set of escapement files. There have been many times when the small escapement files got into the places that my needle files wouldn’t. Knife edge, three square, four square, round, half round and Barrett. I’m astonished at how each particular file , needle or escapement, has such unique capabilities. That said, my favorite and most used file is a #2 flat file, I prefer it on even the smallest of pieces if there is room to maneuver.


Hi Juli