A Cool Way to Make Winding Sticks


While teaching at Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s School this week, one of the students brought in some unusual antique winding sticks and laid them on my workbench.

I laughed a bit at first. Then I said, “Hmmm.” Then I said, “Dang!”

The winding sticks came from Mark Firley, the lead staff blogger of the international The Furniture Record blog. See also the German site, Die Möbel Rekord.

What is fascinating about these winding sticks, which were found in an antiques store in Mount Pleasant, S.C., is how incredibly well they work.

Many winding sticks feature some small bit of inlay on one of the sticks. This inlaid stick, when placed behind the other stick, makes it easier to see how twisted a board is. I like the inlay.

These unusual sticks, however, had instead two half-moon holes on one of the sticks. At the top of each hole there was a little strip of wood that was beveled.


At first, the whole thing looked like it was roughed in from Roughsville. Then I started using them. When the user has a backlight behind him or her, the small bevels appear as darker than the rest of the stick. They are in shadow and act like inlay (without the inlay).

When something is waaaaay twisted or you have light in front of you, then the half-moons take over. You can see the amount of light admitted by each half-moon. If there is more light in the right half-moon, then that corner is low.

Pure fricking genius.

The sticks were made from mahogany and were workmanlike but not fancy at all.

When I get home on Monday, the first order of business (after kissing my wife) is to make some of these. Stay tuned.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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11 Responses to A Cool Way to Make Winding Sticks

  1. jonathanszczepanski says:

    Hmmmmm… ¡Muy interesante!

  2. That is genius.


  3. kendewitt608 says:

    This looks like a great two page story in Popular Woodworking, cannot wait.

  4. Bartee says:

    These look real dark. Do you think that makes a difference?

    I will wait for the blog for the answer.

  5. Tony Zaffuto says:

    Coincidentally, about a week or two, while looking through an old Rodale print book on woodworking tips, I came across winding sticks made with drilled holes. Text commented that the holes do two things: aid with tying together to store and also aid in sighting across the winding sticks. Can’t quite remember if the holes were drilled through the tapered part of the winding sticks.

  6. Rob Kleeman says:

    Would really like to see these dimensioned

  7. colinwhite71 says:

    “two half-moon holes on one of the sticks”

    I can only see one half-moon hole on one of the sticks in the photos above.

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