Make a Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle

by Daisy

So you’re flat broke, it’s 8 days before Christmas, and you have fourteen nieces and nephews you’d like to get a little something for their stockings.
If you are handy with a pocketknife and have access to some sticks, enter the Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle.

First of all, you might like to know what in the world a Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle is: It’s an old Appalachian stick toy. It has three parts: a whimmy, which is a stick with a series of small notches along one side; a propeller, which is connected to the whimmy by a small brad; and a diddle, which is another stick, period. The point of it is to make the propeller whirl.

What you need for 1 toy:

  • a length of dead stick (the originals are made of rhododendron, or laurel–I had none so I used blueberry which is in the same family–azalea is also in that family, so it would probably be a good choice, but any hardwood stick would probably work fairly well)
  • clippers to cut the sticks
  • a pocketknife
  • a small brad about 3/4″ long, about 18-gauge is good
  • an awl (or nail) for marking and starting the drill holes
  • a small drill–a manual “pin vise” or an electric drill with a tiny drill bit (I used a 5/64 bit)
  • vise–optional, but useful for holding the stick while you drill and nail
  • a tape measure

1. Before you cut the sticks into small segments, use the pocketknife to whittle off most of the bark (it is easier to bark a long stick than a short one, especially the smallest segment. I learned this the hard way).
2. Clip three segments of the stick, a thicker one about 7 inches long, a slightly thinner stick about 6 to 8 inches long, and a short, medium width stick about 1 1/2 inches.

3. Cut a series of small notches into one plane of the thickest stick, starting about an inch from one end. The number of notches may vary, but 6 to 9 is good for this size stick.

4. Take the 1 1/2 inch stick and cut a ring about 1/4 inch from each end, all around the stick.
5. Whittle out the wood between the rings, making a flat surface on each side of the propeller.

6. Measure the exact center of the propeller, mark it with the awl, and drill a hole large enough for the propeller to spin freely on the brad.

7. Mark a hole in the center of the end of the notched stick nearest the notches with the awl. Hold up the propeller with the brad on it next to the stick and measure how far the brad will need to go in. Drill partway to this point, but not all the way unless your drill bit is smaller in diameter than your brad (mine wasn’t). Nail the propeller on so it can spin freely. If you use a vise, pad the stick so it won’t get crushed.

You’re done.

To “operate” the ghwd, the stick is rubbed to and fro against the series of notches on the notched stick, which makes the propeller whirl around. If you hold the rubbing stick in your right hand, crook your index finger over it and let your index finger contact the far side of the whimmy, it will make the propeller gee (twirl to the right). If you adjust your hand forward so that the index finger doesn’t contact the whimmy, but the thumb rubs against the near edge of the whimmy as you go up and down the notches, it will haw (twirl to the left).

A little practice and you will be able to teach these tricks to all those nieces and nephews. Keep on practicing and you may want to enter the Annual Whimmy Diddle World Championship Competition.

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