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What is the difference between a Beading Awl and a Bead Reamer

Beading is an innovative activity that can require some help from tools, but with more and more gadgets becoming available, it can be hard to know what is the best tool for you. In this Better Beaders episode, Allie explains the differences between a beading awl and a bead reamer and how they can help you through your beading designs!

Episode Transcript


In this Better Beader episode from Potomac Beads, we explore the differences between two essential beading tools: the beading awl and the bead reamer. Understanding the unique functions and applications of these tools can greatly enhance your beading experience and expand your creative possibilities. Join us as we dive into the world of beading awls and bead reamers, and discover how they can elevate your jewelry-making projects to new heights.

What is a Beading Awl?

A beading awl is a versatile tool that serves multiple purposes in jewelry making:

  • It features a pointed tip that can be used to pierce holes in materials like leather, fabric, or clay.
  • The awl can also be used to enlarge existing holes in beads, allowing you to accommodate thicker cords or multiple strands.
  • With its sharp point, the awl is perfect for removing knots or separating tangled threads.
  • The handle of the awl provides a comfortable grip, making it easy to control and maneuver the tool precisely.

What is a Bead Reamer?

A bead reamer is a specialized tool designed specifically for enlarging and smoothing the holes in beads:

  • It features a tapered, diamond-coated tip that gradually increases in size from one end to the other.
  • The diamond coating on the reamer is extremely durable and effective at grinding away the interior of bead holes.
  • Bead reamers are particularly useful for creating a smooth, even hole in pearls or other beads with irregular or small holes.
  • By using a bead reamer, you can ensure that your beads will slide easily onto your stringing material without causing damage.

Key Differences Between Beading Awls and Bead Reamers

  • Beading awls have a sharp, pointed tip, while bead reamers have a tapered, diamond-coated tip.
  • Awls are multi-purpose tools used for piercing, enlarging holes, and untangling knots, whereas reamers are specifically designed for enlarging and smoothing bead holes.
  • The tapered design of the reamer allows for more gradual and controlled enlargement of the bead hole compared to the awl.
  • Bead reamers are especially useful for delicate materials like pearls, while awls are better suited for tougher materials like leather or fabric.

Tips for Using Beading Awls and Bead Reamers

  • Always exercise caution when using these tools, as their sharp points can cause injury if mishandled.
  • When using an awl to enlarge a hole, gently twist the tool while applying light pressure to gradually widen the opening.
  • For best results with a bead reamer, start with the smallest end of the taper and gradually work your way up to the desired size.
  • Regularly clean your tools with a soft cloth to remove any debris and maintain their effectiveness.


Beading awls and bead reamers are both valuable tools in any jewelry maker's arsenal. By understanding their distinct functions and mastering their use, you can tackle a wide range of beading challenges with confidence and precision. Whether you're working with delicate pearls or sturdy leather, these tools will help you create stunning, professional-quality pieces that showcase your unique style and creativity.

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