Awl confused


Active Member
I'm new to this and have been doing my homework as to which awl to start hand stitching with.

There is no local store to actually physically view tools prior to purchase.

Instead of buying, I decided to make my own diamond awl, but would really appreciate a little help and input from veterans here.

Question 1:

For typical knife sheath making, what thickness and width should I aim for ?
awl (640x466).jpg

Question 2:

From what I've read, one is only supposed to sharpen the two side edges of the diamond, so could the leaf shape pictured above work as well?

Question 3:

When people say outer edges should be sharp...are we talking about paper-slicing sharp?

Question 4:

Should the point be rounded and needle-like or flat and chisel-like?

Question 5:

The main shaft of the awl should be of uniform diamond shape, but what length should the point-to-main shaft be?

Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
Personally, I just use a drapery needle chucked up in my drill press to pre-punch the holes that I laid out with a stitching wheel. I just use the levers to push the needle through, I don't drill anything. I also clamp a board to the drill stage with small holes, one about center and another at the edge, to support the work and keep it clean.



Active Member
Thanks for that Idea Doug. I haven't seen a drapery needle before but have seen a carpet (or jute?) needle that had a wide spade-like shape at the tip...but it was curved if I recall correctly.

Nevertheless, I really want to try the old-school approach first:)

Paul Long

Well-Known Member
If you are going to use the drill press idea, then diamond shape is not necessary. Just cut the handle off an ice pick, and make sure the pick is sharp and polished. It would also be good to lube the pick with some bee's wax every several strokes to facilitate ease of penetrations. An alternative that is even better is to get about a number 25 or 26 sewing machine (Heavy stitcher) needle and chuck that up in your drill press. Very uniform size hole regardless of the thickness being penetrated due to no taper on the needle.

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Church & Son

Well-Known Member
I hand stitch everything (would probably hurt myself with a machine) with awls made from worn out #1 Phillips screwdrivers
and also small files,
filed in a diamond shape with 2 opposite sides polished......
Here is a great thread about awls and hand stitching from across the pond..

"The Bible" of hand stitching by Al Stohlman , a great cheap book that I still refer to after reading a hundred times...

Here's one of my awl/case combos made from a 1/8" chainsaw file and a beautiful antler crown that was too small for a knife handle...

Another really neat design from the 17th/18th century colonial trade days....You can made 2 different sizes on the same awl, just switch the handle to the other end..
I don't know who made these but thanks for the inspiration..



Active Member

Thanks for the sewing needle suggestion, its a good tip to know.


That British Blades link you provided is fantastic. From it, I was able to estimate that height-to-width ratio should be around 1:1.6ish. Also could estimate that the awl the fellow uses is just under 3mm....which matches numbers I got from from another site that gives widths of 2.5 and 3 mm (but the site didn't give thicknesses). It gives me a very good starting point:thumbup1:

I already purchased a 36" x 1/8" diameter drill rod ($1.69) to start experimenting, should have enough material to make a few. It heat-treats well so it should be good.

But my broomstick-as-handle plan is put to shame by the beauty of your awl Randy!
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Church & Son

Well-Known Member
But my broomstick-as-handle plan is put to shame by the beauty of your awl Randy!
Thanks but the ones I use everyday have broomstick handles also....And stick the end in a wine cork to keep it sharp....


Active Member
Well, I made a couple of diamonds ones of different lengths along with a square one.

Remembering the drill press suggestion, I made a simple adapter for my hollow chisel morticer; so awl doesn't turn and goes strictly up and down.

IMG_2030 (640x565).jpg

IMG_2031 (392x640).jpg

Works pretty good, but a better adapted deck for leather work deck will be needed.

I've yet to make a handle for freehand work.