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A bradawl is a tool with a blade similar to that of a straight screwdriver and a handle made from wood or plastic. A bradawl is used to make an indentation in wood or other materials in order to ease the insertion of a nail or screw. The blade is placed across the fibres of the wood, cutting them when pressure is applied - the bradawl is then twisted through 90 degrees which displaces the fibres creating a hole. This cutting action helps to prevent splitting of the wood along the grain. The term bradawl is very often misused when meaning an awl - a simple pointed device - possibly because Brad is an old English word for a nail.
Improper use of a bradawl can easily result in injury. Using brute force can result in the bradawl slipping or the wood snapping and the bradawl being thrust in the wrong direction. Instead a firm but controlled twisting action should be employed, with the point of the bradawl facing away from all body parts. The bradawl should not be used underarm, as an error can cause the point to be brought up to the head.
See also