BEHIND THE SCENES: This is my Mahl stick. I use it when painting realism. It's been used for eons by artists and how each artist uses them are as unique as the artists themselves.
The name derives from the German/Dutch word Malstock or Maalstok meaning painters stick.
These tools help steady our hands and prevent smudging when using oil paints that take a long time to dry. The soft head can be safely balanced on the canvas or easel as shown. Using them simply requires experimentation and time. Today, I'm tediously detailing river rocks, so I just need the stick for hand balance to alleviate fatigue. I use my 3' Mahl stick for close detail work when sitting and my 6' Mahl stick on real large pieces of art or when standing.
Basically, it's a wooden dowel 3-6' in length with a stuffed pad at one end. My Mahl stick is made of solid oak for durability. The head is filled with raw Texas cotton and wrapped with a soft pigskin chamois tied with twine. The head on my Mahl stick is curved on one side and flat on the other. It's just the way I shaped the cotton for versatility. They are an easy DIY project to make and great tool to have in your art studio.