Winding sticks? We don’t need no stinkin’ winding sticks!

The other day, I set to work truing up the sole of my wooden jack plane, and I was doing my best to find the high and low spots with my straightedge.  The sole seemed slightly twisted, and it occurred to me that what I needed was a pair of winding sticks.  Normally I can tell if a board is twisted just by sighting down one face–if it looks straight to my eye, then it’s straight enough for me.  But, this being a plane sole, I was taking extra care to ensure that I did not remove any more wood from the sole than absolutely necessary.

I dug around in my scrap bin for a minute, trying to find some suitable scraps to use for winding sticks, when it occurred to me that I already had what I needed right there on my workbench.

Makeshift Winding Sticks 12-2013 - - 2

I set my iron fore plane on its side at the far end of the stock and set my 16″ ruler (from a combo square) on the near side. Then I sighted down the plane sole to check for twist.

Makeshift Winding Sticks 12-2013 - - 1

As you can probably see, the far right corner dips down slightly.  With this guidance, I was able to correct this out-of-flat plane sole pretty easily.

There are no doubt situations when real winding sticks, complete with inlaid sights on each end, are a treat to use. And if you want to make or buy a nice tool, who am I to argue? But if you need winding sticks only once in a great while, as I do, you can probably make do with what you already have in your toolbox.

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9 Responses to Winding sticks? We don’t need no stinkin’ winding sticks!

  1. Paul B says:

    I do this too! My bench is small and usually pretty messy so I find it much faster/smoother to do as you describe here than to set the plane someplace out of the way and dig winding sticks out of the shavings. Only difference is that I use a 2′ level because it stands on edge much easier.

    • Paul B says:

      Another reason to consider using something thicker, like a level, is that it’s nearly the same height as the plane. This make sighting across the top more straightforward because you don’t need to be quite so finicky about getting the “sticks” exactly parallel. The top/bottom edge sighting configuration you’re using could introduce error on shorter pieces if not set up exactly right.

  2. David Gendron says:

    Great tip!! I always have the two at hand reach…. But still reach for my small winding sticks… No more, I will do just that!!


  3. Necessity is the mother of invention!

  4. Sylvain says:

    Paul B,
    Could you expand “The top/bottom edge sighting configuration you’re using could introduce error on shorter pieces if not set up exactly right.”
    I guess you mean we must ensure the two “sticks” are really parallel (and perpendicular to the length of the board). I understand that the top/top view is much less sensitive to quick set up, as far as the two sticks have the same height.

    • paul6000000 says:

      Yep. That’s what I was meaning. As your point of view becomes more inclined to the work face, the “parallele-ness?” of top/bottom sighting sticks becomes more critical to a good reading. Moving them closer together (like on short pieces) would raise your p.o.v. (but then, just laying your ruler flat would deal with this issue). I may be overstating this as being a problem. It’s just that when I’m flattening wide boards, I check for wind constantly because I hate to make mistakes that will cost me extra labour – especially in hardwoods.

  5. Bob Jones says:

    My benchtop is my primary reference. Flip the piece over and check for gaps. Done

  6. RobertNewMexico says:

    I can see my plane crashing to the floor. But, I agree about most winding sticks being kind of fancy; I use a couple of aluminum beams from the hardware store (thanks to Chris Schwarz).

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