Making & Using Winding Sticks

Unless you're a woodworker, you're probably wondering what the hell 'winding sticks' are. They're simply two straight pieces of wood (or metal), used to check the flatness of a piece of timber. By placing a winding stick at each end of the board and sighting down the ‘horizon’ of the sticks, you can determine if the wood has any twist, and then plane the high spots to flatten the board.

Typically, the winding sticks are at least x2 the width of the board that you're planing, and therefore they exaggerate the amount of actual twist in the board, making even small amounts of twist visible by eye.

To begin making this set, I start out with a well seasoned piece of English Walnut, cutting it in half and then planing the wood down to size.

With each piece planed to the exact same size, I plane a bevel on the the front faces. This step isn't vital, but being heavier at the base does make them more stable and less likely to fall over in use.

To help with visibility, I'll be inlaying a strip of dark wood along the top edge of one stick, and contrasting corner inlays on the other.

I use my Record 043 to cut a rebate, and then glue in a strip of Ebony. For the other winding stick, I use a small router plane to chop out the recesses and then fit some pieces of Tulipwood, rescued from my scrap bin.

The last job to do before finishing, is to fit dot inlays in the centre of each winding stick. The dots act as a guide to align both of the sticks in the middle of the board you're working on, which helps to prevent them tipping to one side slightly, which could give misleading results.

Finally, they're finished with 3 coats of Liberon Finishing Oil.

Fast forward a couple of days.. and with the finish fully dry, it's time to put them to use.

I'm planing some Black Limba, which will be used as the body wood for an upcoming build. The winding sticks are placed at each end of the board. Sighting down the board at eye level, I check to see if the Tulipwood inlays appear evenly over the Ebony strip on the winding stick closest to me. If they do appear evenly, then the board has no twist.

I've placed a fingerboard blank at the back of the bench, to make it more visible in the photograph.. you should be able to see that the Tulipwood inlay on the right of the picture is just peeking up over the horizon, indicating that corner is high. As previously mentioned, the size of the winding sticks exaggerates the amount of twist, so this particular board only has a very small amount.

Now I've identified the high corners, I can start planing them flat..

...after checking with the winding sticks again to confirm I'd done my planing job correctly, I can then continue to plane the board perfectly flat. This board has some swirling grain which is easy to tear out, but with a sharp blade and the mouth of the plane set to a narrow opening, the surface came out nice and smooth.

That's all for now. I'll be posting some updates on my current builds shorty. Don't forget you can also follow my work on Instagram and Facebook.