The History & Uses of the MahlStick

A mahlstick is a stick with a soft leather/padded head which is used by painters to support the hand holding the paintbrush. The word ‘mahlstick’ comes from the Dutch maalstok ‘painter’s stick’, from malen ‘to paint’.

This tool is very handy for creating areas of detail that may require precision and control, as it provides stability and support. Often, when doing long sessions of detailed work, the mahlstick becomes very valuable. 

The mahlstick is designed to rest on the edge of the painting so you can rest your wrist against it while making marks that require precision and control. The advantage of using a mahlstick to lean on is so that you can avoid smudging areas that may be wet or smudgable. However, if you lean on the mahlstick too much you can disturb your painting. It is important to find the happy balance!

There are three main elements to the mahlstick. 

  • The long, thin shaft, that you lean your hand/wrist on whilst painting.
  • The cork ball, which is fixed at the top end of the shaft. This leans on the canvas/board or can even hook over the top of the easel. 
  • A piece of protective leather that is wrapped around the cork ball to prevent the mahlstick from damaging or scratching your surface. 

The lightweight coated metal handle comes in two parts that can be screwed together to give an overall length of 900mm. The diameter is 12mm and the head measures approximately 40mm diameter.