Making Bird Cage Awls, Scratch Awls, Bench Planes

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Project by PollyB posted 08-03-2015 04:38 AM 1086 views 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Turning handles in cherry, maple, walnut and (on a one-time whim) teak. Grinding tips on annealed O-1 tool steel rod, harden and temper to Rc 62. Also have scratch awls, with tapered round tip. Building a small inventory to support moving into a modest marketing effort.

Also exploring wood-bodied bench planes. Still sorting out the final design, but we’ve had good success with performance of early efforts. We’re using Hock Tools blades and cap irons, Krenov-style epoxy-laminated bodies with ~ 1/4 inch Ipe sole and cherry body. Cross pin and hammer buttons of Silicon Bronze. (The photo shows an early model with Ipe buttons.)

We are using hybrid methods, keeping costs low as user tools, not “tools-as-art” and thinking of selling for part-time (hobbiest, leisure-woodworker) and small shop professionals. Still working out the details, but so far, we are planning for prices above “Chinese” pricing and below Lie Nielsen and Veritas.

Any advice would be appreciated.

-- PollyB, On my boat,

4 comments so far

View DanielP's profile


472 posts in 1314 days

#1 posted 08-03-2015 04:17 PM

I found these 1/16” punches at Lowes. I ground the tip and used one to drill out a hole in these hinges.
Something like this but with a large handle that is very close to the bit, for stability, would be great for drilling very small holes where a regular drill bit would wander.

Something like very stubby bits with handle for muscle power control.

Here are pics of what I did.

-- --- Dan

View PollyB's profile


7 posts in 450 days

#2 posted 08-03-2015 06:15 PM

Interesting Dan. How do you manage to grind a 1/16 punch without drawing the temper? Awfully quick to heat up unless you’re working by hand on a stone; then it’s awfully slow and tedious.

Since we work in fully annealed O-1 rod, we don’t have that worry; then we harden and temper after all the grinding is done. The grinding is done with a dedicated jig and each faceted spike takes about 3-5 minutes, so we can do 12 an hour. The tapered points for the scratch awl are faster; we can get 16-18 per hour. (We’re planning to go into business doing this, remember.)

-- PollyB, On my boat,

View DanielP's profile


472 posts in 1314 days

#3 posted 08-03-2015 06:53 PM

I did it on a diamond stone actually, resharpened it frequently. I have some background in tool steels and the heat treating process but that is beside the point.

I think there is definitely a need in this area. My intent was not to throw you a roadblock but to demonstrate a need.

Using that punch was less than ideal. I think with your access to heat treating and handle making ability you could perhaps make some tools similiar to this but designed for the purpose I used it for. Generally speaking, short stout bits of one kind or another with handles designed for control and leverage.

I’ve spent much time looking for any kind of tool like this, but with no luck. You have a potentially great product and I’m just throwing out my ideas.

Also, what would be cool, would be something like a “throwaway” mortice chisel in a very small diameter that fits in your handle.

Just ideas. I get a kick out of brainstorming.

-- --- Dan

View dhaas's profile


6 posts in 712 days

#4 posted 08-04-2015 02:45 AM

Good luck with your endeavor. I think you will find a willing market. Let us know when you might have products for purchase, especially the hand planes.

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