Saturday, 8 May 2010

A trip to Ashley Iles

I don't know how to create a link but Ashley Iles have their own website, they are a very small company who make Woodturning and Woodcarving tools, as well as sharpening systems. They have a policy of allowing clubs and associations to visit their tiny factory near Horncastle in lincolnshire, for a guided tour and opportunity to pick their brains.
We have a Stickmaking club in our village called the 5 towns stickmakers club, so decided to visit them yesterday. The factory really is tucked away in the middle of nowhere and could easily be overlooked as just another farm outbuilding.

The company is now run by brothers Tony and Barry Iles, with a small team of employees. The whole of the chisel making process is is very much done by hand, but using some very old but reliable Sheffield plant. This picture shows how a typical chisel evolves through the process; the top left being the Manganese steel billet as it arrives at the factory and the one at the side of it shows the bolster and tang having been drawn out on the power hammer.At this stage it is called a Mood.

Here's Barry giving us the low down on the incredible power hammer that pounds the mood from above and below simultaneously.
And here are the Hollow and Round formers that correspond to the radii of the various gouges.

These are loaded into a press to form the curvature required.

As we passed from the heavy plant forging side into the grinding and finishing side, we were shown ashley's clock-maker's anvil, apparently it is mounted in horse manure to get the necessary "ring". It has various angled cut outs to wedge work pieces and "devils" for bending and forming.

From there Tony took over and showed us how the tools were hand ground on massive grindstones, about 3ft diameter. These stones are man made and imported from Austria. Each one lasts about 18month to 2yrs and it's a major operation changing and re balancing them before normal grinding can recommence.

We were also shown various linishing stages but it was difficult to photograph due to limited space. Before we left we went upstairs to have a look at the finished goodies. I decided to treat myself to an 1 1/4" bent gouge that I will use for hand hewn bowls.
All in all a very worthwhile trip and nice to see a UK tool company thriving in the 21st century. I will endeavour to support this small family run business in the future, having seen the attention given to producing quality tools

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