Thursday, May 21, 2009

Making a case for the Ashley Iles Hooked Skew

Last week I was excited to add two new tools to my carving arsenal. They are the 15mm and the 19mm hooked skew produced by Ashley Iles in England. The hooked skew is a specialty tool that looks like no other carving knife that I've ever seen and THAT alone was enough for me to justify spending the three quarters of $100 that they set me back. Actually I did my homework before the purchase and after a weekend I knew that I wanted this product.

On the message board at Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine it was the technical editor Bob Duncan who regularly praised this interesting little tool that caught my eye right from the start. Bob said that he found himself reaching for his hooked skew more than any other tool while he carved. I then looked at the website of the largest U.S. supplier of Ashley Iles tools at and learned that Ray Gonzalez worked with the Ashley Iles factory to design a carving tool that would meet his needs for carving detail in confined spaces. The website described this tool, "You can use it as a knife - for example to shape the beak of a bird sculpture; as a skew chisel on a shallow relief; or use the points of a blade to scribe a line. The narrow stem gives you complete visibility when you cut. It's a very flexible tool suitable for sculpture, relief and decoy carving, and a very precise one." So as you can see this funky designed blade can do the job of several knives, from stop cuts to paring, push cuts, and just plain ole carving.
Ok, before I get too carried away with all my gawking about the knife let me tell you about the No. 1 drawback. Yes, it's a quality tool from top to bottom but as you can see in the picture above the cutting blade is shaped something like the execution ax you'd expect to see that medieval fellow in the movie Braveheart chopping the heads off of those who threatened the king. Nothing is more important to me when carving that safety and this rounded ax-like blade comes from the factory razor sharp with two pointed edges on either end that will draw blood with the slightest mishandling. Noticing this right away I knew that I had to design some kind of container to transport them around in my pack and to just protect the blade from nicks when I wasn't actually using it.
I grabbed a piece of small scrap basswood and split it down the middle with my bandsaw, then traced out the shape of the blade on one side of the wood. Next I carved it out so that my blade would fit snug and secure inside the two sides of wood. As the pictures show I then used some adhesive backed Velcro and a stapler to attached the two pieces of wood together where it would open like I was reading a book.
Anyhow, I was very pleased with the result and I now feel like I've made my carving environment much safer while also protecting an expensive investment. I'm still in the experimental and exploration stages of discovering just what I can accomplish with this little funky tool so I'll have to report later on that assessment after I've had ample time to give it a fair go. Buttttttt... so far I'm really loving it and find myself reaching for it more and more and yes, it really does reach into some of those hard to get to places like no other tool can do. Yeah, I think I'm gonna like it.


  1. Another tool! That's all I need! :) Anyhow, I made a similar sheath for my bent knives. Shoving a hook knife into a leather sheath is a recipe for disaster, so I carved the blade shape into a couple of pieces of basswood, and connected them with a piece of cordura nylon strapping with a velcro closure. Works great. Now I have to convince my wife that I need a couple of hooked skews.


  2. I bought a hooked skew a few years ago and fell in love with it. Since then, I've made several from a wood mizer bandsaw blade. I can make it somewhat larger. It is by far the most versatile tool allowing me to literally plane a surface, to chip carve, and to almost replace my "v" tools. Yes, it has a bunch of places to cut you, so be careful.