I’ve found a few modifications to my tools that help me work more effectively.
For one thing, dulling the needles has helped me avoid a problem that irked me while making my Test papers series of books. My needles were very sharp, and that meant I could easily tear through the paper at the wrong point along the crease (which was a minor annoyance) or even miss the crease altogether (a more significant visual interruption). Taking a few minutes to blunt the point of my bookbinding needle before beginning has led to an easier working process and better-looking results. I can often slide the needle along the crease of the folded signature to find the holes (rather than having to continually wrangle the book to get an eye on where to shove the needle).
Next, I found that it helped me to make a different awl for poking those holes. My others tapered quite a bit. This made it all too easy to absent-mindedly make holes far larger than was necessary for the waxed thread I use. I drilled a hole into a four-inch bit of wood and glued a large needle into that hole. Even if I stab the entire length of that needle into my paper, it won’t produce nearly so large a hole as my old awl. This is an effective and reasonably priced way for me to produce enough awls for an entire workshop.
Finally, I’ve bent several of my needles for coptic and kettle stitching. I already had a culinary torch for crème brûlée. (A match might work too. I did not try it since I already had the small torch.) I held the needle with one set of pliers, heated it with the torch, and then switched the torch for the other pliers to bend the needle. I have snapped needles this way, so I try to bend them slowly.