The new kit that I mentioned in the last blogpost contains an awl (so that the leather as well as the paper for the signatures can be punched). And so I ordered and tested a couple to find what I like. This is a selection of what I found this morning in my drawers, old and new.

On the top right are two awls with a wooden handle marked as “leather awls”, and there is another one in the middle , lying below the “Pricknadel”. They all have a long tapered point and a straight shaft. The one with the largest bulb was the most expensive that I bought from a leather supplier but it turns out this is the one I really never use because it is the thickest and I don’t like the feeling of the large handle in my hand. The one beside it with the more slender handle – it might be that I bought it as a bookbinding awl, not as a leather awl, I don’t remember clearly. It is one of the first I bought. The form of the handle is good for me, but the needle comes out at an angle from the handle which makes the whole thing quite awkward to use.

My favorite needle for pre-punching holes in leather for sewing is the “Pricknadel”. Apparently “prickeln” is something that German children do, but not English children. At least I cannot find an appropriate English translation. It works like that: You need a pricking needle, and a piece of a pricking felt which is thick and rather firm. There are pricking stencils being sold a lot, paper pieces with dotted lines on it. You place the paper on the pricking felt and then punch a lot of holes along the lines with your pricking needle. Depening on the template you can use this perforated line as a breaking point for pricking out shapes (like cutting out, just that you used the needle instead) but foremost it is used to created a pattern when seen against a light source. A common technique for lampshades and lanterns. Both, the pricking felt and the pricking needle can be useful for bookbinding.

Pricking needles are cheap and short, I can easily hold the end of the endle against the palm of my hand while holding the tip of the needle between index finger and thumb. This gives very good control over the needle, and I like that!

It is too thick for pre-punching holes in paper, especially if you want to do an exposed binding where blown out holes just don’t look that nice. What I like best for punching holes in signatures is a rig-up that I got to know through Nina Judin in her workshop: Take a screw handle of a paper knife (I used a martor boy handle) and put in a bookbinding needle. – Perfect! There is just nothing more to say about it than that. Perfect in every way. Just make sure you take a quality needle so that it doesn’t bend too easily. (See post about needles.)

The “paper awl” is one of the awls I bought recently while testing material for the kit. It has a short needle at the tip, The handle doubles as needle holder, and the screw off end holds an aid to thread a needle. Strangely, the needles inside all look like sewing needles, and the tip is completely blunt. I guess it is rather a sewing awl than a paper awl. But might be extremely useful as such.

I bought the small leather awl as well for testing and am very pleased with it. I like its size, and it is decently sharp. However, the needle again comes out at a slight angle from the handle which I find annoying.

The engraver’s needle looked very promising but bent on the first trial and wouldn’t punch through paper. – Not suitable.

The beading awl is what I ended up with for the kits for now. One of them is less than a pound. It is not very sharp, but has a sturdy shaft which should work well enough for a couple of holes and paper, although I wouldn’t want to use it to pre-punch a hole pattern for embroidering leather. And it is slim enough to also work for the paper.

By the way, if I want to make a real hole (not just a prick) in the leather, I am using a Japanese screw punch wich is the best I have seen for this job. I tried other hole punches, but… well, maybe that is another story that could be told another time. What kind of awl fo you use?

Oh, and while I am at it, in the last post I said I wanted to make more images of the latest book, the test piece for the kit. Here is one, and more can be seen here. (The link goes to the first photo, and then you can see the “next” by clicking on the arrow that appears when overing to the right of the window.) Still not completely satisfied…
simple leather kit 01 kleiner

Other than that, things are progressing slowly, slowly, slowly. There are some news with the project message in a bottle. I am going to update the blog there when I am done here.

I am still almost finished with 346, and slowly progressing. As you might know by now the book consists of 44 postcards (plus minus one or two, not quite decided yet), one for each day I spent lying flat on my back in hospital three years ago, expecting my twins. While I am working on it, I am seeing connections everywhere. I read “When Women Were Birds” by Terry Tempest Williams and now finished Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking”, and although I do not know yet how and where exactly, probably will have references to both in my finished book. Both just changed my view on this piece and my story too much not to be mentioned. But there is also this announcement by NASA that I found the other week, linked to on facebook. – Interesting. I can tell you how lying in a reclined bed for 42 days feels like. And as I mentioned on facebook: Eating in this position is not as easy as you might think, especially when the food it positioned on a tray above your head so that you have to go try your luck getting it on your fork because you cannot actually see it very well. In the end I even learned to eat soup that way (in the beginning I had it in a beaker cup). But I can tell you, all these are acquired skills.

2 replies on “Awl”

  1. Hi Hilke!
    It´s been a long time since i came around to read your blog.
    Interesting post about awls.
    I only have one, that is a jewelry awl similar to the leather awls that you show here and sometimes i use a big needle too.
    A bookbinding teacher of mine also had a big prickle that she found from a native plant or a tree from Chile. But i never found one so i don´t know if it works good as an awl, haha.
    Maybe you can do a post about bonefolders too 🙂
    see you!

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