- Ashley Iles Edge Tools Ltd.
Ashley Iles Mk2 Bench Chisels our our favorite chisel for joinery and general use. They have precisely ground side bevels that provide excellent clearance working in corners, and utilize a bolster and tang construction to lock the forged blade onto the Bubinga handle. At the business end of the Mk2, a properly hardened and tempered O1 tool steel blade keeps a razor edge, and is simple to maintain with oil, water or diamond stones.
Ashley Iles is family owned and operated business run by second generation tool makers who's experience and skill in manufacturing make the Mk2 a chisel you can be proud to own. When selecting a bench chisel there are three important parameters: blade profile, blade steel, and handle design. The high-clearance profile of the the Mk2 blade has exquisitely thin sides - tapering from 1/16" to less than 1/32" at the tip. The O1 tool steel blade is hardened and tempered to 61 HRC. We love O1 tool steel, because and even in this age of laboratory concoctions, there's no material that delivers the edge retention, sharpness, and sharpenability of an O1 Bench chisel. To further aid in sharpening, the chisel backs are ground with an intentional hollow of a couple thousandths of an inch, so the cutting edge can be polished quickly without the need for excessive flattening. The Mk2 has a Bubinga handle, proportionately sized to the blade, with 1" and smaller using a carving style handle to provide control and balance.
Ashley Iles is able to incorporate the above features into a reasonably priced chisel due to their decades of experience in and around Sheffield's storied tool making tradition. Ashely Iles is a family owned and operated business, run by craftsmen who were born into Sheffield's tool making workshops, and grew up straddling grindstones, and hammering steel. Barry and Tony who currently operate Ashley Iles Ltd. maintain their father Ashley's steadfast resistance to following fads, or adding unnecessary features. Ashley's well worn anvil (still in daily use) sits at the center of their workshop, and is a reminder of that heritage. Last time we visited East Kirkby, a short train ride east from Sheffield, we shot footage of the Ashley Iles workshop - it's worth the watch to catch a glimpse of the legendary craft tradition of Sheffield, as carried on by Ashley Iles Edge Tools Ltd.
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.
For all sets and individual chisel orders (except the Box Set of 4) we 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 Mk2 Chisels 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.