Mounting and sharpening an awl.

A blunt awl requires excessive force in use, causing poor results and nasty accidents.

Mounting blades in hafts.

Awl blade gripped in the vice
Fig.1 - The awl blade gripped in a vice.
Awl blades are usually supplied without hafts to keep costs down.
To mount a blade in a handle you will need a vice, a mallet and two copper coins (1 or 2 pence pieces are ideal).

Grip the awl blade vertically in the vice between the coins - to prevent damage to its surface - and with the unfinished shank uppermost.
See Fig.1.
The awl haft has a locating hole
Fig.2 - The awl haft has a locating hole.
Knock the haft onto the awl blade
Fig.3 - Knock the haft onto the awl blade.
Gently tap the haft onto the shank ensuring that it goes on straight, there will be a small hole in the handle to guide the blade.
The amount of blade left showing is dictated by awl size and individual preference.

Hint; the same method can be used to remove broken blades.
You can re-use the haft by turning the new blade through 90 degrees or inserting a match-stick into the old hole, but hafts are quite cheap anyway.
See Figs.2 & 3.

Sharpening awl blades.

The awl blade before and after sharpening
Fig.4 - The awl blade before (bottom) and after (top) sharpening.
Raw awl blades have been ground to shape and have score marks that often run across the direction of travel when in use.
They also tend to have extremely fine, easily broken points so care must be taken when sharpening.

Always work in good light and be prepared to spend some time on the task - it is always worth it.

Remove the grinding marks using a fine sharpening stone, diamond file or emery cloth.
Stroke the blade along its length in the direction of use and maintain the diamond shaped profile at all times.

Hint; you can use a stone to remove the fine point of an awl without impairing its effect as long as you maintain very sharp edges and flatten the diamond section slightly near the tip.
This will render the blade less likely to bend or break if misused or dropped.
(Spearheads are more often leaf-shaped than thinly pointed, for the same reasons).

The final stage is to inspect the edges of the blade to ensure they are straight and sharp.
If not, do some more re-profiling with the stone.

When all is correct use the strop to remove the microscopic edge burrs and bring a bright shiny finish to the awl.
The awl is now ready for use.
See Fig.4.

Hint; use the strop to periodically hone the blade and keep it at its best.
A properly sharpened awl will easily pierce hard leather without snagging or sticking.

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