I was on they very site as i was typing on here and I think I will getting some Ashley Iles but will have to save up. they will probably last me the 40 or 50 years i got left
I started out in the early 1970s building up a set of Stanley 5001s which at the time were much derided by the older joiners who by then tended to use Marples lollipops out on site (with some of the workshop wallahs preferring Blue Chip chisels for cabinet work). Over the years, however, the 5001s proved to be good chisels, if perhaps a tad on the soft side. The one thing they won't take, though, is being hit with a hammer (and who the heck carries a wooden mallet to site these days?) Stanley stopped making them something like 25 or more years back which makes building-up a full set now quite difficult. It's easy enough to find the narrower chisels (up to 1in/25mm), but above that they have become increasingly rare in good condition
. And frankly there's no use buying a chisel which is already 75% used up (and yes having 1-1/4 and 1-1/2in is very handy indeed when chopping in hinges and locks, 2in less so I find). So I finally caved-in and went to Fat Max through tang chisels a few years back simply because they are designed to take all the abuse that site work can mete out; smacking them with a hammer won't shear-off the handle on a very cold day like it can do on a 5001 or a Marples lollipop (seen both done). I've tried out other chisels over the years, too, for example I still have a set of Bahco 424 chisels - they look good, are well machined, but the handles are a bit brittle (chip when cold and struck with a hammer) and the tool edges on mine chip out far too easily (suspect that they are too hard), but they take a good edge.
A couple of points about Fat Max chisels: they have 10, 15 and 20mm sizes in the range which are ideal for cleaning-out intumescent strip grooves after the decos have filled them with gloss paint, they do 16, 18 and 22mm sizes which match a lot of sheet materials, they go up to a full 50mm should you need it, the backs (of mine) were reasonably flat out of the box (against the Irwin MS750s I had which were bent like bananas), but the smallest Fat Max is 6mm so you may need a narrower chisel from another range (e.g. Bahco 424) if your work requires a 4mm chisel, and they are really a firmer bevel edge design meaning that you aren't going to be able to chop out dovetails with them. They can't be such a bad design. After Irwin saw fit, belatedly, to make a copy of them (in the MS750) which may indicated that they have an increasing market share
The Ashley Iles chisels I have, including a couple of their dovetail chisels are very reminiscent of the old wooden-handled thin bevel edge chisels that some of the old-timers had when I started work. Nice and light and work into small spaces well
whats the general thought on Stanley products?
Some of their stuff has always been good and well-regarded by the trades, e.g. Fat Max tape measures, Fat Max spirit levels (apparently still made in the UK at what used to be Rabone's in Brum), mobile tool boxes, hammers (I prefer their all-welded hammers over Estwings), utility knives (like the Titan), chalk lines, etc. Some products, like the hand planes, are still pretty ropey, but Stanley in Sheffield is being used to manufacture the Sweatheart range of chisels which are well regarded in the USA. I don't think that Stanley has ever gone away, just that the range of hand tools we use has diminished over the last 40 years, but every tradesman I've ever met has at least a couple of Stanley tools in their toolbox.
Oddly enough Stanley Black & Decker actually bought Irwin, Lenox and Hilmor brands from Newell Brands (Rubbermaid) in 2017 - and the Irwin range includes former Record and Marples products (which are often rubbish these days)