Tool Test – Chester Toolworks Birdcage Awl

From October 2006 Popular Woodworking

A Bigger Birdcage Awl

Birdcage awls are outstanding and accurate tools for installing hardware. In essence, they are a boring tool: Place the tip where you want your screw and twist the tool back and forth. When you’re done, you have a perfect tapered hole for your screw.
Birdcage awls are outstanding and accurate tools for installing hardware. In essence, they are a boring tool: Place the tip where you want your screw and twist the tool back and forth. When you’re done, you have a perfect tapered hole for your screw.

Even with a cordless drill/driver on my workbench I’ll choose the awl when pinpoint accuracy matters, as it almost always does when installing hardware. The tool has become an endangered species of late, and so I was delighted to learn that Chester Toolworks has begun making an elegant and hard-working version. The square-shaped shaft on this birdcage awl is thicker ( 3/16″ square) than most examples I’ve encountered, but the hole it makes is perfect for most cabinet hardware. The handle is shaped to nestle in your palm and the small bead by the tool’s ferrule also helps you apply the right downward pressure. These tools are handmade by Dave Anderson and can be handled in a variety of woods, including snakewood and ebony (shown). Anderson also makes a line of scratch awls, marking knives and bowsaws, all of which are finished to the same high degree.     

– Christopher Schwarz

More information on the Birdcage Awl from Chester Toolworks

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