Ashley Iles Bench Chisels - Beautiful but they will need some edge work

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Review by ChicoWoodnut posted 04-01-2008 03:14 AM 27984 views 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Ashley Iles Bench Chisels - Beautiful but they will need some edge work Ashley Iles Bench Chisels - Beautiful but they will need some edge work Ashley Iles Bench Chisels - Beautiful but they will need some edge work Click the pictures to enlarge them

After using a set of older Craftsman chisels for years, I decided I wanted a fine set of bench chisels. The Craftsman chisels have served me well and I will continue to use them, but they are a little short thick and unwieldy. I like fine tools so I decided to treat myself for my 50th birthday. I have been looking for a good set on e-bay but the prices the older sets of Stanley chisels fetch these days is silly. I landed on the Ashley Iles because they are known for fine edge tools.

  • VendorTheBestThings
  • Type – Bevel Edge – tanged and bolstered.
  • Handles – Boxwood Hexagonal “London Pattern”
  • Handle Length – ~ 6” to end of ferrule
  • Blade Length – ~ 5” from end of ferrule
  • Sizes – Set of 6, 1/8” 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2”, 3/4”, 1” (I bought the set of 6, the set of 11 is overkill for me – I have never wished I had a 2” bench chisel)

The best things says that they are the only vendor selling this pattern of Chisel. It is a little different than the Ashley Iles standard set. For one, the handles are boxwood and hex. For another, they are “a little shorter than standard”. Not by much I’ll bet. I like the handles.

The chisels came nicely packaged. Each wrapped in brown paper.

Each chisel edge protected by a dip into some sort of hard plastic.

Here they are laying side by side with my 12” combo for a reference. The three smaller chisels all have the same size handle. The 3/4” and 1” are larger, especially in diameter.

Here is a macro of the back of the 1” chisel. As you can see, it will need some lapping. It is pretty smooth though so I don’t think it will take much. They are all in about the same condition; polished more toward the edge and rougher as you go back toward the handle.

Here is the bevel edge. A lot better but still needs some work.

They come with a little logo.

The 1/8” chisel has a nice grain pattern on it. The handles are very light but feel solid with a fine grain and a polished feel. They are not heavily finished and may only have been oiled.

The fit is excellent. The blades are set straight and they fit perfectly against the bolstered end. The ferrules fit nicely too. The handles are a dream.

The finish is fine with the slight exception of the chisel back.

They are perfectly balanced and feel wonderful in the hand. (I have always wanted to say that)

The chisels are not marked with graduations. I suppose I will get used to it or mark the handles with a hot iron.

I would recommend these bench chisels to anyone wanting a fine set. I would have given them 4 1/2 stars but that wasn’t a choice. (I have never found a perfect tool)


I flattened the backs of the set this evening. It took me about an hour to get them from p220 up to p1000. The 3/4” chisel had a high spot running the full ength of the blade. It took the most work. Here is a shot of the 1”.


And for Eric, the set was $185 plus $10 shipping.

Another interesting thing I found while perusing the internet is a set made by Ray Iles, Ashley Iles son It looks suspiciously like this set.

-- Scott - Chico California

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11 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


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#1 posted 04-01-2008 03:43 AM

Great review! The only carving tool I have found that come ready to use are made by Flexcut.
They even include some band-aids. At least they used to.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

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160 posts in 4662 days

#2 posted 04-01-2008 05:26 AM

Thanks for the review, Chico.

I think I’ve been looking at more-or-less the same chisels, as they’re sold here at There they have bubinga handles instead of boxwood.

How do yours hold an edge? How long did it take to flatten the back of that 1” chisel?

-- johnjoiner

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4584 days

#3 posted 04-01-2008 05:52 AM


TheBestThings carries those chisels as well. I am convinced that the only difference is the handle I liked the London pattern handle.

As for flattening the back. I’ll follow up tomorrow after I whip out my stones and get to flatening. As I think you already know, there is a difference between flat and rough and the proof is in the pudding (or on the stone)

-- Scott - Chico California

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#4 posted 04-01-2008 11:25 AM

Thanks for the excellent review Scott.

View Dorje's profile


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#5 posted 04-01-2008 06:42 PM

Nice review – be sure to let us know how those edges hold up after you get them sharp and in use!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

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556 posts in 4540 days

#6 posted 04-03-2008 12:20 AM

Nice review – It will be great to see how well they work after tuning them up.

-- --Chuck

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875 posts in 4552 days

#7 posted 04-03-2008 11:04 AM

Thanks for this review, Scott. How much are they?

-- Eric at

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Douglas Bordner

4061 posts in 4832 days

#8 posted 04-03-2008 05:47 PM

They look great. I have enjoyed the one Ashley Iles tool I owe (an oval skew). I’m sure this set will serve you well your whole life long. Here’s to your next fifty!

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4584 days

#9 posted 04-05-2008 04:50 AM


The set was $185 plus $10 shipping in the continental US, (which I know doesn’t help you much)

I flattened the backs this evening and updated the review above.


-- Scott - Chico California

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4584 days

#10 posted 11-06-2010 05:16 PM

I got an email this week from Lee Richmond at The Best Things setting the record straight on one of my comments. I suppose it at least taught me not to speculate in a product review. People apparently read them :)

The Best Things sells a lot of stuff you can’t buy at the Borg (or anywhere else for that matter) and I really enjoy looking at and buying their products. A great service to those of us who enjoy fine tools.

So here is the quote from Lee:

. . .You wrote:
> “TheBestThings carries those chisels as well. I am convinced that the
> only difference is the handle I liked the London pattern handle.”
> This is absolutely not true. The blades on your chisels are 3/4”
> shorter than the American pattern chisels, which were the standard AI
> chisel at that time, but are no longer made.
> The new Ashley Iles Mark 2 chisels are shorter than the original Ashley Iles chisels, as are the octagonal
> handled chisels that you have. They are also ground a bit differently, something that I had urged them to
> do on our special chisels, but was unable to get them to do just for us.
> We no longer carry the octagonal handled chisels because I don’t
> see the need for them with the MK2 chisels.
> Best Regards,

Lee Richmond
The Best Things Corporation
299 Herndon Parkway
Suite 210
Herndon, VA 20170

-- Scott - Chico California

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123 posts in 3784 days

#11 posted 01-09-2011 03:43 PM

I’m a bit surprised at the photo showing the backs of these chisels. I’ve bought quite a number of the Ashley Iles Carving Chisels as well as several other good brands: Henry Taylor, Two Cherry’s, Hirsch, and Flexcut. Ashley Iles and Flexcut are the only brands that absolutely never needed any touch up at all before using. Two Cherry’s and Hirsch require minor sharpening and Henry Taylor requires significant sharpening.

I’ve also found that “The Best Things” offers high quality tools at a very competitive price. “Tools for Working Wood” is also a good source since it has such a wide variety of chisels and a discount if you buy six or more Ashley Iles Chisels. I’ve had excellent customer service from both of these places as well as Lee Valley.

-- There's no such thing as mistakes, just design changes.

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