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Ashley Iles Butt Chisels - Quality Issue?

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fasterbyelan

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Having just received the 10 piece set of Ashley Iles Butt Chisels, a quick visual look at them shows that the all the wider ones have been ground with a skew, the worst case being around 1mm. Whilst I expected to spend some time preparing the tools, I would have thought the manufacture would have been able to grind the cutting edge square to the sides. Am I expected too much?

As I will have to correct this by hand it will add significantly to the prep time. :(

Regards,

Karl

PS Can add photos later if required
 

Cheshirechappie

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It's neither here nor there. A 1mm skewed edge on a 3mm chisel would be a slight nuisance, but easily rectified. A 1mm skew on a wider chisel is something many a working chisel probably has - it'll still cut wood. Just sharpen it and use it - after about two or three sharpenings, you can adjust the edge as square as you want it, though it won't make the slightest 'real world' difference to 99% of chisel work.
 

Lons

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Maybe I'm not as fussy but it wouldn't bother me in the slightest as long as the chisels are good quality. I seriously doubt if a single chisel I own is more accurate than that. :)
Your purchase so return them if not happy.
 

Trevanion

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Ashley Iles’ excuse is that they’re hand ground and it’s difficult to grind the bevels square after carefully grinding the tapers as that muscle memory takes over or some nonsense like that.

I personally think they’re pretty rubbish.
 

D_W

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They're hand ground.

Use them as they are and correct as needed (not all may need it), but don't waste your time correcting all of them at once. Correct each one as you see a need to.

I don't know what your grinding medium is, but with a CBN wheel, each one of these would take about 2 minutes to correct and with little risk.
 

D_W

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Trevanion":35ix3f2g said:
Ashley Iles’ excuse is that they’re hand ground and it’s difficult to grind the bevels square after carefully grinding the tapers as that muscle memory takes over or some nonsense like that.

I personally think they’re pretty rubbish.
What do you think their wholesale is on each chisel? $18? Ever try to buy a handle, ferrule and grind, harden, temper and finish stock and make a chisel for that?

If you're working by hand at speed, you won't do things like pull out starrett squares.

Their problem may be that they're trying to make tools for capable people at a reasonable price, and the market is pretty much loaded with incapable buyers who think hand finished for $30 is ugly, but machine finished for $70 is a great buy.
 

condeesteso

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I got the 6 set a while ago, and sold them on. Mine were the same, also I reckon the steel was not great at all. And personally I don't care how they are ground, (by hand or machine) but true and square is not a big ask, it's expected.
I got a 4 piece Luban set off the Bay (new) - steel about as good, way better made, ground, assembled and a far better profile in the hand. Fifty quid for four I recall. Dammit though - made in China.
If i want squiffy bevels etc, I'll choose Sheffield's 19th Century finest every time - worth the time to sort.
 

Doug B

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The bottom line is they are handmade in England at a very reasonable price, I use a lot of their tools particularly turning tools & have never had a problem with them, that said if you want tools churned off a machine & shipped half way round the world because they don’t have any imperfections associated with hand made & ground tools then buy from the destination of your choice, we can then have more threads about the demise of British industry :-s :lol:

Though to be honest I don’t think I’ve bought any new chisel that I haven’t reground even if only slightly.
 

D_W

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condeesteso":3nf9ya6n said:
I got the 6 set a while ago, and sold them on. Mine were the same, also I reckon the steel was not great at all. And personally I don't care how they are ground, (by hand or machine) but true and square is not a big ask, it's expected.
I got a 4 piece Luban set off the Bay (new) - steel about as good, way better made, ground, assembled and a far better profile in the hand. Fifty quid for four I recall. Dammit though - made in China.
If i want squiffy bevels etc, I'll choose Sheffield's 19th Century finest every time - worth the time to sort.
Unless something was off with your set, they're O1 and about 61 hardness. I've had the china set that luban labels and they're coarsely made and cheaper chrome vanadium stuff, but the bottom line is if you're just actually working wood, either works fine.

I think the group of woodworkers these days would have a hard time with things that were better made in the past (mortise chisels that are tapered in length and width, plane irons that are hollow in the back on purpose and tapering in width) solely because they wouldn't be able to check them with a straight edge and a square.

Understanding how good Iles stuff is for the price takes a small foray into making a couple of usable chisels.

When woodworkers were capable, most chisels were sold without handles. Let alone checked for perfect squareness.

As mentioned above, the biggest problem is that AI still sells tools that are fit for professional use, but they're selling them to a bunch of people who have no professional skills. Their bevel edge chisels are wonderful - but it only takes a look back a week or two here to hear about how they're no good because you can't mortise with them. It's bonkers.

We judge nicely proportion tools now based on how well they hold up against construction tools...I guess.
 

