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BrodieB

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Afternoon all,

Looking for experience advice with Ashley Isles Chisels. I’m fairly new to this brilliant craft and I’ve started with some Robert Sorby chisels purchased completely clueless on eBay a while back.

In all honesty, lessons have been learnt about paying more attention to the finer details and not getting all excited about some new tools. The Sorby chisels I have are in poor condition and haven’t been maintained properly. The edges are not square, the bevels are all over the place and pitting has begun to set in.

All of this is putting up a robust fight against me sharpening them and enjoying using them. I do share probably a common response or thought you may have; ‘why not take the learning experience of truing them up and getting them to tip too condition?’. The handles are also in a poor state on investigation. I would much prefer to buy a new set and start from scratch.

With that, Ashley Isles have taken my fancy. I was considering Stanley sweetheart/Narex/Stanley Bailey with the heads on. However I have an Isles gouge and really like the quality.

Just wondered peoples experience with their chisels?

Thanks in advance.

Bb
 

Bm101

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Absolutely all use of metal cutting wood requires REGULAR rehoning and sharpening. Regrinding everyone once in a while.
You can run but you can't hide.
Eventually you will have to face the issue.
Good luck.
:D

Generally they seem regarded as a good ish modern handmade chisel. I have 4. I love them . I also bought them when starting out thinking I could buy experience.
I have seen detractors but the lands (sloped side edges) are well ground. You can ALSO buy old Sheffield steel chisels for a few pounds. Will do the same job. Can't stress enough you need to get your head round keeping an edge on your tools. In the end, buy what you want. But the old time journeymen professionals never saw a posh chisel yet turned out flawless work. Where does the skill lie? In the tool or the hand?
:wink:
 

Ttrees

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A bench grinder or linisher should be on the list as a priority tool for regrinding your primary bevels rather than some nicer chisels.
 

Trevanion

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I've got some Ashley Iles chisels and gouges and I always feel the odd one out in conversations about them because everyone seems to harp on about how excellent their stuff is but I've never really gotten on with it. The steel they use on their Mk2 chisels seems fairly soft from my experience with it, and I'm comparing that with some old mass-produced Stanley 5002 chisels with blue plastic handles that are my daily users and not some nano-arctic-hardened lee nelson mumbo jumbo.

The MK2 chisel I bought must have been a Friday afternoon special done by someone who was on their first day as the tolerances were lax at best for a "premium" tool. I understand they do things the old fashioned way with their nose to the grindstones as if it were the early 1900s but they could at least use a ruler or something relatively straight to check the backs of their chisels, my chisel had at least a millimeter deep curve to the back, people will say "They're supposed to be like that!" but I've never come across any other chisels new or old that had such a great bow on the back, they might as well be a swan neck chisel if it were any greater of a curve! Also, the ground actual edge was a mile off square, I'm talking two whole millimeters out of square on a new chisel. The lands each side of the chisel are also pretty badly ground and aren't particularly even, one side is definitely a bit fatter than the other. Just when things were looking dire they couldn't even put the steel into the handle centrally, it's a good millimeter off centre too.

I've got a couple of AI gouges which I have no real problems with but they're HSS and pretty much fool-proof but whatever brass they use for their ferrules is absolute pants. It's way too hard and brittle to be used on a wooden handle as when the wood takes on the humidity in the winter months it just cracks and splits the ferrule. I bought a loose ferrule from an Ashley Iles stand at Yandles once for a few pence to take home and hit with a hammer, it broke into three separate pieces with a relatively light hit with a hammer, I've got some brass tubing that I've made replacement ferrules from and by contrast you can flatten this stuff with a hammer rather than shatter it.

I'm not bashing Ashley Iles (too much :roll: :lol:), I can appreciate the whole "good ol' British" way of doing things as they do but they could really do with modernising a bit because frankly, "working without jigs or fixtures" isn't too much to be proud about if the results aren't up to scratch. As I said, my daily user chisels are an old set of Stanley 5002 chisels which I think are just about the perfect chisel ever made, which I know that statement will make some people raise their eyebrows. They hold an edge very well, they're ground perfectly with very thin lands each side which makes them absolutely perfect for fine work, the handles feel great in the hand and they can take a clobbering if needed as they're a plastic handle rather than wood. They won't suit everyone, especially the people who are too vain to have "disgusting plastic handles" or "post-war Stanley tools" but they suit me to a tee and I don't really see why anyone would need much more from a chisel.



