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The scratch awl is basically a steel spike with its tip sharpened to a fine point. The tip of the spike is drawn across the timber, leaving a shallow groove. It may also be used to mark a point by pressing the tip into the timber.
This instrument is generally used when dimensioning and for laying out with the grain. It may also be used across the grain. However, a marking knife is preferred for this operation. Traditionally used in leather-crafting to trace patterns onto leather.
Sometimes used in the automotive and sheet metal trades to punch holes and scribe lines etc. in sheet metal.