If you’re in the market for a birdcage awl, this Shenandoah Tool Works version offers a stylish twist – that is, the hand-forged 01 steel shaft is actually twisted during manufacturing.
While this aesthetic touch has no effect on performance, it looks nice – and one could argue that, subliminally, it tells you the tool’s primary function. The four-sided point allows you to ream a round, tapered hole by twisting the point back and forth in a hole.
Why “birdcage?” It may be apocryphal, but I’ve read it’s because this tool was used to bore small holes for making birdcages – really!
The included angle on this tool is the same as on my other birdcage awl (Czeck Edge), but the point is longer, which comes in handy if you need to ream a pilot hole for large screws.
I also use this tool for countersinking to fit a screw head flush when I don’t have a countersink handy. For that function, both of my birdcage awls work equally well – though the larger shaft on the Shenandoah tool more quickly creates a wider countersink.
The 01 steel on this tool is a little easier to sharpen than the A2 of my other one – but Bob Zajicek (Czeck Edge) now offers a carbide-tipped awl that (assuming normal use) will likely rarely need sharpening. And about sharpening: Several people have asked if the twisted blade will limit the number of times the blade can be touched up. Well yes – but with typical use, not in your lifetime.
I like the visual appeal of this simple bulbous handle more that the fancier handle on my other tool, but the smaller girth of the Czeck Edge is a better fit for my small hands.
I do wish the Shenandoah had a ferrule connecting the steel and wood; time will tell how it holds up.
But bottom line: This is a nice tool to use, and a very nice tool at which to look.
Web site: shenandoahtoolworks.com
From the December 2014 issue, #215