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The SAK Pioneer awl is useless.

Discussion in 'Multi-tools & Multi-purpose Knives' started by GrifNK, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. GrifNK

    GrifNK Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 1, 2017
    Inflammatory title, I know; hear me out.

    I use a SAK as a basic EDC item; it's easy to carry, and has okay capability. It won't shake the earth, but it'll be useful for basic day to day stuff.

    In the context of URBAN EDC, what is the point of an awl? I can already hear "drilling pilot holes, scraping, marking metal, cutting plastic sheeting, drilling a hole in a leather belt, striking a ferro rod". Those are not every day urban tasks (for the average person).

    So, assuming I'm not a metal worker, or really doing any sort of tooling/construction/you get the idea, what's the point? Venting a can so it doesn't "glug" is doable with the can opener. Scraping and prying is doable with the flathead driver. Probing can be done with the nail file, as well as having the bonus of being a nail file (again, we're talking basic, common, urban-EDC). I'm sure there will be a day when I really wish I had that awl, but until then, I'm not convinced.

    Please, convince me on the usefulness of the awl without it being too specialized or redundant, because I really don't get it. I read time and time again about guys using their awl daily, but I just don't see it. Is everybody drilling holes in the walls for the fun of it? Is everyone secretly in a shop 25/8?
  2. bt93

    bt93 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 12, 2015
    All of the tools on SAK's can be improvised for different jobs beyond their initial design. As for the Awl, I've used the one on my Spartan for digging out plastic screws when the heads broke off as well as all you've listed.
    I actually have days which I don't use any tools on my SAK, but most days one or the other is used.
    Since SAK's are cheap in price, instead of getting worked up over having a tool you don't use, just put it aside and buy another that has tools you would use. Or quit worrying about it and it'll be there someday when you need it.
    jux t and neal70 like this.
  3. gadgetgeek


    May 19, 2007
    you can, with some cleverness get the cork out of a bottle with one. Yes as an urban tool, its hard to find the use case, but having a digging tool on hand can be helpful. While being a lighting strike level of rare, there have been cases of people needing to take apart a section of drywall, and any tool is better than none, and if I needed to go through a wall, I can think of worse.

    I also think that the whole point of EDC is "what if?" So the most unlikely tool to be useful is in fact the purest of the EDC method.
    HWF likes this.
  4. BK14


    Sep 13, 2016
    I LOVE the alox awls. But then again, I don't live in the average environment I suppose. I'm around horses all the time, and horses=leather goods. The standard Vic awl is decent and works, but the thicker, stronger, straight awl on the alox models work wonders. I took my Pioneer X on a competition tour to Australia, and I had to borrow tack there. The saddle I was borrowing wasn't very well maintained, and before my first ride there, I was unable to get the stirrups lengthened (I'm 6'2"). I was in a rush and didn't want to make a bad first impression by being late, so I was in a bit of a pinch. Thankfully, the little awl was whipped out and was able to drill through years of dried horse sweat, dirt, and grime. I've used it other times, but this stands out as when I was really saved by that exact tool. I can see how it wouldn't be the most used by most, and that's probably why the Cadet is more popular than the Pioneer. But for me at least, the larger size and amazing awl make the Pioneer my second favorite SAK, (second only to my very trusted Champion Plus).
    Cambertree likes this.
  5. GrifNK

    GrifNK Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 1, 2017
    I think I should explain myself better.

    You've got a point as far as improvisation of the tools, that's actually exactly what I'm looking for with this thread. What do [you] improvise with the awl in an urban setting? However, I think -at the end of your comment- you're missing the purpose of my inquiry. I wouldn't really say I'm getting worked up, but I'll concede it does seem like that. Nor am I looking to just toss it aside and say "well it's useless, no point in trying". I'm trying to find uses for it. "Just buy(ing) another" isn't really a solution either. Past the inflammatory title, I'm not knocking the tool as a whole, but trying to better understand the addition and uses for the awl in an urban setting. Not worrying about it and uses the tool otherwise is exactly what I'm doing; it's a great tool. I just want the awl to be more useful. I'm really hoping that I'm just missing something when it comes to it.

