Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Elegant Awls

My article on "Elegant Awls" was just published in the June 2012 issue of Woodturning Design magazine.
You can click here to read or download the article. Any feedback is welcome. Since I wrote the article I have become aware of the "bird cage" awl I wanted to mention. Instead of rotating the tool when sharpening, you sharpen only on four sides tapering to the point. This gives you 4 cutting edges and allow the tool to easily drill a hole in wood. This is useful in making a starting hole for a screw. The name comes from the tool birdhouse makers used for drilling holes in rattan or bamboo when making birdhouses. Someone else mentioned the benefits of a longer skinnier handle design that makes it easier to spin a bird cage awl in your hands to make a hole.
A reader brought to my attention a typo on drill size. I actually use a 11/64" for a 5/32" shaft. A general room of thumb is to use a 1/16" larger hole than a gouge shank when making a handle for a gouge but adding 1/64" is probably right for an awl shaft hole. Your best bet is probably to simply try a few size holes in a scrap piece of wood and see what is the best fit. You do need a little bit of room to accommodate the glue. 3/16" is not a bad awl shaft size either. I think 1/4" is too big for an awl. I find that I am enjoying writing for publication, although it takes some patience as the lead time from submission to publication is so long. Unlike the instant gratification one gets with turning, it takes about a year and a half to see the results of an article in a magazine!

July 11, 2012. I was gratified to get the following feedback from a fellow turner in Australia:
I too make such neat little things such as awls as well, needless to say I cut the steel point to length and buff it with stainless steel wool and sharpen it on a linisher attached to my bench grinder, to accomplish this I put the cut rod into my cordless drill and use the underside of the linishing belt.  The top side has the plate which the belt runs over, well that side is too harsh, so I always use the underside as it has a bit of give and by adjusting how you hold the drill and steel rod you can make a nice point at whatever angle you require. "It works for me".

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