I can’t remember a recent project where I didn’t pick up a bird-cage awl. From marking the location of spindles or screws to actually drilling holes for tiny screws, a bird-cage awl is essential for installing hardware, deepening marks left by your dividers and even cleaning out junk from the corners of deep mortises.
I’ve used a lot of bird-cage awls, and this year I finally found the one I like the most: The 803 from Matthias Fenner Toolworks. This awl is – best of all – easy to use, skillfully made and sharp. But it is also gorgeous.
The business end of the tool is a round O1 shaft that’s 8mm in diameter. And it ends in a 7/8”-long tapered tip. It’s a great shape for drilling holes (just rotate the handle as you press the tool into the wood). The solid ferrule strengthens the tool and fits seamlessly onto the shaft. The walnut handle meets the ferrule smoothly, continuing the inside cove shape on the handle.
The handle itself is quite ergonomic. The crisp point on the lower end of the handle allows you to exert downward pressure as you drill. And it fits neatly right outside your thumb and index finger when you grip it.
Matthias makes these tools to order, and it can take a little time for him to make them and for them to arrive from Germany. But they are worth the wait. If your awl can’t make it here for Christmas, perhaps it can be a Groundhog Day gift instead.
The awls are 49.90 € (about $58 U.S. today). They are well worth the price.
— Christopher Schwarz
Read other entries from The Anarchist’s Gift Guide here.