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Different Strokes for Different Folks

Ward & Payne Chisel

The cull of tools continues with nine items gone or in the process of going. None of the tools going are family owned tools, simply just items I have purchased to try out so I feel I'm well informed on what options are out there. I had a choice to make between these two chisels. Both excellent, not one of them would hold a woodworker back or limit them. So you are faced with a burning workshop and you can save only one chisel, which do you go for? Do you go for perfection, free from any blemish and an expression of the repeatable quality required to satisfy legitimate expectations? Or do you pick the one with imperfections, traces of the tool making process, blemishes and a bit of history? For me at this moment I save the imperfect.

When I'm at clients homes on surveys I have been asking permission to review pieces of furniture they own that appeals to me and what I'm looking for is the echo of the making. The overcut dovetail, the surface that is softened by the finishing process of the day and the simple methods and unfinished areas that are not seen by the owner of the furniture such as backs, bases and internal surfaces. I don't see those thing as mistakes, they are valid, appropriate and in no way reduce the quality of the piece. Of course this approach is not appropriate for all woodworking. If you like the perfect, you're drawn to exposed joinery and the like then those ways of working mentioned will clash.

Ward & Payne Chisel
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Consider the image above, both chisels are pretty much identical in the key areas. However the transition from blade to ferrule on the Ashley Iles Mk 2 is perfect and has a beauty of it's own whereas the Ward & Payne is more crude. But I am drawn to that "crudeness", I welcome and embrace the contrast and accept it willingly. I can assure you the steel in both is of an equally fine quality and the balance and poise of each chisel is the same. But returning to the original point it's all down to which one you save? If both these items were for sale new today what would the popular press and the consumers say? As ever, I'm not trying to sway anyones view or to say that one is better than the other but it's surely good to reflect on what we perceive as perfect and if that perfect is better. And for the record I think the Ashley Iles Mk 2 is the best value fine bench chisel available today and this post is not a dig at the tool at all. But I had to save one, which one would you save?