Introduction: I Have a Whammy Diddle in My Pocket - How to Make a Gee-haw Stick Toy

As boys, my very-country father showed my brother and I how to make what he called a "Whoopie Stick", then he vexed us for a good while with it. It was doggone fun.

Often called a "Gee-Haw stick", it's an old toy made of two sticks. One is simply a stick. The other is a stick with notches carved into it and a propeller on the end. While rubbing the propeller-stick with the stick-stick, the propeller rotates. Cool, but there's more. By saying "Gee!" it rotates to the right. By saying, "Haw!" it reverses back to the left. This is a great little doo-hickey for aggravating kids and grown-ups alike, both of which often can't for the life of them figure out the perplexing little toy.

A spoiler explanation of how to make it work its magic is included in this Instructable.


Step 1: Background, Materials, and Tools

A little background

A "Whoopie Stick" has many names: Gee-Haw Stick, Whammy Diddle, Whimmy Diddle, Whirli-gig, VooDoo Stick, and probably many others. Gee-Haw might be the best name because it's descriptive. In the old days, when driving mules, the teamster might holler "Gee!" to tell the mules to turn right, or "Haw!" meaning turn left. (Mules, of course, don't understand "right" or "left", but they apparently do understand "Gee" and "Haw.") So, calling the toy a "Gee-Haw stick" implies turning right and left, which is what it does.

  1. Two sticks
  2. Propeller
  3. One small nail
  1. Knife to carve notches
  2. Drill and bit (you can likely make do without a drill, but it sure helps)
  3. Hammer

Step 2: Sticks

The Gee-Haw toy is made of two sticks...
  1. Choose your sticks carefully. You want hardwood, like oak or maple, dried not green.
  2. They should be about as big around as your pinky or a fat pencil. Don't go too thick though, else the stick won't vibrate and it just won't happen. Skin off the bark with your knife so it'll dry out. Then cut it off square on the ends.
  3. The first stick should be about 10 inches long, or whatever you want. It's simply just a stick for rubbing the notches.
  4. The second stick should be about 12 inches and will have the notches cut into it and hold the propeller.
  5. Be sure to save a little piece to serve as the propeller.

Step 3: Propeller

  1. The propeller is simply a small piece of the branch, maybe 1 inch long. You might wish to make it a bit longer to start with as you can whittle it down later if needed.
  2. Shave down a stick to where it's flat and about 1/8th of an inch in width. That's about the width of a ruler, or so. The point is that you want it lightweight and not bulky.
  3. Drill a hole in the middle as dead-center as you can get. The diameter needs to allow the nail to pass through, stop and the nail's head, and allow for the propeller to spin freely. This drilled hole should help avoid splitting. Mine actually split anyway, so I put in some wood glue to tighten things up.
  4. Nail in the nail and test that the prop spins freely.

Step 4: How to Gee-Haw and How to Harass With a Gee-Haw

How to Gee-Haw
  1. Hold the very BACK (bottom) of the notch-stick with one hand. By holding the back, it allows for more vibration along the stick. Unfortunately, my video doesn't really show the change of direction either. But trust me again, the prop reverses each time I say Gee or Haw! I'll try to get better videos if I can rummage up a better camera.
  2. Rub the notched stick with the other stick as fast as you can. The prop should spin very fast--my videos don't show this, but trust me, the prop is flying around.
  3. Notice how my index finger is over the notch-stick. The trick is to dull the vibration on one side of the stick by either (a) pressing your thumb against it or (b) hooking your index finger over it. This reverses the propeller. Most people will not see this (because your hand is moving fast) and will not figure out the trick.
  4. As a note, you can reverse the prop simply by rubbing on the SIDE of the notches--no thumb or index finger magic needed. This works well, but it's more obvious. People will see you moving over the notch-stick like a violinist going from a high note to a low note. Still, it helps to get it going the right direction sometimes.


Harassment Techniques Using a Gee-Haw Stick
  1. Let someone else try it. Invariably, they'll just grab the stick-stick and start rubbing while NOT neutralizing one side of the notch-stick. Thus, the propeller will not turn. They'll be confused. Then you take it back and do it the right way and of course the propeller goes. Your explanation, "It just doesn't like you."
  2. If they get the prop going, they'll get frustrated when they can't reverse it on command. When they hand it back, and you can, it makes for priceless harassment.
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