Winding sticks not as easy as they look

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    Yesterday I decided to transform 2 nice looking scrap pieces of oak into winding sticks. Boy, it’s sure a lot harder than it looks. Well, for me at least.

    First of all I wanted to get the pieces as parallel as I could get them. If one end is 1mm lower than the other end then it will exaggerate the wind in a piece.

    Next was the inlay. I used my plough plane to create nice thin strips of sapele. If I’m not mistaken this trick is shown in the picture frames video series. This went well, but then I needed to mark the position for the inlay on one of the sticks.

    Now I know why Paul used the Veritas gauge, because the side that gets the inlay is at a slight angle. My marking gauge’s stock was in the way, leading to a not so straight line. After that the knife didn’t do much to improve my situation and I opted for the rebate plane.

    Great, I bought a second hand Stanley 78 recently. The sticks are angled on one side, to clamping in the vice is not an option. Clamp-in-the-vice then — also not very successful. The piece kept rotating in the clamp and the top of the stick was very narrow. Oh, and I was going against the grain too. Tear-out all over the place.

    In the end I managed to clean most of it up and glued the sapele piece. Great. Now the piece is no longer parallel. At this point it’s almost impossible for me to get it parallel again. The piece is angled in one side and keeps rotating in the clamp. My inlay stick is also a good centimeter lower than when I started.

    What are your experiences making winding sticks? Does any of this sound familiar?



    Hi Wesley,
    I made a couple of winding stick a few weeks back. I really needed them badly, so I didn’t have time to mess around with stuff I didn’t know how to do. I just made to perfectly straight sticks of oak, slightly trapezoidal cross section. The I pulled out the black sharpie and made all the markings Paul used the ebony for. The white inlay I simply ignored.

    I guess my story would have been similar to yours had I tried the inlay stuff. My sticks are not looking as nice as the ones Paul made, but they work, and I have used them a lot. Most recently on my small stool project.

    Best regards,


    I did the same as Kjell, just got a stick of pine, ripped it in two at an angle then just stained them different colours.


    That’s what I was thinking of as well. You could even use two different types of timber for contrast. And every time I use them they will remind me of the winding sticks I actually wanted to make..:-)


    I agree that it is more challenging, especially for those learning to rip close to the line on a 16″ vertical cut. The first pair I made out of qsawn black walnut and they kept getting shorter and shorter because I was tilting my plane over on that small edge. It took much longer than expected but helped me on the second pair, which actually saw the light of day. I did the inlay with maple for contrast. I used the black marker though, since I don’t have any ebony… and even if I did I didn’t want to mess it up there at the end after that hard work.


    Hi, guys. Here are the sticks I made last week. I used iroko and pine as the contrasting woods.

    From Warrington, UK. Making stuff in my front room.

    James Savage

    They look great Jonathan. I’m currently working on a pair out of Sapele, but as someone else has mentioned on here they are getting shorter and shallower everytime I work on them.

    Jim - Derbyshire.


    @fiddlerjon they look very nice. How far did you go to get them parallel? I was aiming for less than half a mm, but perhaps that’s a bit overdone.



    Thanks, Jim and Wesley.

    : yes, my inlayed pine line (the dowels are actually beech) was much bolder before I planed a little mindlessly and suddenly had a sloping edge on the dark side of the back stick. I then realised that my sharpening technique had been leaving me with an angled plane blade (actually, I’ve been trying to correct this for ages, and this project finally resulted in my Damascus Moment so I then went and ensured that all my blades were perfectly square) which meant that mine, like yours, was whittled away somewhat.

    : I did not go to extremes aiming for parallelism. I used my marking gauge and planed the tops down when both sticks were flat on my bench. I don’t own a digital calliper, although I have to confess that the thought did cross my mind. Personally, I think that trying to make precision instruments out of what is essentially a dynamic material is a difficult thing to achieve, so I’ll check my sticks every so often and correct when necessary. That digital calliper still looks very attractive, however. But it opens up a new debate for me: what is the index error of the calliper, and how do I calibrate it and therefore correct it? 😀

    From Warrington, UK. Making stuff in my front room.

    Joshua Nelson

    I’ve used aluminum extrusion for my winding sticks for years. The nice thing about them is that its incredibly cheap, easy to cut, and providing a contrasting surface is as simple as applying electrical tape. With that said, I finally decided to actually make a good set of hardwood sticks (I am in hardwood wastelands down here, not much to speak of) after getting a hold of a couple of massive pallets with stringers composed of beech.

    Instead of using the traditional inlay method, I found a nice alternative build on Lost Art that utilizes half moon cuts with tapered edges to create shadows.

    A Cool Way to Make Winding Sticks

    And honestly, these beat aluminum extrusion by a mile.

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