Birdcage Awl Made Easy!

How about a quick easy project! How about quickly making a tool you will never want to be without!
Bird Cage Awl from a distance

Bird Cage Awl Closed
A birdcage awl has a tapered point just like a normal awl. The difference is that it is shaped like a pyramid. As a result, when you twist it, it will dig a quick neat hole. Perfect for marking boldly, perfect for starting a screw, perfect for predrilling and perfect for making small hole to stick tiny dowels in so you can make a quick cheap cricket or bird cage. Hence the name and at one time the most common use for the thing.
Bird Cage Awl Open
Your typical hand tool is a bit of sharp metal stuck in a piece of wood and this is no exception. The bit of metal here is possibly superior to any bit of metal that has ever before been used in a birdcage awl. First off, instead of being 4 sided this is three sided. That makes it faster, more aggressive. The steel used is carbide. This bit is a 20° Carbide Steel Pyramid engraving Bit intended for a CNC Router. This is used to engrave Copper, aluminum, iron, jade, acrylic, PVC, nylon, resin, softwood, plywood, and hardwood. Are you used to paying a lot for something like this? Do a search for “20° Carbide Steel Pyramid engraving Bit” on Ebay or Amazon. You can get 10 of them with free shipping for less than $11. You may have to wait a bit, since they come from China, but the wait will be worth it.

Bird Cage Awl In Stump

I took a pair of 1″ wooden balls. Again you can get 16 or so for under $6 with free shipping on Ebay or Amazon. I drilled holes in them and then glued the bit into one of them. The other is the sheath. Then I sanded them to have 4 flat sides and then sanded to make a total of eight. Since I wanted them grippy, I sanded course and them skipped to lightly sanding them very fine. This leave a smooth feel with tiny ridges. Combined with the octagonal grip, this is pretty convenient. You may want a more polished appearance, if you spend about $21 on this you will have enough materials to make a few mistakes and still have ten birdcage awls.

Now for the warning. These little bits are freaking sharp and pointy. Respect them.

If you are wondering how to drill neat holes in round balls, there are several easy ways. If you drill a big hole part way and then a little hole the rest of the way through, you can use that to line up and drill a straight hole in a ball. Or you can search for a drill guide kit that lets you make a hole in a ball. You can use a drill press. Secure a block of wood to the table and make a big hole that is not as big as the ball your are drilling. Then you can place the ball in that hole and drill a nice neat hole in the ball. With a lathe, you can set the ball in the hole on the tailstock and drill the ball. If you want precision you can even use the same pyramid bit to drill the holes. Be sure to back it out regularly to clear chips cause it does not eject chips like a common drill bit does.


2 comments to Birdcage Awl Made Easy!

  • Terrific, Bob! I love bird cage awls, as they are so versatile. You did a GREAT job with this one!


  • Bob Strawn

    Best of all, it was not even designed originally to be an awl or a birdcage awl. It has yet another function that has nothing to do with drilling, scribing or laying out. 🙂


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