DIY: Mahl Stick

art history artist tools diy how to mahl stick tutorial

A mahl stick is an instrument used to prevent a painter from touching areas of wet paint with the hand or wrist. It provides a surface on which to rest and steady the painting hand.

This artist is holding a mahl stick and resting his right hand on it (Vermeer)


This artist clearly has a mahl stick next to his brushes (Rembrandt).

You can find the mahl stick in many artist's self-portraits if you just look for it!

Today I would like to show you how to make one. There are different kinds of mahl sticks but this is just a basic one, similar to those used throughout art history.

You can purchase mahl sticks at art stores but I wanted to make my own because it is super easy. The materials cost me less than $7 (I already had the glue, rubber bands and cotton balls).


1 Wooden dowel (7/16" thick)
1 wooden candle cup
1 chamois (5x7")
2 rubber bands
4-5 cotton balls
Gorilla glue or wood glue

Step 1: Place one rubber band around the end of the dowel for grip.

Step 2: Wet the surface (if using Gorilla Glue) of the wood near the rubber band and  inside the candle cup and then spread a modest amount of glue. Press the dowel slowly into the candle cup. It should not be loose.

Step 3: Allow for drying time. (Place some paper under the glue area because the candle cup has a hole that might leak glue).

Step 4: Place the cotton balls on the chamois.

Step 5: Center the stick between the cotton.

Step 6: Fold the chamois up around the stick and secure with the last rubber band to form a soft ball.

Step 7: Hold the stick with your non-painting hand and rest the ball of the mahl stick on the painting surface (or the easel). Rest your painting hand on the stick for a steady paint free hand.

Thank you! I hope you enjoyed this simple tutorial and make your own mahl stick!

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  • Austin Knowlton on

    I am just beginning to get into sign lettering an I found this very helpful. Thank you

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