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Old 09-28-2010, 01:01 AM
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Default Amazing awls

For almost two decades I've done most of my marking with a Japanese scratch awl that I purchased from Lee Valley. It had a beautifully shaped blade, with a white oak handle that felt very comfortable in the hand.

It occurred to me that it would be nice to replace the handle with a nice piece of cocobolo (I have some scraps from a project a few years ago). But that's another story.

I got thinking about awls, and began noodling around to see what was available. During my noodling I came across some stunning hand-made awls on ebay. They were made by a fellow named James Coons in Illinois, who sells as "lathemade" on ebay, though his business is "Woodndust".

I put a bid in on a little cherry awl (I'll show the pictures below). I got it for $20 - an amazing bargain for such a beautifully made tool. When I received it, I found that the blade was slightly angled from the main axis, which bugged me a bit. I corresponded with Jim, who has the best customer service I have encountered in a long time. He gave me the option of sending it back or getting a discount on another one.

Well, everybody needs more than one awl. Right? So I had him make me a custom one out of ebony.

Here's what they look like:





When I was shopping for my wedding suit, I ended up buying it at a great store in Portland OR. The guy there was wonderful to deal with. So I asked him the obvious question: what's the difference between a $500 suit, and a $5000 suit? He said, "Come over here." He pulled a $5000 suit jacket off the rack and said, "Try it".

I don't know if you've ever worn an expensive suit jacket, but the instant my arm slid into the sleeve, I knew that this was something special. It just felt different. And right.

Same thing with this ebony awl. It just fit my hand like it was made for it. (It was!) The curve nestled in my palm, and my fingers landed perfectly on the ridge above the ferrule.




My one gripe about it is that the blade is longer than I had anticipated:


It works astoundingly well, but I think I'd like it about an inch-and-a-half shorter. The point is ground and tempered. Extremely solidly built. And the feel is so perfect.

The little cherry one has amazing figure:


It also nestles in my hand well, though it's more for pushing than dragging.


I guess my perfect awl would have the handle of the ebony one, and the blade of the cherry one.

Guess I'll have to order another!

Please consider giving Jim's wares a look on ebay. He does really nice work, and will do custom handles, espresso presses, drawbore pins, etc. if you ask. He seems like a really good guy who could use the business, too.
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Old 09-28-2010, 03:47 AM
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Default Re: Amazing awls

Here's a link to Jim's present selection of awls on ebay. Boy, there are some beauties there....

lathemade items - Get great deals on Collectibles, Home Garden items on eBay.com!
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Old 09-28-2010, 04:18 AM
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Default Re: Amazing awls

Get out the champagne and celebrate! You have beaten Fred to a Fine Craftsman tool. .
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Old 09-28-2010, 05:21 AM
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Default Re: Amazing awls

Not by much: he won two at auction the next week, and John Raftery also has a couple. But I'm the only one (so far) who had one custom made!

I have to say that I really like the long nickel ferrule (I think John has one with that), and the knurling on one of the ferrules. I may have to order another...
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Old 09-28-2010, 01:52 PM
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Default Re: Amazing awls

Quote:
Originally Posted by TomCrawford View Post

You have beaten Fred to a Fine Craftsman tool. .
You have to get up pretty early to beat Fred on any hand tools.

I don't know who spotted Jim's awls first, but it was Fred who pointed them out to me. Peter's right, they are another example of fine craftsmanship.

Highly recommended.
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Old 09-28-2010, 03:21 PM
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Default Re: Amazing awls

I will most certainly take credit for spotting Jim's awls first. I told Fred about them, and about 2 minutes later he had put a bid on some.

For now, at least, the awls are not that popular, so you can get them at bargain prices with a single bid.

Which ones did you get, John? One with a nickel ferrule?
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Old 09-28-2010, 04:28 PM
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Default Re: Amazing awls

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poto View Post

I will most certainly take credit for spotting Jim's awls first. I told Fred about them, and about 2 minutes later he had put a bid on some.

... Which ones did you get, John? One with a nickel ferrule?
Then I have you to thank for the great find. Here's what I bought:

Ebony & Nickle



Cocobolo & Brass
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Old 09-28-2010, 05:29 PM
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Default Re: Amazing awls

Nice! My preference is for very simple lines - I specifically asked him not to put the lines around the awl, and to minimize the lip where the handle joined the ferrule. I find all that complicated turning a bit too much for my aesthetic. To each his own...
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Old 09-28-2010, 05:34 PM
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Default Re: Amazing awls

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poto View Post

I find all that complicated turning a bit too much for my aesthetic. To each his own...
Well, only SOME of us got a chance to have them custom made.
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Old 09-28-2010, 06:07 PM
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Default Re: Amazing awls

He's happy to make a custom one for you. They tend to cost a bit more (~$120 I think). But I think he likes the challenge.

He does some really cool tear-drop shaped ones...
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