Bookbinding: Customize Your Awl Handle

Binding books is about so much more than just the finished book. I love the process of designing the book and of choosing the materials. The subtle texture of paper and the smell of leather are irresistible. The simple act of calculating the thread or stringing a sewing frame starts focusing my mind on the tasks ahead. I love that transitional time when all the design choices have been made and I’m ready to start binding. With my journal — ripe with ideas represented by drawings and notes, ephemera, erasures and failed concepts — I feel that the future is known (and the bookbinding gods laugh). It’s a magical moment when I start gathering my materials and laying out my work space. The biggest enjoyment I get from the process is in using tools that I’ve made myself or have customized to my liking. Through years of binding over 300 books, I’ve amassed a very personal collection of modified or hand-made tools.

Are you tired of your awl making like a meatball just when you need it? If you’re using a round-handled wooden awl, just sand or file a flat plane on one side of the handle. If I’m modifying one of our light duty awls, I modify it on a small belt sander.

As long as you’re sanding, remove all the stain from the handle and then paint it to your liking with acrylic, milk or other paint. Waxing the milk paint after it’s dry and then buffing it will give the handle a nice glow. Stamp your initials on the handle using StazOn Ink and rubber alphabet stamps.