21 comments on “Using a Square Awl

  1. Just turned a scrap of pine to your hexagonal shaped (London pattern??)
    Used a piece of 1/2″ copper tube for a feral, drilled a hole then knocked in a 4″ nail, cut off the head and filed four sides…..works a treat

  2. Funny coincidence..I just made one a couple days ago. I made it because I was tired of being off my mark when starting holes. I find that a center punch, which works well in metal, doesn’t work well in wood because, when you tap it, it follows the path of least resistance through the grain and can end up off the mark. It’s not much, but it’s not zero. Various kinds of bits will walk without a starting point. The square all, though, cuts and it cuts slowly enough that I can watch it and make sure it stays exactly where I want it. I’ve tried starting with small twist bits, spur buts, starting bits, and the square awl seems to beat them all. Once I have a divot from the square awl, I can move to a conical twist bit.

    I don’t know if this is the intended use of the tool, but it seems to work for me better than alternatives for defining the starting point in face grain in wood.

  3. Nice video about a tool I have been wondering about acquiring.

    My dad showed me how to fit a new chisel handle to an old tang, a method he was shown by a very old man c.50 years ago. The tang is used exactly like the square awl to bore out the hole to match its taper exactly. Presumably the reason tangs of old were shaped as they were (?).

    • Andrew ….all I did was turn a handle x5″ long….fit copper tube as a feral and drill a hole x2″ deep x just under the diameter of a 4 or 3″ nail ….nock in nail …cut off head and file square….bingo

    • @STOCHASTICFISH In the method your father showed you, do you bore any sort of pilot hole before using the tang? Do you drive the tang a bit beyond the hole that you bore with it? Do you heat the tang and burn it in as a final step? Could you give a few more details?

    • If you Google “fitting a chisel”, Paul did a YouTube video years ago about that. He drills a series of holes to get rid of most of the waste but then uses the chisel tang exactly like a birdcage awl to finish seating the chisel. I would imagine you could do it without the drilling if you filed the tang first to make sharp edges, but why struggle with it if you have a drill. I think you’re right. Fitting the chisel to the handle is most likely why they decided to shape the tang the way they did.

        • Sorry, I wasn’t clear. There are indeed a series of pilot holes to estAblish the basic taper, then clamp chisel blade into vise and twist handle around tang using it like awl, lastly a couple of solid whacks with a hammer to drive it the last 1/4″ or so (6mm). Important the thinnest pilot hole is slightly deeper than tang to reduce chance of splitting.

          Thanks for the pointer Harry, I’ll look up Paul’s video on it, sounds identical.

  4. I bought a stubby phillips (cross) screwdriver on sale at a shop, and filed the tip into a square awl. The original screwdriver pattern left little groves up each flat surface, so it’s doubly effective.

    Tom

    • The birdcage awl or square awl has the square cross section mentioned in the video. People seem to use bradawl to describe many things, but generally is has a round cross section and a small flat screwdriver tip to it. They have a tendency to split wood more often, particularly near the edge of a piece. A gimlet is essentially a small drill bit of various types on a handle, and can cause the wood to split if not careful.
      Hope that helps clarify things. Phil

      • Apparently gimlet is as ambiguous a term as awl.

        There are several types. Most of the modern ones have a snail on them like an Irwin or Jennings bit, and they do tend to split wood if you aren’t careful.

        Some antique ones are more like old spoon bits or a spiral version of a spoon bit with no snail at all, and they don’t split wood.

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