Bradawls, are they awl the same?

Who on earth would spend £70 on a bradawl? It’s an awlful :slight_smile: lot of money!

I’ve happily used a cheap bradawl for years, but see that awls are now made by some very good brands (e.g. Wiha and Bahco). In the UK, I can buy a cheap awl for under £5 or a made-in-Germany awl from Wiha for about £10.

Or I could spend £70 on an awl from Blue Spruce. Whoa! Who spends £70 on an awl? (Especially when the Wiha is made from sealed beechwood and Wiha’s invariably excellent quality.)

As far as I know - neither Wiha nor Blue Spruce make Brad Awls.
A brad awl is a somewhat archaic tool used to create small holes using a turning or twisting motion.
The best modern one that I know about comes from Veritas - Lee Valley

http://www.leevalley.com/us/wood/page.aspx?p=46245&cat=1,43411,43422&ap=1

A Marples version is shown on the Wikipedia citation:

Amazon also lists several:

https://www.amazon.com/40mm-Silverline-Point-Square-Bradawl/dp/B000OIJHCA

https://www.amazon.com/Irwin-Marples-1838M-Handled-Bradawl/dp/B0001IX9NQ/ref=sr_1_7?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1514601619&sr=1-7&keywords=bradawl

https://www.amazon.com/WEDGE-Hawk-Bradawl-Gimlet-Set/dp/B01IM99GNM/ref=sr_1_4?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1514601619&sr=1-4&keywords=bradawl

https://www.amazon.com/Piece-Silverline-Twist-Gimlet-Bradawl/dp/B000OIRVNC/ref=sr_1_6?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1514601619&sr=1-6&keywords=bradawl

https://www.amazon.com/Stanley-Tools-STA069014-STANLEY-BRADAWL/dp/B0001IW7SO/ref=sr_1_5?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1514601619&sr=1-5&keywords=bradawl

https://www.amazon.com/Silverline-Chisel-End-Bradawl-38mm/dp/B000OILHAU/ref=sr_1_12?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1514601619&sr=1-12&keywords=bradawl

Some others that are shown as brad awls seem to have sharp points - more akin to scratch awls (marking tools), square-blade pointed birdcage awls (traditionally used for poking holes for caning birdcages) or sewing awls

https://www.amazon.com/Square-Birdcage-Woodworking-Scratch-874710/dp/B00IXVQMPU/ref=sr_1_1?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1514602163&sr=1-1&keywords=birdcage+awl

https://www.amazon.com/Amtech-S2450-Bradawl-Wooden-Handle/dp/B004H26U4M/ref=sr_1_3?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1514601619&sr=1-3&keywords=bradawl

https://www.amazon.com/England-Genuine-Rosewood-Birdcage-Scratch/dp/B00EW6SQRM/ref=sr_1_2?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1514602163&sr=1-2&keywords=birdcage+awl

With this bit of tutorial over - I can say that I agree with you that Blue Spruce makes some very pricey tools. Many of these are crafted as much for appearance and pride of ownership as they are for functionality.
Their choice of curly maple for a scratch awl handle - I suspect is based more on aesthetics than on pure functionality. Blue Spruce like some other small manufacturers (Bridge City comes to mind here) make some nice tools that seem to appeal to well-heeled tool users (or possibly collectors). For a general purpose scratch awl - I’ve always been happy with the inexpensive old ones I have from CS Osborne:

https://www.amazon.com/C-S-Osborne-Co-No-Heavy-Scratch/dp/B000VZOLHM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1514602889&sr=8-2&keywords=osborne+scratch+awl

but ones from Wiha like these:

https://www.amazon.com/Tools-Square-Reaming-6-0x100mm-piece/dp/B000T9SHS4/ref=sr_1_1?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1514603088&sr=8-1&keywords=wiha+awl

should do nicely as well. The second Wiha one is more akin to a birdcage awl - used for puching and reaming holes

Much as I like tools and have resources to buy what I like, I have not been tempted to spend a lot of money on an awl or other Blue Spruce marking tools:

https://www.highlandwoodworking.com/blue-spruce-toolworks-large-scratch-awl.aspx

While on the subject of awls, here are a few more types:

@fred, does a bradawl have to be square tapered?

I’ve read that the pyramidal shape’s better than a conical point for making holes in wood. However, I’ve never had any issues with a conical point; have I been missing a trick?

I hadn’t spotted that Narex make an awl too and Bahco awls look good too, but I think their points are conical too.

I grew up with a story book about a creature called a Churkendoose. He said “it all depends upon how you look at things”. That’s probably true about brad awls.
As far as I know, the idea of a brad awl was to use its tip with a twisting motion to shear the fibers of the wood creating a small hole. Such a hole would have cut wood fibers within it. Using a pointed awl (such as one typically called a scratch awl or garnish awl) by pushing it into the wood would compress the fibers in the wood. A conical (pointy) tip might have a greater propensity to split the wood apart - much like driving a nail in close to the edge or end of a board. This may be affected by the species of the wood and how it has been sawn (grain orientation is different between flat sawn and quarter sawn).

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It looks like PB Swiss makes a range of different awls, with sensible pricing. When PB Swiss offers awls and bradawls, why bother paying silly money for Blue Spruce? I bet PB Swiss’ awl tips are better to boot.

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