    I'm not so sure I can entirely get on board with "the whole point of EDC is 'what if?'" thing, but I get where you're coming from; it's a valid premise.
    It seems, to me, that I'm either not being creative enough with the tool, or it just isn't that applicable to me. Thank you for the input!
    neal70 likes this.
  6. gadgetgeek


    May 19, 2007
    Yeah, I was having a bit of fun with the whole EDC mentality (of which I suffer greatly) I think you got it. As you say, it might just not be for you. Like the many who wonder why Vic still has corkscrews. It works for some, and there are plenty of options in other directions, so I don't think its a lack of creativity, either the use is there or its not. Lack of creativity is having a bunch of knives with broken tips and still wondering what the awl is for.
    Lapedog, neal70 and GrifNK like this.
  7. T. Erdelyi

    T. Erdelyi Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 3, 2001
    I live in the weeds of NEPA so I have plenty of everyday uses but you've mentioned many of them so I won't bring them up again However it's not my job to convince or sway you, if you don't see the usefulness of the awl in day to day chores, me givin' you more reasons is not gonna help. My recommendation is fins a knife without one or break yours off. That should satisfy everyone then. :) ;)
    HWF likes this.
  8. Frailer

    Frailer Basic Member Basic Member

    Oct 25, 2009
    While I have actually used the awl for its intended purpose, the vast majority of the time its function is that of a rough-use blade.

    Just today I used to to slice open the tape on a box I received.
  9. yablanowitz


    Apr 14, 2006
    I use the awl frequently, but I don't do "urban", so I can't really help. I've stayed away from big cities so long that I have no clue what you might use one for. Simple solution: carry a Cadet instead of a Pioneer.
    BK14 likes this.
  10. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel

    Feb 11, 2016
    If you ever have to cut a piece of tubing whether from copper, aluminum, to PVC, it will work pretty well to de-burr it.
    Lapedog and mnblade like this.
  11. James Y

    James Y

    Feb 18, 1999
    I've used my Pioneer's awl to drill another hole on my belt as I was losing weight. It worked perfectly. The back-opening awl on my Vic Spartan failed at that task.

    The main use of my awl on a day to day basis is as a scraper. And most often to scrape the waxy stuff off of apples prior to washing them. Sure, I could also use the edge of the can opener for that; it occasionally works better for scraping into grooves. But I find the awl's chisel edge to work faster and better for the task in general. I eat lots of apples, so mine gets plenty of use.

    Anyway, that probably won't convince you, but those are my main uses, so the awl is certainly useful for ME. And for me, the Pioneer is compact/basic/minimalist enough that I use every tool on it.

  12. Harayasu


    Jun 18, 2009
    I use the awl on my Pioneer for prying, removing staples, opening packages and I have probably used it for many other tasks that I can't remember. For me it is just one of the handy and multifunctional tools that a SAK is equipped with and that became part of the way I use a SAK.
  13. bt93

    bt93 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 12, 2015
    Keep in mind, EDC stands for Every Day Carry and not Every Day Use. I have gone days without pulling my knife out of my pocket, then there are days when it doesn't seem leave my hand.
    If you're enthralled with the Awl, just keep it handy, uses will show themselves. If it doesn't get as used as you like, you can get something different. Few knife people have just one knife, I have a few. I used to carry an Explorer Plus exclusively for a few years. Came across a Spartan for so cheap I couldn't pass it up and have been carrying that most lately.
    Anyway, good luck on your quest to find a use for the awl.
  14. ScottK

    ScottK Gold Member Gold Member

    May 25, 1999
    I use the Pioneer's awl to make holes to install fasterers for pictures, curtain rods, etc in drywall. Works great!
    jacksterp and neal70 like this.
  15. Ray5118


    Dec 23, 2010
    It's a matter of lifestyle I guess.

    The in line awl on the pioneer is very useful for me personally

    People that do a lot of manual tasks would likely agree.

    No offense in any way intended.
    neal70 likes this.
  16. paulhilborn

    paulhilborn Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    Someone mentioned above using it on shipping tape when boxes arrive. That exact use is 90% of my awls use when I work indoors for the winter months. Summer months it performs all the uses you mentioned in your op.
  17. deltaboy


    Jul 6, 2014
    The awl works great opening packages!
  18. ThePeacent


    Sep 15, 2013
    SAKs backside awls work like a charm for making small holes in vacuum sealed food containers (vegetables, canned legumes or fruit, etc.) and make them very easy to open.
    No more sore wrists!
  19. jc57

    jc57 Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 28, 2012
    Sounds like the Pioneer and its variants are not for you, then. Easy answer - don't buy one.
  20. James Y

    James Y

    Feb 18, 1999
    OP, it seems the Alox Cadet would be preferable to you over the Pioneer.

    As far as the flathead screwdriver being as good of a scraper as the awl, well, that depends. There are things that the large screwdriver is far inferior at scraping, especially something that requires scraping with a sharp edge. In which case, the awl wins hands-down.


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