I Gave My Awl…

After the heat treat and quench I gave the awl it's final temper.

After the heat treat and quench I gave the awl it’s final temper.

I recently decided to see if I could create a replacement for my twenty five year old ice pick/awl. I bought it in Chinatown, NYC for a dollar and ninety eight cents and it has served me well since. I have used it primarily to punch holes in paper for bookbinding, but it has also been pressed into service recently to mark metal. I thought I might want to save my original the extra wear and tear, paper being a rather cushy job all these years, and the forging of such a fine taper is a serious challenge.

The square back end of the awl is tempered to be softer than the tip. This will provide a little flex and prevent it breaking in use.

The square back end of the awl is tempered to be softer than the tip. This will provide a little flex and prevent it breaking in use.

I started with a piece of garage door opener spring and straightened small section. I then used my rounding hammer and the tapering technique I learned from Brian Brazeal to create a very long and even taper. I was pleased with the speed and ease of producing a fine taper with this technique. I was also surprised to find the taper was very even and the whole piece very straight without a great deal of fine tuning.  I chose to leave the back end square, I may decide to set it in a handle with a brass collar and the shape will prevent the end from spinning in the wood of the handle.

The point is very sharp and still very hard, perfect for marking materials.

The point is very sharp and still very hard, perfect for marking materials.

I used progressively finer sand paper to grind the final finish on the whole length of the piece and made the tip quite sharp. I then heat treated and quenched in oil, olive oil in this case. Once the awl was cleaned up and I gave it a final polish, I tempered it to a blue at the back and up to straw to the tip. This should help prevent the awl from being brittle and possibly breaking in use. In truth, the awl will likely see light duty and never be struck like a center punch so the tempering is not really all that necessary. The final touch was to sharpen the tip to a super fine point.

Here is the completed awl. I plan on using it for marking metal, like copper for instance, prior to cutting or drilling.

Here is the completed awl. I plan on using it for marking metal, like copper for instance, prior to cutting or drilling.

I had such a good time making this one I made two similar pieces almost immediately. I am planning to give them as gifts to a couple of friends when the season or birthday celebrations permit. I think this is one of my all time favorite projects and I am really starting to get the hang of tapering fluidly and easily. I always like to be able to produce something when I am practicing skills, I am sorry to say I get distracted easily when working if the goal doesn’t keep me engaged.  In this case, I can see myself making a wide variety of lengths, diameters, and point shapes just for fun.

As usual, thanks for dropping by and have fun at the forge!!

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JOAN MANEL ZAMORA

PHOTO ART www.joanmanelzamora.com

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