Well, I finally completed the square awl that I’d wanted to make for so long. The handle is from a cherry scrap, gluing together two pieces into which I had run a 1/4″ groove, 1/8″ deep to form the recess for the shank of the blade. For the blade I bought some 1/4 inch square rod of O-1 steel. I had the two components for a few weeks, but was nervous about heat-treating (hardening and tempering) the steel. I’d never even used a propane torch. But my brother was here last week and gave me some courage. It turned out fine – the steel came to cherry red and non-magnetic within about 5 minutes and I plunged it into a can of canola oil. Tempering was done in the oven at about 350° to 375°F for an hour. The blade is simply epoxied into the handle. Handle is finished with tung oil.
Seems to work fine so far. I’m not certain if I ground the profile at the best angle. There is a secondary angle at the very tip. I guess time will tell if it works as I hope it will.
Has anybody else made one of these?
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Looks nice and congratulations on successful hardening and tempering. I would consider adding a brass ferule to prevent torsion forces from splitting the handle.
I have a cheap awl which I polished up a bit, i.e. removed the synthetic coating, added shellac and refiled the faces. Don’t have a picture at hand. Not much, but it does its job.
Thanks all. @dperrott David, my only experience with awls is from Paul’s blog and WWMC, so I can’t say if they’re all square. I think a triangular awl would work just fine – sounds like an excellent use of old saw files to me.
@pjgeorge Peter, that handle looks great! Great use of a nice figured wood scrap.
@davidr David, I thought about a ferrule, but don’t have any brass on hand. Also, I don’t have a good way to step down the small part of the handle to accommodate a ferrule. But I figured the main forces in use would be twisting and the epoxy would hold the steel in the handle fine. I’ll report back if it becomes an issue.
Matt, when I made my awl, I used a 1/2″ copper pipe fitting from the local ACE Hardware. Another option to get really nice brass ferrules are the ones used on air hoses. They’re even rounded on the ends. The only problem is not everywhere carries them, though I believe they are available on eBay.
David – A 3 sided awl will work. I have a couple of old Nicholson “de-burring knives” which are no more then 3 cornered files with sharp edges and no teeth, that I have pressed into service several times as woodworking awls. Seemed to work fine although the point was a bit large for our use (but nothing a couple of minutes on a grinder wouldn’t cure). I went ahead and fashioned one from a square shanked screwdriver as a dedicated tool for this work. It’s not as fashionable as Matt’s but seems to work and was quick to make.
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