A Simple Bird Cage Awl #3: The Handle

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Blog entry by bondogaposis posted 02-10-2016 02:40 AM 2519 reads 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Hardening Steel Part 3 of A Simple Bird Cage Awl series no next part

With the blade hardened it is time to make a proper handle. In a previous blog I stabilized a fine piece of spalted apple. That is what I am going to use to make the handle.

Chuck it up in the lathe and cut a section of copper tubing for the ferrule.

I begin by making the blank round and cutting down on one end for the ferrule.

Here I have it fit.
Mix up some epoxy and spread it on the ferrule stub and in place the ring on the finger.

After the epoxy cures I mount the blank into my scroll chuck and put a drill chuck into the tail stock and drill a hole for the blade. The blade is 3/16” but I want hole that is 1/32” larger, so a 7/32” drill bit is what I am using here. I stop when I reach the predetermined depth.

Here I am beginning to shape the handle.

An in motion shot during sanding.

With finish applied.
Here we have a handle and blade. The handle has a round hole and the blade is a square peg.

I have to reconcile that of course. So it is back to the torch. Now I don’t want mess will all the hardening and tempering so I want to be careful that I am only heating the butt on the blade and also the vise acts as a heat sink to keep from transferring too much heat to the hardened tip. I do not need much heat to begin with as it doesn’t take much to burn through the wood. I do not want to see any glowing red steel here, as that would be way too hot.

I have just tapped on the handle w/ a leather faced mallet. A little smoke will be generated from the burning wood. If flames shoot out, the steel is too hot! Don’t ask me how I know that.

I let the steel cool down and then I pull the handle off, and you can see I now have a perfectly sized square hole. You can also see the portion of the butt that was heated, and that there are no visible changes to the business end of the awl.

I have now epoxied the handle in place and only one more detail to go.

Here I have sanded in a small flat spot on the arris of the handle, that keeps it from rolling around.
The finished product is a sweet little awl that fits well in the hand and will be a joy to use. One of the advantages of a bird cage awl is that the facets on the pyramid point actually cut the wood fibers in making a hole. A round awl displaces the wood fibers to either side, and some of them spring back when the awl is removed. That requires you to push the awl deeper into the wood than would otherwise be needed. A 1/4 turn of the wrist is all that is required with a bird cage awl to cut a neat hole with out a lot of pushing. It can save some time if you have a lot of holes to drill and is easier to use.

-- Bondo Gaposis

9 comments so far

View Andre's profile


3010 posts in 2413 days

#1 posted 02-10-2016 02:49 AM

Pretty darn Nice! I was using the one Kiefer gave me today and thought about your blog!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Handtooler's profile


1628 posts in 2739 days

#2 posted 02-10-2016 09:46 AM

Fantastic construction! The blog is really helpful.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343 [email protected]

View Redoak49's profile


4354 posts in 2595 days

#3 posted 02-10-2016 12:19 PM

Beautiful….nice blog.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3910 days

#4 posted 02-10-2016 02:12 PM

i really enjoyed this, enjoy using your new tool…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Northwest29's profile


1688 posts in 3097 days

#5 posted 02-10-2016 09:06 PM

Lovely tool and thanks for the blog. Well done.

-- Ron, Eugene, OR, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

View BurlyBob's profile


6912 posts in 2872 days

#6 posted 02-11-2016 01:03 AM

Fantastic looking awl. That spalted Apple wood is really great looking.

View kipibenkipod's profile


71 posts in 1930 days

#7 posted 02-11-2016 12:57 PM

Thanks for your detailed blog. I enjoyed it very much.

View Woodknack's profile


13017 posts in 2987 days

#8 posted 02-12-2016 05:50 AM

Great write up Bondo. I just got in some 3/16 music wire for making a few awls but now I want some square stock too.

-- Rick M,

View oldnovice's profile


7517 posts in 3974 days

#9 posted 02-12-2016 05:34 PM

Your write up says it awl!
Couldn’t stop myself.

A beautiful project Bondo!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

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