What is a Scratch Awl?

Worker

An awl is a tool used to make marks on solid objects. These awls are often used to mark a line on a wooden or metal surface to indicate the location for further work. An awl is a very simple tool, basically a metal spike with a handle at one end. These tools are similar in appearance to a sewing hole punch or a bradawl, but have a subtly different construction.

The design of the common awl has not changed for a long time. The workpiece is a metal point that is sharpened to a fine point. This spike is normally made of hardened steel to maintain a better tip. When the tip starts to become dull, it is possible to sharpen it with a metal file. At the end opposite the tip is a handle, usually made of wood. This handle is usually ball-shaped so the user can hold the tool in a wide variety of orientations.

The general purpose of an awl is to make visible marks on a hard surface, usually metal, wood or stone. These marks usually show where the work will take place later on, such as making a screw hole or a cut. Since the marked area is likely to become even more deformed during the working process, the marks made by an awl are usually very rough.

On grain-free materials, like most metals, an awl is the preferred method of marking areas. In veined materials, they are only used to make small marks or lines that go along the grain. When going against the grain, most workers use a marking knife. This chisel-shaped knife easily cuts through surface fibers that get in the way of the hole punch. On the other hand, when going with the grain, the knife will often get stuck in valleys of grain that the awl easily avoids.

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While all types of awls are very similar, there are slight variations to differentiate one type from the other. For example, a bradawl looks almost exactly like a scratch awl, except for a slight variation in the tip of the tool. The tip of a bradawl is slightly flattened to allow it to bite into the wood, then using a twisting motion, make a small cavity to use as a screw hole. A sewing hole punch has a modified tip that allows you to easily pierce fabrics or leather while threading through the hole at the same time.

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