An awl is a sharp, pointed tool used to create holes in various different materials. There are several different types of awl. A bradawl is one type.
Bradawls are used in woodworking but there are other awls for leather work, bookmaking, textiles and metalwork. Other common types are scratch awls, shoemaker’s awls, stitching awls and scriber’s awls.
All types of awl are very similar. How they are used and even their names overlap greatly.Another name for an awl is a ‘pricker’ which is used to describe a bradawl or a stabbing, sailmaker’s or pegging awl.
What differentiates awls is the material they are used on, the shape of the tip and, subsequently, the hole they create. The only other feature that varies is the shape of the shank: on some awls it is straight, on others, it is S-shaped.
Bradawls have a straight shank, whereas some shoemakers’ or stitching awls may be curved.
Origins of the awl
Awls are a very old tool; possibly dating back to the bronze age.
‘Awl’ is also an alternative name for an ahlspiess; a spear-like weapon mainly used in 15th and 16th century Germany and Austria. The shape of the weapon resembles that of the tool.