What Is an Awl Used for?

Depending on what your interests and passions are, the world of hobbies is vast and unlimited. Once you find out what you are interested in, you can really fall down a rabbit hole of information and ideas. Of course, with every hobby comes materials and tools. These are completely varying and depend on what your craft is. For those who are interested in car wrapping, cake decorating, stitching, bookmaking, sewing, cookie decorating or clay model making, there is a wonderful and handy tool called an awl. This tool has many different names and comes in many variations; however, it always serves the same purpose. So, what is an awl used for? In this blog, we’ll answer this question and more!

The awl is not a new tool. In fact, it is an ancient tool that dates back to the Paleolithic age, and was originally carved out of bones. In ancient times, it was commonly used for sewing, but as time and technology has developed, the uses of the simple tool have expanded vastly. The awl itself is just a sharp-pointed object with a pen-like or thick palm handle. Sometimes, the tips will include "an eye" to draw a thread through them. Other times, they are solid metal, used for piercing rather than stitching. 

Now the awl tool itself can vary in handle material or the thickness of the point, but it always contains these two elements. First, the handle: usually pen-like in shape, made out of wood, plastic, aluminum or steel. The second element that makes the awl is the point. The point can vary in thickness but always tapers into a fine, sharp apex. The reason that the awl point thickness varies is because each hobby or craft may require a different thickness of hole being punctured. For example, for car wrappers, it is essential that this hole be as fine as possible in order to minimize the visibility of the puncture. 

Car wrappers are using the awl to alleviate trapped air bubbles under the vinyl. As you can imagine, this can happen quite often — even for the most professional of car wrappers. In the car wrapping profession, the awl is also referred to as an air release tool. Woodworkers also know the importance of an awl. They are great for getting a screw started in wood. Additionally, they are great for marking up when you need to drill. It is only one of the many wonderful woodworking hand tools Excel Blades offers

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Similarly, cake and cookie decorators are also familiar with this tool. Those working with fondant or gum paste also use the tool to alleviate any trapped air bubbles in order to create a smooth and fine finished surface. This tool is also known as a needle scriber. You can use the awl to stir syrup, draw outlines of the cake decorations and more. It is also quite popular for embossing pieces of fondant before painting different elements of the cake. 

We can't talk about awls and not mention leather and vegan leather craftsmen. Among many applications in a leather workshop, awls are used to mark holes for buckles on belts and handbag straps or shoelace holes on, well, shoes! That beautiful metal shiny logo on your designer bag was marked out for placement and attached using an awl. 

trio of awls

Some tips on using awls, the pressure being put on the tip, plus the material that is being used is a crucial part of working with an awl. You want to be quite careful and gentle when using this tool because depending on how fine the tip is, you could break or bend it. Alternatively, you can also damage the material you are working on by pressing too hard. For example, if you are working on a cake, pressing too hard can result in a hole in your cake. If you are adding tint to a window, too much pressure can result in a scratch in the glass and a tear in the tint — a mistake that can cost hundreds of dollars. 

Another thing to keep note of is the type of awl you are buying. Excel Blades offers a wide variety of awls, but most notably, manufacturers’ retractable awls. The retractable awl is fantastic because it prioritizes safety. Depending on what type of awl you are using, it could be quite damaging to both your products, but also to people. A sharp needlepoint is not something that you want lying around. It may roll off the table, or stab someone in your pen cup. With the Excel Blades awls, you can simply click the button at the back end of the awl, which has a locking mechanism, and you don’t have to worry about it. It also comes with a pocket clip for easy portability while working. 

using awl in craft project

Another cool feature Excel Blades offers is replacement tips! Other awls on the market become obsolete once their tip dulls, but Excel Blades has created a solution to this. With safety as a priority, we offer handles that can have replaceable tips, and we sell the replacements themselves. Always remember a dull awl or blade is an unsafe one. The tool should do the work for you, and once you have to force it, it’s time for a replacement. You can shop all of Excel Blades’ versions of the awl here

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It may seem as though you can replace this tool with a needle or knife you may have lying around, but it is important when investing your time into a project you do it right the first time, with the right tools. Cutting corners may cost you lots of time and money.