Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cheap Trick: Awl

image from here
I'm heading off to visit a friend soon, and knowing that I enjoy organizing and making things, she asked if I would help her hang some pictures and shelves when I visit. When I happily agreed to assist, she asked if I would bring my power drill.

She must remember that I was excited to buy a drill many years ago as I was about to move into my first apartment, because I built a (very simple) bed around that time, which was a big project. What she doesn't know is that I have not had a power drill for years, because I have found something much simpler for everyday projects.

When I bought my power drill, I pretty much just went to the store and bought the one with the highest voltage and lowest price. Turns out that was a mistake -- the rechargeable batteries lost their might after a year or two, and I was left with a very large doorstop.

Right around that time, my grandfather died, and my father asked if I would like to go through my grandfather's tool box to see if there was anything I wanted. I picked through the tools, pulling out a pair of locking pliers, a non-electric hand drill, and a couple other things I hadn't yet added to my own toolbox. When I pulled out a wood-handled, very sharp ice-pick-like tool, I had no idea what it was and had to ask my father, who nearly laughed and said, "an awl, of course."

He explained that an awl is used to create a hole. By being knocked into the surface with a hammer, an awl creates a hole in much the same way that a large nail would, but the awl can go further in, and the handle makes it easier to remove the awl than prying out a nail. Awls are used for many different reasons, including carpentry and sail-making.

Awls cost about $7.00, and if one already has a Swiss Army knife, she may already have an awl (sometimes called a reamer), and not even know it.

While one may still find a power drill to be necessary for some projects, I find that most around-the-house projects can be completed with the awl and a hammer instead of a hand drill or power drill. If one is using anchors to secure a screw in a wall, the taper of the awl makes a perfect any-sized hole, which I find much easier than drilling if I want to hang a picture or a hook. It also takes up much less space and costs much less than a power drill, making an awl a very handy tool for a NYC apartment.

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