|A selection of Awls|
|A leather book, which requires a larger awl|
Different types of awls can be used for different things. Ones with a small, thin point (such as the "student" one seen above) are used for creating tight holes for stitching, and can also be called a "pin tool". Because the paper used in bookbinding can be fairly heavy, and because working with signatures require a very precise hole made through the entire stack to prevent the book from being uneven, it can be helpful to punch holes through each signature before the sewing is to be done. Once made, they allow the needle and thread to slide easily through the pages without slipping, creating a text block with a straight spine that is (relatively) even on both head and tail.If you choose to stitch on end sheets instead of tipping them in, you can also use an awl to make those holes before sewing them to the text block.
|An book with exposed spine|
Larger awls, such as #1, #2, and #4, are used for bigger projects, such as puncturing holes in leather or in binder's board. Though leather-bound books can be made without exposing the stitching, some, such as the one above right, choose to expose it. These books will require a thicker awl to make proper size holes through the thicker leather.
Thicker and sturdier awls are especially useful for books with exposed spine, such as left. In absence of a spine, these books (especially ones without raised cords), require the front and back covers to be sewn, not glued, to the paper text in order for the text block and cover to remain together. In order to sew this, however, the binder's board and its covering (such as book cloth) must also be punctured. Thinner awls can also be used to make an indentation in board, marking the distance from the foredge to where you want a new type of cover material (such as paper) to begin.
Though the awl seems like a tiny thing, different thicknesses are necessary for different jobs. Thicker and finer threads, board, paper, or leather, will all determine which awl will be used in order to create the tight, neat, and artistic book that the artist has in mind. So appreciate your awls, because bookbinding would be very difficult to do without them!
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