-By Dan dos Santos

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting a few pieces of studio equipment that I simply can not do without. First up is a simple tool that most painters make use of, a mahl stick.

Traditionally, a mahl stick is just a dowel with a ball of leather tied around one end. For those of you unfamiliar with the tool, it is simply a means by which to steady your hand, while avoiding the surface of a wet painting. The leather tip ensures you don’t scratch your work surface.

Over the years, I have taken to customizing just about every piece of studio equipment I own in some way to better suit my needs. But by far, one of the most practical adaptations is my mahl stick.

My easel has canvas bracers that can be flipped upside-down, which make for nice rail supports. I decided to take advantage of this feature by designing a hands free mahl stick. All it is is a basic dowel attached to a  wooden ‘hook’ by means of a wing nut. I then cut an ‘x’ shape into the hook (with a dado blade) so that the dowel can pivot. By tightening the wing nut, I can lock the stick at certain angles.

It may not seem like a big deal, but having a free hand to answer the phone, hold reference, wipe my brushes, or drink while I work is a major help.

Obviously not every easel is designed the same as mine, so this design may not work for everyone. Instead, consider Donato’s alternative, which is a simple piece of wood attached to a c-clamp. Since it is an actual clamp, instead of a hook, it has the advantage of attaching to just about any work surface.

Up next, on Studio Equipment: Part 2… sound systems and shotguns.