Trevanion

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D_W":25zlk9fi said:
What do you think their wholesale is on each chisel? $18? Ever try to buy a handle, ferrule and grind, harden, temper and finish stock and make a chisel for that?
My point is if they can make a rubbish chisel for that much, why can't they spend a little more time and effort on making an actually decent chisel and charge a bit more for it?

Is there skill in hand grinding? Sure... but nobody really gives a damn about it.
 

AndyT

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Trevanion":9yrfpoil said:
My point is if they can make a rubbish chisel for that much, why can't they spend a little more time and effort on making an actually decent chisel and charge a bit more for it?
I think the answer to your question lies in the history of the firm and the way it is equipped. These days, the Iles operation is unusual. A group of skilled men make a wide range of tools in small batches. According to their website, the range really is wide

Over 1400 woodcarving tools
Over 330 woodturning tools
Over 40 chisels.

They can make that range because they are not automated. A skilled maker can easily swap to a different size or pattern of tool. He just holds it differently against the same grinding wheel.

By contrast, automated production either uses the sort of rotary grinders Stanley introduced in the 70s, or I guess, robots. Imagine the capital cost of doing that. Even if they had the space and wanted to, Iles would have to sell tools by the hundred thousand to recoup the investment.

Would they still be able to offer such a range, or make specials? Would the staff retain any of their satisfaction in making tools that so few others can make? It's like the difference between an Ikea production line and the sort of bespoke items people share in the Projects section.

Let's appreciate one of our few remaining tool makers, not denigrate them for being different.
 

Phil Pascoe

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D_W":1wi84rb1 said:
When woodworkers were capable, most chisels were sold without handles.
Most? That's probably the only part of your post I'd dispute. Other than a few pig stickers and chisels with bits of broom handle etc. hammered on I don't think I've seen an old chisel that's obviously been rehandled by a tradesman (and I've made scores of handles inc. London pattern). A couple of hundred years old, maybe, but I've not come across them.
 

samhay

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Trevanion":2sxy1aa3 said:
My point is if they can make a rubbish chisel for that much, why can't they spend a little more time and effort on making an actually decent chisel and charge a bit more for it?

Is there skill in hand grinding? Sure... but nobody really gives a damn about it.
I guess some of us don't see it as a rubbish chisel on the basis of the grind being a little off square.
I would have to think quite hard about buying one of these, but saying I decided to: If they had another model that cost more and the only difference was that they were ground perfectly square, I'd choose the cheaper option. I expect I'm not alone. We all have different priorities and all things being equal I'd also happily choose the local hand ground option over the mass produced one.
 

Trevanion

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Don't get me wrong Andy, I'm all for Buy British and can appreciate the skill that goes into it, etc...

Just spend the extra time and effort to make something that much better, it's all I ask even if you charge more for it. I am sure there are ways they can produce a superior product without too much extra hassle. If it were me making them I couldn't live with myself if bevels were that far out of square, the lands on each side weren't equal, the back of the chisel has a 1mm bow in the length, the steel isn't central in the handle and the ferrule is made of brittle pot-metal brass.

I'm afraid they've never left a great impression on me and I won't be in a rush to buy anything off them in the future.
 

Cheshirechappie

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Phil Pascoe":i2imhtea said:
D_W":i2imhtea said:
When woodworkers were capable, most chisels were sold without handles.
Most? That's probably the only part of your post I'd dispute. Other than a few pig stickers and chisels with bits of broom handle etc. hammered on I don't think I've seen an old chisel that's obviously been rehandled by a tradesman (and I've made scores of handles inc. London pattern). A couple of hundred years old, maybe, but I've not come across them.
If you look on AI's website (Ashley Iles Tool Store) they give you the option to buy chisels unhandled, at a few pounds discount to the finished handled versions.

I gather it used to be the norm for the better tool dealers to stock unhandled chisels and a range of handles in different sizes and styles. You chose the blade you wanted and a suitable handle, paid for them, and dealer would fit the handle while you waited as part of the deal. Probably only the bigger dealers with a couple of back-room employees familiar with the job though, and not the smaller general ironmongers.
 

Cheshirechappie

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Trevanion":3rm046gr said:
Just spend the extra time and effort to make something that much better, it's all I ask even if you charge more for it. I am sure there are ways they can produce a superior product without too much extra hassle. If it were me making them I couldn't live with myself if bevels were that far out of square, the lands on each side weren't equal, the back of the chisel has a 1mm bow in the length, the steel isn't central in the handle and the ferrule is made of brittle pot-metal brass.
You need one of these;

https://www.classichandtools.com/acatal ... tml#SID=19

All the bells and whistles, only about £100 a pop.

Those AI chisels are made for cabinet work - paring and light tapping with a mallet, for which they are superb - light, balanced and precise. They're not intended for hairy-ars*d joiners whacking the living s*** out of them with 24oz claw hammers.
 

Lons

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I usually buy a couple unhandled ones off their stand at Harrogate show. Never had an issue with the quality but as I said I'm probably less fussy.
 
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