Of the Reglet, or the Notchy Stick (Unfiltered)


When I appear in public (always against my will), one of the nice things that people have to say is this: Boy you have an interesting job.

Not really. For the most part, my life is a lot of dead ends and “rabbet holes” (thank you Geo. Walker and Jim Tolpin). Here is a look at what a single blog entry looks like, from start to finish. Warning: This is messy, boring stuff.

And so Chris repaired to his workshop to make a notchy stick.

I have a bench
it tilts a bit.
I’m making a stick
to whack a wench.
Oh, hey diddle day….

— Suzanne “Saucy Indexer” Ellison


“When I first saw the Durer stick tonight, I thought – brilliant, they bored a hanging-hole at each end. I have 3’ steel ruler that hangs on the wall. More than half the time I go to hang it up, it’s the wrong way up. If there was a hole at each end, it would always be right. But maybe you’re right, and there’s some actual use, rather than just stupidity-prevention. The Rivius stick has only one hole – which shoots your nailing-it-as-a-fence theory. IF we can put all this stock in these engravings/woodcuts, etc. I think for arguments’ sake we accept what we see there. So one hole in the first, 2 in Durer. Hmm.”

— Peter Follansbee

Walter H. Rivius, Nuremberg, Germany, 1547

“Check out the photo on page 29 of ‘The Workbench Book’ by Scott Landis. It shows Rob Tarule at his Roubo bench using a batten & holfast to stabilize a board when planed against the stop. It is the same thing as the Maguire video, without the notch. I’m not sure why the Internet reacted to much to the Maguire video. I suspect many of them have not read the Landis book, or forgotten that photo exists. I agree that the technique is cool, and would love to find supporting evidence that the technique is as old as a holdfast, but not so sure those Melencolia sticks are the “smoking gun.

“I’ve always tried to play it safe with the mystery stick in the images you have referenced, and just consider them straight edges. Most of the wooden drafting tools from those old images have a hang hole & one or more decorative cuts. Perhaps the fancy cuts are just to help identify the tool in the pile of junk, and prevent it from being used as kindling to heat the glew…”

— Jeff Burks

reglet, n.  
Etymology: Middle French, French †reglet, †riglet small ruler (1370), carpenter’s rule (1530), (in printing) strip of wood used to create blank spaces between blocks of text (1635), (in architecture) narrow strip of moulding used to cover joins.

†b. A thin, flat piece or strip of wood used in carpentry or frame-making. Obs. rare.

1678   J. Moxon Mech. Exercises I. vi. Explan. Terms 112
Riglet, is a thin square peece of Wood: Thus the peeces that are intended to make the Frames for small Pictures, &c. before they are Molded are called Riglets.

1683   J. Moxon Mech. Exercises II. 25
On the..Fore-Rail..is nailed a small Riglet about half an Inch high, and a quarter and half quarter of an Inch thick.

1754   W. Emerson Princ. Mech. 307
Riglets, little flat thin, square pieces of wood.

1860   H. E. P. Spofford Sir Rohan’s Ghost xi. 223
It is not a small canvas, being about four feet in height,..and is set in a quaint frame of black, carved wood, with an inner reglet gilt to relieve the want of that color in the painting.


About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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11 Responses to Of the Reglet, or the Notchy Stick (Unfiltered)

  1. I have to think its a straight edge. Look at the same treatment applied to the end of the square on t’other side of the wee babe.

  2. daltxguy says:

    I’ve used a similar device in timber framing to lay out mortises. The notches are used to line up with the centre line and the parallel sides are used to mark the long sides of the mortise. These would be a lot thinner than what you have reproduced and, in my case, there were no holes.
    Now, the holes could be used to find centre without a rule!

  3. It sure looks like Rivius copied some of the tools and motifs from Durer, or they both copied them from some lost original.

  4. johncashman73 says:

    I thought a reglet was a very short king.

  5. oldbaleine says:

    It is almost certainly a reglet. The winged genius is an allegorical personification of both the melancholic temperament and one of the seven Liberal Arts, Geometry. A very similar ruler or straightedge appears in Hans Sebald Beham’s “Geometry”, from 1519, and in Virgil Solis’ “Geometry”, ca. 1525 (the putto in the clouds above her right hand is holding it).

    Also, refer to Hans Holbein the Younger, portrait of Nicolaus Kratzer, to see the hang hole in use.




  6. oldbaleine says:

    I meant to mention that Nicolaus Kratzer was an astronomer, but also a designer and maker of instruments. He was the son of a sawsmith.

  7. JMAW Works says:

    Obviously it’s a push stick… The safety zealots have been at it a long time…

    Thanks for a tour of the sausage factory. Are most posts like this? Random bits fermenting together that may or may not eventually become a post? While I’ve only recently started at it, I’ve found a few similar stream of consciousness grabs in my drafts, I keep hoping become “something.”

    (Btw, have you considered changing the signature line to be at the top? I enjoy all the posts, but it would be helpful to set the tone prior to getting several paragraphs in.)

  8. diceloader says:

    Reglets, I’ve had a few …

  9. What on earth is this post about. I just do not understand what is going on here. Is it a joke?

  10. chucknickerson says:

    Most of these responses indicate why posting an incomplete idea is better than not posting at all.
    The incomplete thoughts of others can help bring things into focus.

Comments are closed.