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Bradawl vs. Awl — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Maham Liaqat — Updated on March 29, 2024
A bradawl is used primarily to make starter holes for screws in wood, featuring a pointed tip, whereas an awl is a more versatile tool with a sharp point and edge for piercing or enlarging holes in various materials.
Bradawl vs. Awl — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Bradawl and Awl


Key Differences

A bradawl is designed specifically for woodworking tasks. Its primary function is to puncture small guide holes for nails or screws, ensuring they enter the wood smoothly and accurately. On the other hand, an awl is a general-purpose tool used across various crafts and materials, including leather and fabric, for piercing and enlarging holes.
Bradawls typically have a handle with a solid, pointed tip which is sometimes slightly beveled but not sharp like a blade. This design is optimized for marking and starting screw holes without splitting the wood. Conversely, awls come in several types, including those with sharp, pointed ends for piercing and others with a chisel-like tip for broader applications.
The handle of a bradawl is often rounded or shaped to fit comfortably in the palm, facilitating a twisting motion to create pilot holes. In contrast, awl handles may vary widely in design, from straight to ergonomically curved, depending on their specific use, such as sewing or heavy-duty punching.
Bradawls are simple tools without moving parts, emphasizing ease of use and durability. They're essential for precise woodworking where screw placement accuracy is critical. Awls, while also simple, can feature interchangeable tips or integrated thread eyes for sewing purposes, highlighting their adaptability.
In terms of application, bradawls are almost exclusively used in woodworking projects. They're favored by carpenters and DIY enthusiasts for their role in preparing for fastener insertion. Awls, however, are indispensable in a broader range of crafts, from leatherworking to bookbinding, showcasing their versatility in creating or enlarging holes in a variety of materials.

Comparison Chart

Primary Use

Making starter holes for screws in wood
Piercing or enlarging holes in various materials

Tip Design

Pointed, sometimes slightly beveled
Sharp point and edge, varies by type

Handle Design

Often rounded for comfort
Varies widely, some are ergonomically curved


Simple, no moving parts
Can have interchangeable tips or integrated thread eyes


Leatherworking, fabric, woodworking, and more

Compare with Definitions


A small tool with a pointed tip for making starter holes in wood.
To prevent the wood from splitting, he carefully used a bradawl before inserting the screw.


A versatile hand tool with a sharp point and sometimes an edge.
The tailor used an awl to create holes for the buttons.


A tool for guiding screws into wood without splitting.
Before screwing into the delicate wood, she used a bradawl to start the hole.


A sharp, pointed tool for detailed piercing work.
With an awl in hand, he began to meticulously design the pattern.


A piercing tool specifically designed for woodworking tasks.
Using a bradawl ensures that the screws go in smoothly and straight.


An indispensable tool for leatherworkers and tailors.
Her awl was her favorite tool for detailed leatherwork.


A hand tool used in carpentry for precise drilling.
The carpenter reached for her bradawl to mark the drill points on the door frame.


A pointed tool for piercing holes in various materials.
She used an awl to punch holes in the leather belt.


An essential tool in a woodworker's toolkit for initial hole marking.
He found his bradawl indispensable for laying out the joinery.


A tool used in crafts for enlarging holes or making new ones.
He carefully widened the hole in the canvas with an awl.


A bradawl is a woodworking hand tool with a blade similar to that of a straight screwdriver and a handle made from wood or plastic.


A small pointed tool used for piercing holes, especially in leather.


An awl with a blade similar to a small, straight screwdriver; used for making holes, especially in wood to take screws.


A pointed tool for making holes, as in wood or leather.


An awl with a beveled tip, used to make holes in wood for brads or screws.


A pointed instrument for piercing small holes, as in leather or wood; used by shoemakers, saddlers, cabinetmakers, etc. The blade is differently shaped and pointed for different uses, as in the brad awl, saddler's awl, shoemaker's awl, etc.


An awl for making small holes for brads or small screws


(entomology) Any of various hesperiid butterflies.


A pointed instrument for piercing small holes, as in leather or wood; used by shoemakers, saddlers, cabinetmakers, etc. The blade is differently shaped and pointed for different uses, as in the brad awl, saddler's awl, shoemaker's awl, etc.


A pointed tool for marking surfaces or for punching small holes

Common Curiosities

What is a bradawl used for?

A bradawl is used to make starter holes for screws in woodworking, ensuring accurate and smooth entry without splitting the material.

Do all awls have sharp edges?

Not all awls have sharp edges; some have a pointed tip without an edge, intended for piercing rather than cutting.

Are bradawls and awls interchangeable in their uses?

While there might be some overlap in function, bradawls are specifically designed for woodworking, and awls offer broader utility across various materials.

Can I use an awl for sewing?

Yes, there are sewing awls designed with a pointed tip and a thread eye for repairing or creating stitches in fabric and leather.

Can a bradawl create holes large enough for all screws?

A bradawl can create starter holes for screws, but the size of the hole depends on the bradawl's tip size and the screw used.

What materials can an awl work with?

Awls can work with a variety of materials, including leather, fabric, wood, and plastic, depending on the awl's design.

Can an awl be used on wood?

Yes, an awl can be used on wood as well as other materials like leather and fabric for piercing or enlarging holes.

How does the tip of a bradawl differ from that of an awl?

The tip of a bradawl is pointed, sometimes slightly beveled but not sharp, designed for marking wood, whereas an awl has a sharp point and sometimes an edge, depending on its specific type.

Do bradawls come with interchangeable tips?

Typically, bradawls do not come with interchangeable tips; they are simple tools designed for a specific purpose.

How do I choose the right awl for my project?

The choice of awl depends on the material you're working with and the specific task, such as piercing, enlarging holes, or sewing.

Is a bradawl necessary for woodworking?

A bradawl is highly recommended for precise screw placement in woodworking, helping to prevent material splitting.

Is there a difference in handle design between bradawls and awls?

Yes, bradawl handles are often designed for comfortable twisting motion, while awl handles can vary greatly to suit different tasks and grip styles.

Can an awl replace a drill?

For small and precise holes, an awl can sometimes replace a drill, especially in materials like leather or thin wood, but not for larger or deeper drilling tasks.

How do you maintain a bradawl?

Maintaining a bradawl involves keeping it clean, dry, and occasionally sharpening the tip to ensure it pierces effectively.

What is the primary advantage of using a bradawl over a drill for starting holes?

The primary advantage is control and the ability to create small, precise holes without the risk of splitting the wood, which is especially important in delicate woodworking projects.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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