DIY 3 point awl


I make a LOT of little pamphlet sewn books. This is the rig I set up to make it easier to punch the holes consistently the same distance apart without using a jig.


  1. 3 corks (synthetic works great – if you use natural make sure they’re in good shape)
  2. 3 bookbinding needles – sturdy shafts with an eye that does not bulge out
  3. duct tape
  4. pen
  5. wood glue
  6. block of wood same width as corks and length 3x as long as the corks are wide
  7. x-acto or other sharp knife
  8. ruler

Three point awl directions:

1 – Measure your needles. They should be at least 2 inches long – the ones I like to use are 2.5 inches long. You want the needles to be about an inch longer than the cork. Cut the corks down so they are an inch shorter than the needles.


2 – Glue the uncut side of the corks to the piece of wood with glue on the wood and between the corks. Make sure they are snugged up, touching sides, and lined up evenly.

3 – Allow the glue to dry and set for 24 hours. No, really. I know it’s hard and you just want to move on to the next step, but slap yourself on the wrist and go do something else.

4 – Use the ruler to mark a line down the middle of all three corks so the needles will be inline with one another then measure and mark three points with an equal distance between them for the needle placement.

5 – Carefully push the needles in to the marks in the cork; about 1/2 inch. Keep the needles perpendicular to the wooden base and parallel to each other.


6 – Turn the whole rig over and push slowly and firmly down on a piece of wood or cutting mat to drive the needles into the corks until they stop (hit the wooden base)

7 – Cut a piece of duct tape wider than the width of the corks and long enough go up the sides and onto the wooden base. Push the needles through the middle of the tape and press the tape to the cork tops, pulling it up the sides and onto the wooden base. Push the tape into all the corners on the way up and over onto the sides of the cork.

8 – Cut more pieces of tape and push the needles through wrapping around the wooden base meeting the ends on the side of the corks so the top ends up wrapped without loose ends.


9 – Cut some more pieces of tape to wrap around the corks and secure them side to side. The goal is to support the connection to the base, and the connection to each other and prevent side to side wiggle.

Note for use:


In the beginning, it will take a little more time placing the multi point awl than a single awl. Make sure all needles are all lined up on the fold. Practice a few times with some paper you don’t care about until you get the hang of it.

See above illustration for sewing diagrams for 3, 5, and 7 point pamphlet stitches.


6 John James #18 Bookbinding Needles

18oz Gorilla Wood Glue

Scotch 1110-C Multi Use Duct Tape, 10-Yards


It’s little book day!


It’s that time again. I have run through my back stock of little books. [ Non footnoted footnote here: I send a little free little hand bound book with each purchase from my Etsy shop because everybody likes a little surprise! ]

Any way its little book day and I thought it might be fun to chronicle the process including a mini pamphlet stitch tutorial in case you want to make your own!


I hoard nice rag paper and colorful card stock which I find various places including at S.C.R.A.P. (one of San Francisco’s under if not un-sung gems tucked away in the Bayshore) I cut it down immediately and haul out a couple handfuls when little book day comes (henceforth know as LBD)

It all get folded half – grain running along the spine people! (because that’s how we do!) Use a bone folder or potters rib to create a nice firm fold. The three holes are punched   using my nifty homemade triple awl and punching cradle. You can use a standard single awl or a bookbinding needle pushed into a wine cork (be careful with that or I’ll tell you the story about the knitting needle and the block of ice!) Instead of a cradle you can use a paper phone book  to punch into (you have one of those right…?)

cradlewbook awlinaction

and punching and punching and punching…..pardon me I’m a little punch drunk here (ba dum smash! -rim shot-)

Next I measure out a couple of arm lengths of waxed linen thread. You really only need about 2x the spine of your book but I am making dozens of books at a time and don’t want to pause to rethread my needle over and over. Then I want the knot on the exterior spine of my book so I go in the middle hole leaving an inch or so tail hanging out – reverse this if you want the knot on the inside. Then I come up one of the two remaining holes (doesn’t really matter which) and then skipping over the middle down again through the last empty hole. Finally I push the need up through the middle hole being careful to come out the spine on the opposite side of the “stitch” from the tail. pull the ends to snug the stitching but not so much you rip the paper and tie it off with a basic square knot. The wax on the thread should lock the knot.


To finish the little books I trim them square on the kutrimmer board shear and round the corners on the corner punch.

Yay! Little books!


6 John James #18 Bookbinding Needles

Heavy Duty Wood Handle Awl

4-Ply Waxed Linen Cord, 25yd, White (Pack of 1)

Books by Hand Bone Folder

Or all this together:

Bookbinding Starter Kit – Bonefolder, Awl, Needles and Thread – Free worldwide delivery

If you don’t want to purchase tools you can use a regular sturdy sewing needle. Try to pick a sturdy one with an eye just big enough for your thread. An eye that is too much larger than the shaft of the needle will enlarge the hole which make the binding looser. You can use the back of a (clean) wooden spoon to go over your fold and firm it up and in a pinch I’ve used dental floss to sew with (when I was traveling and wanted a little note book to jot some things down in).