Tag Archives: hanmade

Make Your Awl the Charles Atlas of Awls

In a discussion on the HedgehogsForever list the topic of awls came up. I’ve got several, all work different purposes for me, but the basic is to put holes in stuff. One I use for cardstock pages, another for softer paper, and another still for the custom journals. I made my first awl, bought another and made another; then had my brother design and make a hand turned awl for me.

I love the one my brother made for me, hate the one I bought and use the 2 I made regularly.

Some awl tips-

  • Keep them clean. It might seem kind of anal retentive but a more useful suggestion I can’t make. I use my awls for lots of stuff- piercing paper, picking up junk off my table, and lifting bits of glue covered paper. Wipe clean with a damp cloth and any cleaner you like. Allow to air dry before storing. Wet and damp metal will rust.
  • Keep them sharp. There is nothing worse than a dull awl. Seriously, have you ever tried to pierce through paper with an awl that is dull? UGH! I bought a super fine grit diamond stone at HD to sharpen my awls. I grind all my awls to an easily sharpened 45 degree angle, just like a chisel or a knife but you can also sharpen the awl in a rotating motion and keep a more typical needle point. That’s a lot harder than a 45 degree angle. Remember a dull tool is a dangerous tool. (That’s what my Dad always told us… And it’s a mantra I’ve found true- I’ve got scars to prove it.)
  • Polish them. Okay so I thought keeping them clean was going to top the list of anal retentivity. This does. Why polish? It allows the metal to glide through the paper with ease. It reduces the drag from the paper against the metal making it easier to push through a large and thicker stack. To polish you can do as I do and buy a polishing kit for a dremel or by hand. I’ll start with the dremel. Use the fabric wheel and add a little of the red fine compound. Turn the dremel onto a medium speed. Put the length of the awl needle against the spinning wheel with the point in the direction of the spin- DO NOT go in the opposite direction. I tell you this because I like my eyes and I’m sure you like yours too. Turn the awl in your hand. You’ll see a little gray begin to appear in the red compound. This step only takes a few seconds. Switch over to a felt tip. I prefer the small wheels but a bullet tip will work too. Here you can switch over to a white or super fine compound OR you can just put a little bees wax onto the tip. I run this until I see no more gray coming off into the felt. It takes only a few seconds. After doing this the needle will shine like a mirror.

You can polish buy hand with a commercial polishing compound and felt. Or you can polish with a little beeswax and baking soda. You need a little grit to get the polish going. Rub some bees wax onto a piece of felt or soft cloth, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda onto the cloth. Hold the cloth between thumb and forefinger and fold it over the business end of the awl and rub. It takes a little long and it will shine like a slightly older mirror, but it gets the job done.

I’ve found the combination of these 3 things make my awls cut through stacks of paper like butter. In short you can go through pushing through 20 sheets of paper to 40.