Narrow & Parting Tools in General

Ashley Iles 4.5mm 3/16

I would like to point out there are better alternatives to the standard narrow woodturning parting tools generally available in the US.

The “4.5mm 3/16″ Fluted Parting Tool” made by “Ashley Iles” in the UK is the best narrow parting tool in my not so humble opinion. It is fluted. Thus it has two sharp points on the front that slice the wood a lot cleaner than the blunt point on the standard narrow partings tools available in the US.

Purchase 4.5mm 3/16You only need to use an Ashley Iles parting tool once. You will never go back to anything else. I got hooked on one when a friend let me try his. The only drawback to the Ashley Iles tool is it seem a little delicate. Thus, I save mine for special things, where I need a really clean cut and avoid rough service.

Ashley Iles tools have gone out of fashion in the US. They are hard to get and always were a little more expensive then others. If you look around on the web you may be able to find one. On 9/2020 you could get one from in Brooklyn NY for $64. Or you may be able to order directly from Ashley Iles in the UK. On 9/2020 the UK price was 41 UK pounds = $53 US. Will they ship to US? Cost?

Note: This is NOT an attack on US made products. I believe in buy local when possible. The Crown, Sorby, Henry Taylor, Hamlet, Packard, and Artisan brand narrow parting tools that most people in the US purchase are made in the UK.

Typical Narrow Parting Tools

T typical Narrow Woodturning Parting Tools in the USHere is what the Narrow Parting tools typically available in the US look like. They are not fluted. Photo from Pinterest.

I have these. But, I rarely use them. I really don’t like tools with short handles. I personally prefer long handles on all of my tools.

I let my students try these tools. Then they try the Ashley Iles are get hooked on it.

Note: If I was going to purchase one of these parting tools it would be the “Henry Taylor Narrow Parting Tool HS168” with the long handle for $48 on 9/2020. However, it is not what I recommend for every day use. See below.

High Priced Narrow Parting Tools

I see ABSOLUTELY no reason to pay high prices for parting tools made out of supper hard and exotic steels (M42, etc) from Carter and Son, etc. You are not going to be using a parting tool all that much. You pick it up to make a little parting cut then you move on to your next cut with a spindle gouge, etc.

Paying high prices for a round shank that will fit easily in a handle makes no sense. Milling a long flat skinny parting tool out of a round bar of steel creates a lot of extra waste and thus expense I don’t need.

I don’t need to spend big bucks for a round tang on a flat tool. I just cut a 1/2″ dowel into thirds lengthwise and use the chunks of dowel to mount a flat parting tool in a round hole in a wooden tool handle. If you have a metal handle with set screws, then just shove the flat tool in the round hole and tighten the set screws. If you need longer set screws they are cheap at local hardware store.

Everyday Parting Tool

D-Way 1/8" STD Narrow Parting ToolFor everyday rough use I like to use a 1/8″ wide parting tool that is only 1/2″ tall. You really don’t need a tall tool, like the ones in the above photo.

I have and like the Packard 1/8” Parting Tool, Sku 100120, $40 on 9/2020. I do not have, but I like the looks of the “D-Way Tools”, “Standard 1/8″ Parting Tool”, $45 on 9/2020.

The Packard tool is part of my Modern Tool set. See My Modern Woodturning Tool Set blog entry.

I have found that several passes with a 1/8″ wide parting tool to cut a 1/4″ wide or even a 1″ wide gap is a lot faster than using a 1/4″ wide parting tool or anything else. Why? Because you can plunge in a 1/8″ wide parting tool a lot faster than a 1/4″ wide one.

I have found that handle length is a very personal thing. I like long handles. Thus, I like to have my Packard 1/8″ parting tool in a 16″ long handle. This gives me better leverage. More to hold on to if I must extend the parting tool over the tool rest further than I should, in situations where I just can not get the tool rest in close.

Diamond Parting Tools

Diamond Parting ToolDiamond parting tools seem like a good idea in theory. They are ok. But, I have found they are not worth the extra money.

I have one, that I never use. Even on a diamond parting tool you can NOT rub the sides on the walls of a deep cut. It just is not a good idea! Something you don’t want to find out the hard way. Thus, you must make multiple passes. This defeats the purpose of the diamond shape and makes the extra expense not work the money.

Small Hollowing Tool for Parting

Jordan 3/8" Hollowing ToolsI like to use a small 3/8″ John Jordan Straight Hollow Tool for deep parting operations. Or when I need to hang the tool a long way over the rest. I feel a lot better/safer using a tool with a 3/8″ steel rod shaft that is designed to be hung a long way over the rest.

I strongly prefer the Jordan tool over similar Ellsworth tools. Because the Jordan 3/8″ tool is 10″ long. The Ellsworth is only 6″ long. You can get the tool directly from $43 on 9/2020.

Carl Ford's Tool RestsNote: I also like to use a U shaped tool rest that I can get in close when parting with a hollowing tool. My own U design. See my Carl’s Tool Rest Design blog entry. Or a “Kelton Hollowing Gate”. Or a “Woodcut Tools Irons Tool Gate Rest for Hollowing”.

In Summary

I have and use the following parting tools.

  • A 3/16″ Fluted Parting Tool made by “Ashley Iles”

    For special things where I need a CLEAN narrow slot. For boxes, yo yo’s, etc.

  • A 1/8″ wide, 1/2″ tall, Packard Parting Tool.

    I use this for everyday operations. Parting cuts where I can live with a rough cut surface. When “sizing” spindles, etc.

  • A 3/8″ John Jordan style Straight Hollow Tool.

    I use this for parting off hollow forms, and bowls. When I need to hang the tool a long way over the tool rest. i.e. 1 inch or more over the tool rest.

Note: I also have a lot of other parting tools I never use. The tall short handled ones in the above photo. A diamond shaped parting tool. A 1/4″ wide parting tool. A 3/8″ wide bedan. Etc.