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How to use a awl

April 05, 2024 0 comments


How to use a Awl…

Before we get started on how to use an awlWhat even is an awl?

An “awl” is a sharp pointed tool that is used for piercing holes into a variety of materials. In the survival and bushcraft world, we commonly use awls to make repairs in heavy canvas and leather (as seen above). Awls are also a very valuable tool when it comes to crafting items out of wooden materials. Nothing chews a hole in wood quite as efficiently as an awl. (The Joe Flowers Signature Card awl, in particular, is very effective for boring holes into wood when lashed onto a bowdrill.)



Why should you carry an awl?

Being able to make repairs to your gear and clothing, in the field, is a necessity to ensure that they do not become further damaged to the point of being unsalvageable. And while a sewing needle and some thread are the first things that many people think of when it comes to repair kits, an awl serves a unique purpose and it’s a must-have because of it’s hole-punching capabilities.

Sure, you could improvise and use your knife blade to drill a hole. But it is always best to have the right tool for the job. And a purpose-built awl that is already your desired diameter is certainly the best option here. If you choose to improvise with a blade of any sort, just know, the hole that you bore could end up being too large and cause more damage to whatever you’re working on.

Check out Grim Cards with Awls Here



Awl vs Sewing Needle

Awls and sewing needles are both beneficial to carry in your repair kit. However, let’s discuss the differences…Because an awl is not a sewing needle, and a sewing needle is not an awl(*).

  • An awl is far superior to a needle for punching holes and tasks that require drilling.
  • A needle, on the other hand, is purpose built for stitching up fabrics or leathers with thread due to its slim nature.
  • To use the two together, punch a pilot hole with the awl, and run the sewing needle into that same hole to create your stitch.
  • One other note:
    Sure, a needle can puncture lightweight fabrics like cotton. But, when you bump up to heavyweight canvas or leather, you will need an awl.

*There are sewing awls (such as Bushcraft Kelso’s) – But, even then it is different than a standard/straight sewing needle.

Shop our Survival Cards with Awls



How to use an awl…

For the sake of this particular article, we’ll cover how to use a standard grim workshop awl for making holes.

  • Many of our survival cards come equipped with awls (a full list of these is mentioned as you scroll below as well). Our awls are very sharp and have no handle on them. This allows them to be carried flat in a wallet or a small Altoids-style tin.
  • To use a Grim Workshop Awl, simply pinch the awl with your thumb & pointer finger (as shown in the photo above) and apply firm downward pressure into the material that you’re working with. The awl should punch through the material with ease.
  • From here, it depends on why you’re making the hole as to what you choose to do.
    - If you’re needing to get through thick fabric for sewing purposes, you can now use this hole as a pilot hole for your sewing needle and thread to slip through.
    - If you’re making a small pilot hole in a hearth board for friction fire, for example, you can now begin to burn in your set with your spindle.
    Do not use your awl with any part of your body on the backside of whatever you're punching through. Our Grim Workshop Awls are incredibly sharp and will cause harm to your body. Instead, place the material that you're working with on a solid surface and punch the awl through it there.

Shop for Cards with Awls 



Survival Cards with Awl

As I mentioned above, many of our survival cards come equipped with Awl’s. If you're curious which ones, I have made your job easier and I’ve assembled a cheat sheet for you below…

Buy Grim Survival Cards with Awls Here

Buy the entire Signature Card Bundle Here




About The Author

Based in the Appalachian Mountains, Anthony is a commercial photographer and avid outdoorsman. Whether he's setting up a scene for a photograph or getting things ready to camp, Anthony feels most at home with mud on his boots and a warm campfire burning nearby. Learn more at


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