For those that don’t know, a mahl stick is a stick with a ball at one end and is useful when painting (or drawing) details or again, to avoid accidentally resting your hand on the canvas and smudging your artwork – If you’re right handed, hold the mahl stick with your left hand; the other way around if you are left handed. Simply rest the ball-end of the stick on the edge of the canvas or the easel, or again place the ball on a dry spot of the canvas and rest your painting hand on the stick for steadiness.
I have never seen mahl sticks at art supply stores near my place. Not that I would want to buy any since I’ve already made my own but I have seen some at online art supply stores that sell for 15$, 20$ or more. Some are made with oak wood, rosewood or whatever “fancy” stuff you like. They sure look pretty but what’s the point? It’s all going to get stained with paint over time – A mahl stick can be made from material you already got at home and it’s easy to make – So don’t waste your money; spend it to buy paint, brushes or canvas instead.
I used a tomato plant bamboo stick guide (about 3/8 inches diameter) to make my mahl stick (above) but any stick will do as long as it doesn’t bend or break easily – The stick should be at least 30 inches long but if you mostly work while sitting; you might consider a smaller one, like 20 or 25 inches. The canvas size you are most used to work on should also be considered to help determine the lenght of your mahl stick – For the rest, I used a wine bottle cork to make the ball end, a piece of cotton cloth, a pony-tail elastic, duct tape and an X-Acto knife.
By the way, I made my mahl stick a long time ago and didn’t take photos at the time, so I have re-created the making-of my mahl stick using Google SketchUp; a neat and user-friendly 3D modeling software, which can be downloaded for free. Check it out if you haven’t already, it’s useful and fun – Ok, now back to the mahl stick…