Personally, I would attempt to correct your Robert Sorby chisels first, as they're going to be just about as good as anything else you can get and you've already got them. As BM101 said, all tools need maintenance, some more than others to begin with but if you get them to a point where you're happy with them they're far easier to keep that way.
 

Noho12C

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Very happy with my Ashley isles. Got them in exchange of my LN chisels and don't regret it. I also like the handle shape.
They take a good edge and are easy to sharpen (O1 steel is nice for that).

Don't bother buying a big set. If you're starting, 3 or 4 will be enough. You can always complete your collection of chisels layer on, and you might by then prefer another brand/steel/handle style.

For the Sorby chisels, why not buying some sand paper and float glass ? With coarse grit, a chisel is pretty quick to rework. I advise you to get a sharpening guide, you will need it.
And workshopheaven sell sanding paper in many grits. That way you don't need to invest now in expansive stones.

Buying vintage tools can be also an option. Old chisels are highly regarded, as their steel is usually very good. And they are really cheap.


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Keith 66

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I like those blue handled Stanley's . I have two that i found in a pile of fly tipped junk, reground & they are excellent, i use them as beater chisels for rough work or if im likely to hit a nail but im starting to feel guilty if i do mash the edge up!
I have a set of Ashley iles cranked chisels from my late Dad, they are nice enough.
My go to ones are Matheson, an old Sorby & James Howarth & sons.
Last one i bought in an antiques emporium, a nice 1 1/4" James howarth paring chisel for £13, blade was still full length so its not had a lot of use. Getting some use now!
 

Phil Pascoe

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Most of mine are old Sorbys, Marples and Wards - I don't recall even recently paying more than four quid for one. :D

OP - I expect other comments are correct - learn what to do about the ones you already have before replacing them, unless you can find a brand ofchisel that automatically grinds and hones itself. Any pictures of the pitting?
 

Cheshirechappie

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Worth bearing in mind that the Ashley Iles Mk 2 bevel-edged chisels are intended for cabinetmaking rather than general joinery. The grinding of the sides to leave a very small land between the flat face and side allows them to access angles such as dovetail corners, but make them a bit less robust than a joiner's firmer chisel.

The complaint about being soft crops up from time to time, but I (and others) have found that with repeated use and re-honing, edge life improves markedly. When re-grinding, don't grind the bevel right to the cutting edge, stop about a 1/32" (1mm or so) short, and hone the last bit. That way, you'll avoid overheating the delicate edge.

For their price, they're just about the best cabinetmaker's bench chisels available. There are other highly regarded offerings from specialist (rather than mass-market) makers, but their tools are significantly more expensive, and only the buyer can decide whether the extra benefits (fairly minimal in my view) are worth the cost.

By the way, don't give up on the Sorbys. Clean them up, sand and repolish the handles, straighten the edges and give them a good hone, and you have some perfectly good chisels. They may not have the glamour of a shiny new tool, but they'll do a perfectly decent job.
 

lurker

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If you ever get over to see me, bring them with you, I will help you sort them out.
 

sundaytrucker

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Noho12C":2r2oghhs said:
Very happy with my Ashley isles. Got them in exchange of my LN chisels and don't regret it. I also like the handle shape.
They take a good edge and are easy to sharpen (O1 steel is nice for that).

Don't bother buying a big set. If you're starting, 3 or 4 will be enough. You can always complete your collection of chisels layer on, and you might by then prefer another brand/steel/handle style.

For the Sorby chisels, why not buying some sand paper and float glass ? With coarse grit, a chisel is pretty quick to rework. I advise you to get a sharpening guide, you will need it.
And workshopheaven sell sanding paper in many grits. That way you don't need to invest now in expansive stones.

