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Are American and Swiss pattern files interchangeable?

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American and Swiss flags, illustrating that this type of file is made in either American or Swiss pattern Even though there are a few differences between American and Swiss pattern files, such as range of sizes and the way that their coarseness is described, they are still files and it would be impossible to tell them apart at a glance.
Image to show that American pattern second cut and Swiss pattern 0 are the same That means that they are generally interchangeable. If you’re looking for an American pattern second cut flat file to smooth off the edge of a piece of metal, you’ll find that a Swiss pattern grade 0 flat file will do the job just as well. In fact, it would be just like using the same file!
As long as you use the right shaped edge of a file at the right coarseness, you can't go wrong Different types of file can sometimes be interchangeable as well – the most important thing is that your file fits into the space where you need to use it, and that you choose the right coarseness for the job. The ‘nationality’ of a file should not be a consideration when deciding which tool to choose.

See: Choosing a file

Wonkee donkee explains the difference between coarse and smooth files

So what’s the difference?

Image to illustrate that it doesn't matter which type of file you choose When it comes down to it, there’s very little difference between Swiss and American pattern files. If you didn’t know which type of file you had, it wouldn’t affect your ability to use the tool.
Image to show that American pattern files are usually used on larger jobs than Swiss pattern files American pattern files are made in larger sizes than Swiss pattern files, and all saw files are American pattern.

See: What are saw files?

Image of a Swiss pattern needle file being used for jewellery making Swiss pattern files are made in smaller sizes and have a reputation for being better made. All needle, escapement and riffler files are Swiss pattern.

For more information, see: What are needle and escapement files?and What are rifflers?

Wonkee Donkee reading a DIY guide on the uses of specific files Some shapes of file are exclusively Swiss and others are exclusively American. This information is included in each of the individual file guides.

Engineer’s files: potential confusion

Image of an engineer to illustrate Engineer's files It’s possible that you might see a Swiss pattern file referred to as an engineer’s file, even though this is an alternative name for an American pattern file!
Image of a DIYer smoothing metal with a file The reason for this is that engineer’s files are designed to be used for shaping and finishing, irrespective of where they were made.
A DIYer not caring whether or not they use a Swiss or American pattern file for a simple filing job If this happens, don’t worry. The chances are that you will have been looking for a file to do some shaping or finishing work anyway, so just look at the size and coarseness of the file and ignore whether it is Swiss or American!

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