Scratch Awl Tool

A scratch awl is a woodworking or general shop working hand tool that is used to scribe or “scratch” marks or lines into various surfaces.

It’s also used to start or punch and pierce holes (such as before drilling) into materials.

As a preparation tool, the scratch awl tool is most often used as a pre-etcher before making a more complete or deeper cut. The line it makes, creates a groove or track mark for larger tools to follow.

The tool itself is usually about 6″-7″ in length.

What’s a Scratch Awl Made Of?

This handy tool is comprised of a smooth handle or knob on one end, and with a rounded, metal shank or spike on the other end. The shank end or bar is about 3/16″ in diameter and is sharp at it’s point.

The handle can be made of hard wood or plastic. Some manufacturers make the tool as one solid piece, made of steel. The handle end then, can be coated with rubberized gripping material.

stitching-awl close up

It may also be reinforced so that the awl can perform light “hammering” functions when needed. Other heavy duty scratch awls come with enlarged wooden handles, allowing the hand to get a full grasp on the tool. This ensures more power and comfort when using on harder material.

old-metal-awl
Old metal awl example

Marking awl prices range from just under $2 to $20 or so, with most falling the 5-$10 range. It’s important to get one that is quality, i.e. the hardness of the steel used so that it will last.

One common complaint is that the tip of the awl can bend or become dull with usage. These are signs of an inferior quality, and occurs in cheaper models.

Scratch Awl Uses

making holes for garden project

Here are some common applications in which a scratch awl is used. Keep in mind, this tool requires the skill and experience of any manual, hand held tool. It’s precision depends on the steady hand of the user, e.g. carpenter or metal worker.

  • Create an even line along wood grain for chisel to follow
  • Helps to set the center of hole to be drilled or screwed (mostly for wood)
  • Used to guide thread through tough materials when sewing, creating stitches in fabrics or garment making
  • Used when working with leather
  • A great, general DIY tool to make holes easily in a variety of materials

Other Names for a Scratch Awl

  • Scratch marking awl
  • Marking awl
  • Scratch awle
  • Scribing awl
  • Stitching awl