What is an awl?

 
     
     
 Shop for Bradawls 
     
     
 bookmakers awl 

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. 

 
     
 awl piercing leather 

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.

 
     
 selection of awls including bradawl 

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.

 
     
 point shapes of some awls 

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. 

 
     
 shoemaker's awl and bradawl 

Bradawls have a straight shank, whereas some shoemakers' or stitching awls may be curved. 

 
     
   

Origins of the awl

 
 old awl tool 

Awls are a very old tool; possibly dating back to the bronze age. 

 
     
 ahlspiess or awl, weapon and bradawl 

'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. 

 
     
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