- Ashley Iles Edge Tools Ltd.
Round-back chisels are a traditional chisel profile historically found on larger sized chisels. The design died out in the late 19th century, as did many of the more specialized woodworking tools. Ashley Iles has resurrected the style in a light, nimble set designed for dovetailing. They are hand forged like carving tools, and ground by hand over an enormous wet grinding wheel at the Ashley Iles works in East Kirkby, England.
The half oval cross-section of the chisel has almost no side-edge for clearance while working right up into the corners of dovetails. Though light, the chisels have proper forged tangs and bolsters, with a bubinga handle that can be struck lightly with a mallet. The blade of the chisel is oil hardening high carbon O1 tool steel, which can be ground to a low angle for better penetration and more control. The chisels come ground with a 25 degree bevel angle, that require less force for the same depth of cut, and drifts less in the cut. For best performance, try to maintain this angle or just add a true micro-bevel of a few degrees for added strength.
The chisels have a very nice feel to them. Though they're strong enough for light malleting, they're ground thin enough so that they have that slight flex you find in top quality (although much longer) paring chisels. In addition to the four sizes of chisels, Ashley Iles has added a pair of left and right handed single bevel fishtail skew chisels for cleaning up the corners of a blind dovetail.
The six piece set includes a canvas chisel roll. If you get the set, put some oiled, scrap, wadded up cloth in the base of the chisel roll pockets. This keeps the pockets open and the blades won't cut into the roll when inserting a chisel.
Because of the high demand for Ashley Iles Edge tools, and the limits their traditional methods of manufacture put on volume production, we are rarely in stock on all sizes of chisel at the same time.
Individual chisel orders (NOT the set) will ship the sizes listed as In Stock immediately, and any chisels listed as Temporarily Sold Out when they become available - typically 4-8 weeks. We do this at no extra charge, and thank you for your patience in supporting a truly amazing manufacturer.
Ashley Iles Round Back Dovetail chisels and skews are Made in England.
Ashley Iles (Edge Tools) Ltd. is a small, family-run company based in a small town in bucolic Lincolnshire, England. Ashley Iles was a patternmaker who started his firm in 1949; today his sons Barry and Tony continue to run the business. (Ashley's eldest son, Raymond, also continues the family tradition of toolmaking, and you might recognize his name on the Excellent D2 Mortise chisels we sell). Thanks to the quality of Ashley Iles chisels, carving tools and woodturning tools this small firm enjoys an international reputation. Although the book is sadly out of print, before his passing, Ashley Iles wrote a fascinating autobiography about how he came to found Ashley Iles Edge Tools Ltd. and the surrounding history and context of Sheffield's industrial roots. If you can get your hands on a copy of Memories of a Sheffield Tool Maker it is an excellent read.
At the Ashley Iles Works you are more likely to find Barry and Tony in the workshop making tools, than working a keyboard. At English woodworking shows customers are continually amazed that the salesman taking the orders (usually Barry) is not only a company director, but is fully capable of personally forging and grinding any of the tools made by the firm. When we visited the Ashely Iles works in 2012 we shot video footage of the Ashley Iles workshop, including several minutes of Tony Iles working at 3 foot diameter grinding wheel spinning at a surface speed of over 60 miles per hour, while grinding the bevel of a thumbnail turning gouge free-hand. (You can watch the videos in the product media viewer.)
Ashley Iles operates in a tradition that is bound by quality, and authenticity, backed up by a lifetime guarantee on each and every tool they make. They are one of the last remaining companies to employ the traditional skills, and methods that made Sheffield's name synonymous with quality, and we are proud to support them.