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Ashley Iles Forge

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riclepp

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I was recently in a position to visit Ashley Iles Forge, and boy did I learn a thing or two about the manufacture of chisels. I was there for a good couple of hours (don't tell the boss). I was escorted around by Barry Iles one of the co-owners of the forge and a very nice chap he is too. Although not a huge forge by some standards, but certainly cosey for their needs anyway. I was introduced to the Stamping machines they stamp the hot metal cylinder bars in to the flat chisel like ingots, and there is two of them. Having been demonstrated how they work, it looks like they are a time skill learning process for them. Mind you I would'nt like my fingers getting caught under the hammers, especially with the tonnage that is applied.

We then looked at the job that one of the blacksmiths does at the furnace. And yes here I did have a go. The actual task of striking the metal with a hammer is not how I thought it would be, as it is more of a bounce than a strength iniciated hammer blow. At least it was warm around the furnace. The black smith had about 10 chisels on the go, each one was maticulasly inspected, straightend, hammered and reheated and double checked until right and he made it look so easy and quick; but I bet it isnt. I was shown an anvil that was set into a large square block of horse manure that had set, it is all to do with vibration aparently.

I was then shown two other machines one for rough grinding and the other for cutting, both huge machines. The grinder was an automated one, but the cutter is where you would need your wits about you due to the tension in its springs for carrying out the process of cutting (would'nt like to be around if it goes bang).

Then I went into the finer grinding, polishing and sharpening shop, the grinding wheel they have there put my tomek to shame....lol Theye are very bing and rotate at around 60+mph (I think he said). They are so big that you have to sit when using them....mind the crown jewles.

Well polishing is polishing and there are a few various types of polishers from fabric mops to abrasive polishing mops. The first floor is basically one large store of finished chisels, turning chisels and punches. I have never seen so many chisels in one place before. And obviously the packing and plating room, which is very cosey. I never knew what a lump of metal went through to become an Ashley Iles Chisel, I beleve some 40 individual operations in addition ot the forging process with the blacksmith. It is a shame that most chisels are now made in the far east, as it is easy to see why. I doubt that many kids nowadays want to do real work like this, and it is a great shame, but there's hope.

I did really enjoy the several hours I spent there as it did teach me a few things and I am glad it did. If anyone is interested they run a tour of the factory for woodworking groups (ring to arrange a suitable date) - I think that most visitors would be surprised at what they find!

I also have been advised by Mike (he does the online shop) that is anyone on the forum wants to order tools from ashleyilestoolstore.co.uk with free UK postage they're welcome to use discount code FSWA (and no I don't have any shares in Ashley Iles or getting anything) I just thought I would share my short visit with you all. Afterall it is one of the very last English Tool Makers that still operates in the UK. Again, I would highly recommend a visit as I think it is worthwhile.

Thanks for taking the time to read.
 

Vann

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Thanks for posting that - an interesting read :!:

Photos ? Actually, I think I saw some of the processes somewhere online - probably the Ashley Iles website.

Voluunteers now needed to visit (and report back on) the Clico factory please :lol:

Cheers, Vann.
 

Sheffield Tony

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Quite a bit of infor on the Ashley Iles website, and some good descriptions/photos in the catalogue.

There is an episode of "How it's made" showing Clifton plane manufacture - casting, forging the iron, machining etc. It can be found on youtube. It is not obvious to me how much is actually done by Clico themselves, and where. A search for their address on Google streetview leads to a pretty unmpromising looking, modestly sized modern light industrial unit. Seems hard to imagine everything is done there.
 

riclepp

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Sheffield Tony":3tbnprjz said:
Quite a bit of infor on the Ashley Iles website, and some good descriptions/photos in the catalogue.

There is an episode of "How it's made" showing Clifton plane manufacture - casting, forging the iron, machining etc. It can be found on youtube. It is not obvious to me how much is actually done by Clico themselves, and where. A search for their address on Google streetview leads to a pretty unmpromising looking, modestly sized modern light industrial unit. Seems hard to imagine everything is done there.

I can assure you that it is, and agreed it does look like a light industrial unit and not a foundry (Ashley Iles site that is).
 

woodbrains

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Hello,

A good post, thanks. I wonder if there are any here who still now think that AI chisels are expensive after the description of the manufacture you relate. I think it is a wonder that they can actually do them for the money, they are about the best chisels for the price that are available these days.

Mike.
 

bugbear

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Terminological question - do they call it a foundry (which implies melting and moulding metal) or a forge (which involves softening metal with heat, then shaping with blows) ?

BugBear
 

Cheshirechappie

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Sheffield Tony":3dh0hy5p said:
Quite a bit of infor on the Ashley Iles website, and some good descriptions/photos in the catalogue.

There is an episode of "How it's made" showing Clifton plane manufacture - casting, forging the iron, machining etc. It can be found on youtube. It is not obvious to me how much is actually done by Clico themselves, and where. A search for their address on Google streetview leads to a pretty unmpromising looking, modestly sized modern light industrial unit. Seems hard to imagine everything is done there.
Clico's main business is in the manufacture of tooling for aircraft production, and I suspect that's what the industrial unit does.

The woodworking tools are made in an old-established forge near the River Don (formerly owned by a firm called Morrison, I think - not the supermarket),which Clico bought in the late 1980s. They make the blades and do the machining and assembly for planes (castings bought out), and do the forge work, grinding and finishing for wood boring bits and mortice machine tooling there. They were badly affected when the Don flooded a few years ago, and it's taken them a while to recover financially - some of the forge equipment is very old, and rebuilding it after flood damage wasn't easy. They also lost all their stock of finished work, which caused some serious delays for retailers at the time.

They're up and running again now, though.

Edit to add - http://www.getwoodworking.com/news/arti ... -oaks/917/
 

CHJ

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Brings back memories of the many visits around the Black Country in my early days, Ransom and Marles, Rubery Owen and the like who were the backbones behind the main production industries like the car makers etc. we studied, when skilled craftsmen were still mixed in with the the latest technology, taught me a lot about shortest routes and out of the box thinking.
 

Vann

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Interesting article on Clico's Burton Weir plant. Thanks for posting.

When I started my apprenticeship back in 1973, I was issued with a part set of auger bits. Three of them are marked Pigeon Brand/Morrison Ltd/Sheffield Eng - so I presume these were made in the same plant back in Morrison's days.

It's a pity the market wasn't flooded (pun intended) with cheaper, slightly rusty Cliftons after that flood. Better than taking a total loss on the water-damaged stock. That might have help stave off the flood (further pun) of Chinese planes that must be stunting Clico's financial recovery.

But I'm off topic - which is that other excellent British brand, Ashley Iles...

Cheers, Vann.
 

riclepp

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As far as I am aware it is for free posting, which is a shame. But as I could not afford the whole set at the time and have to buy them chisel by chisel, it has saved me around 30 quid...not a lot, but a saving.
 

Peter Sefton

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Great chisels and a great day out. I spent a few hours with Barry, Tony and at Ray’s workshop last year. All small craft workshops as are Marples and Thomas flinns
Does this mean you have traded in your Sorby chisels :?:
 

riclepp

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Hi Peter, No I stll have them. They are good chisels as well. but as you know they are a bit of mix and match :) Always like a bargin :wink: :wink:
 

nicguthrie

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Sounds like a fantastic day out for a "tool geek" like me :)

I'm not off to look up where the AI Forge actually is, as I don't think anyone's mentioned location at all - and your report has made me hungry for photos! I wonder if I can fit it into my winter trip south of the border this year...

Nic.
 
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