English Saws


Bit Braces

W. & S. Butcher


Working with Hands - James E. Price

  My Awls 1 of 2  


One of the most used tools at my bench is an awl.



I use them for marking centers for boring holes, I use them as scribes, and I poke holes in wood for starting tiny brass screws. These photos show some of my awls but not all my awls.

The one on the upper left is the first one I ever owned. It was 1959 and I was in the Eighth Grade. My dad fished it out of a box of miscellaneous stuff he bought at an auction and gave it to me.

The other awls in the photo were accumulated over the subsequent years and some I made, i.e., the first and the last ones on the bottom row.

The one on the lower right I made from the spike of an old broken tempered bronze blanket pin so it is spark-less and nonmagnetic.

The following are another kind of awl which is on the proximal end of English joiners' striking knives, scribes, or marking knives. The knife end is the subject of this post.

These tools have long been used in the British Isles for laying out lines on wood for precise cuts with saws and chisels and they were sometimes made by individual craftsmen but most appear to have been manufactured.

They seem to have first appeared in the very late 18th Century and were made in Sheffield, England well into the 20th Century. For this commentary I selected a variety of such tools so you can see the variation. Most are sharpened from both sides but a few exhibit a single bevel. 

First, all I have seen have a sharp awl point on one end and a flared striking blade on the other end.

 My favorite one that I have used for many years is the one that is third from the right in the above photo. It has a single bevel and the front and back are parallel. The specimen on the left appears to be quite early and it was fitted with a wooden bulbous handle to facilitate holding it.

1 of 2  

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