Buying vintage tools can be also an option. Old chisels are highly regarded, as their steel is usually very good. And they are really cheap.


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Good to hear you are getting on with the Ashley Iles we traded. I love the feel of the Lie Nielsen chisels but Miss the ease of sharpening o1.
 

Blackswanwood

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I agree with the view that your Sorby chisels are likely to just need a bit of tlc ... sharpening can feel a bit daunting at first but with a bit of practice and effort it is pretty straightforward.

While I have two Ashley Isles chisels I don’t think they are anything special. I also have some blue handled Stanley’s which I have picked up over the years - as others have mentioned they are great. Foolishly I bought a set of Sorby chisels thinking they would be better - they are not. I am a big fan of Richard Maguire https://www.theenglishwoodworker.com/ who speaks highly of the yellow handled Marples chisels.

I see you are based in Notts - you may want to nip along to the Midlands Woodworking Show at Newark show ground in a couple of weeks as you will be able to handle the goods and compare what’s on the market. There is usually someone demonstrating a sharpening method or two!
 

El Barto

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I picked up some blue handled Stanleys (3 for £15) purely for site work and have been shocked/impressed at how good they are! They hold a brilliant edge, I use them all the time now.

Sorby steel is also excellent, at least that’s my experience in having bought some new chisels from them recently.
 

woodbloke66

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My only experience with AI was with their so called 'dovetail' chisels with a curved back. When vertical pressure was applied, the smaller ones bent....alarmingly! :shock: :shock: I sent them back to Workshop Heaven and got a full refund.
Sorry, but I couldn't recommend any chisel brand where they visibly bent in use - Rob
 

ED65

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BrodieB":1gjwhs8n said:
The Sorby chisels I have are in poor condition and haven’t been maintained properly. The edges are not square, the bevels are all over the place and pitting has begun to set in.
In case you're unaware pitting is only an issue on the flat side, and it's rarely so bad that you can't deal with it using normal sharpening processes. Plus knowing you only need a perfect strip of steel a mere 1-2mm wide at the edge right now helps. Any pits further back than this can be ignored for now, and will be reduced during subsequent honings, so once you do get to them (in many years) they'll already be easier to tackle. So here's an example of what you can live with.

The handles are a bigger issue and if they're too far gone then they're too far gone; replacing them doesn't have to be a big deal but if you CBA, or just want something new and shiny for the workshop then fair enough.
 

thetyreman

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I think it's time for me to get some vintage blue handles stanleys, or marples, this thread has got me lusting some again, I need imperial size chisels for some jobs, I have heard very mixed things about ashley isles, I found it interesting that paul sellers stopped using them.
 

MikeG.

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Just as an aside, folks, it's "Ashley Iles", not Isles.

I used one once for a week, as part of a forum pass-around. Pretty little thing, but I couldn't see any advantage over my Stanleys, and it did look so lightweight that it might bend. It certainly didn't remove wood any better than mine, which cost just a fraction of the price.
 

Farm Labourer

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I only have two Ashley Iles chisels - a pair of 7/16" skews for dovetailing -s/h from the bay of E. I came in from the workshop yesterday and remarked to my wife, how much I enjoy having and using them! I'm a fairly robust bloke and have never seen them flex - perhaps because like all of my other chisels (Sorby, Narex, Pfeill, Stormont) I try and keep them as sharp as I can make 'em.

I've never hit them with a mallet - it's all fine paring that I do - so they don't suffer too much!
 

Cheshirechappie

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woodbloke66":2l3zlkl9 said:
My only experience with AI was with their so called 'dovetail' chisels with a curved back. When vertical pressure was applied, the smaller ones bent....alarmingly! :shock: :shock: I sent them back to Workshop Heaven and got a full refund.
Sorry, but I couldn't recommend any chisel brand where they visibly bent in use - Rob
Rob, would you rather that small chisels flexed .... or snapped?

(P.S. - Not a bad thing to have a little spring in a long paring chisel. Can give you that little extra control of cut sometimes.)
 
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