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JOEL Joel's Blog

Tools that Inspire - Colen Clenton


Tools that Inspire - Colen Clenton 4As the American importer for Colen Clenton you might think that I would own a complete set of his gauges - but I don't. Being an iron monger means no longer being a tool hoarder. There is just too much stuff to hoard and I can always borrow it from the showroom. So in fact it's pretty rare for me to buy any tools for myself.

But them Colen Clenton Tools are so darn purty!!!!

Okay. So after years of using an X-Acto knife to layout everything I found that I really loved the solidity and clean mark I got from a nice heavy awl. A Colen Clenton awl, but I didn't want to spring for one. Then one day last year I was talking to Colen about this or that and I mentioned that I loved his awl and while I personally never buy tools if I did I would get a matching Awl and 4" adjustable square (he's right about the brass blades - you have to take care but they feel great with an awl running against them) in Lace She Oak, which happened to be spectacular in a mortise gauge. He said "No worries" apparently he doesn't make awls and squares out of spectacular wood until he has used up the big chunks in larger tools - Makes sense to me - why waste wood. And then a few months later I guess he ran out of big chunks of lace she oak and a matching awl and square showed up. I didn't have to buy them in, but I did, and I love them. I do need to make a case for them like my square case (the box in the background, which I made in 1987) but do they work significantly better than every other marking tool I own? Sort of, marginally, But do I feel excited about working and inspired every time I use them? Yip, in spades. So while the awl and square cost me lots more than my Starrett and X-Acto knife I put it down to spending on an inspirational coach. The kind who yells at you and says "one more!" "You can do it!" and I figure it's money well spent.
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09/17/2009 Derek Cohen
Hi Joel

Colen makes beautiful tools. In person he is as nice as his tools. I am fortunate to have several, a few of which are She-oak. This is a particular favourite wood of Colen's. About a year ago he traded one of his squares for a set of my marking knives - I know I got the better side of the deal. But this brings me to my question. I build my scratch awls (and detail marking knives) to be held like a pencil since this is both more comfortable and more controllable. What is the rationale for the traditional design of the scratch awl in your picture? Is it primarily for scribing or for piercing?

Regards from Perth

Hold the scratch awl in the picture like a pencil. The heavy, bulbous top give it weight and steadies it in your hand. Colen's has a longer shaft than most which makes this effect greater but also leaves a lot of room for your hand. It is not meant for piercing.

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