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What are Awls and Paper Piercing Tools

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Awls on a Swiss army knife, a dedicated awl, and two miniature awls for piercing paper.

An assortment of awls and paper piercing tools used to make holes in leather, metal, paper, velum and cloth.

Photo copyright 2009 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.
Definition:

An Awl is a sharp pointed tool used to pierce paper, leather and sailcloth to create holes for stitching. Very fine awls are often called paper piercing tools and are used to create small even holes for decoration or for book binding.

Awls usually have a wooden handle and a pointed tip that leads to a wider shaft. The shaft is two to three inches long. Awls for leather work will describe what hole size they produce.

Paper Piercing Tools - are awls that often have handles similar to a pen and the pointed shaft is one quarter inch to two inches long. Longer shaft awls or paper piercing tools for bookbinding may have wooden handles. Paper piercing tools for decorative piercing may come in double, triple, or decorative point shaped versions as well as the standard single shaft type. Paper piercing tools usually have short shafts to allow very fine control over the pierced hole size.

Awls are usually used without a template, whereas paper piercing tools are often used with a brass grid which controls where the holes can be placed. This makes paper piercing tools very useful for creating fine decorative patterns in paper and vellum. Two companies which sell paper piercing tools and grids are Ornare and Pergamano.

Examples:
A paper piercing tool is useful for making tiny decorative holes in paper or cloth. An awl will drive holes through tough materials like leather and sheet metal.

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