Sunday, October 2, 2022

MENU

All RVers own a “whiskey stick,” but we bet you don’t know its history!

You probably have at least one, perhaps more than one “whiskey stick” in your RV. And no, a whiskey stick is not used during happy hour! The whiskey stick (also known as liquor stick or bubble level) has an interesting history. Once you know it, you’ll think of it each time you check that your RV is level. Guaranteed.

A bubble leveler, also called a whiskey stick

A better level

As far back as the ancient Egyptians, water tanks were used to determine a level, horizontal plane. Then, along came Melchisédech Thévenot. It was 1661. This French scientist and mathematician decided to transform the water tank leveling system into a more portable hand tool. Thank goodness!

Thévenot placed a small amount of water inside a straight-sided, glass tube. Allowing a bit of air into the tube as well, he then sealed the tube closed. The bubble did a good job of displaying the level. The problem? Water freezes. When the temperature dipped below 32 degrees, Thévenot’s sealed glass tube shattered.

Liquor to the rescue!

In order to make his invention work even in cold temperatures, Thévenot decided to introduce some liquor into his leveling device. The liquor prevented the water from freezing. Thévenot’s bubble level, or liquor stick, was invented.

Whiskey stick or liquor stick?

Historians differ as to what type of liquor Thévenot used to freeze-proof his level. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great stories about how the level got its name. One story goes like this: Hard-working brick masons regularly pawn their bubble levels in order to purchase whiskey. At the end of the week (payday) the masons buy back their levels—or as they call ’em, whiskey sticks.

Today, all types of builders use this tool. Thévenot’s invention helps masons and carpenters alike find horizontal level. It can also indicate plumb, or vertical level when held on end. As laser levels become more affordable, they may eventually replace Thévenot’s invention. But I bet RVers will continue to use the whiskey stick for quite a while. And I hope their stories stay around, too. Don’t you?

##RVT1050

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

12 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Edd Langdon
5 months ago

Being a second generation carpenter my father told me it got the name “Whiskey stick” because during the depression men would break the vials to get the alcohol.

SDW
5 months ago

I found a simpler way to level our rig. After eyeballing the front to rear level I go inside and run the kitchen faucet for two seconds and see where the water runs to. If it go to the drain, were pretty level. If it goes to one of the corners of the sink then I know I need to either raise or lower that corner of the rig or lower the opposite corner, till the water runs to the drain in the sink.

BILLY Bob Thronton
5 months ago

Great story.

Janet
5 months ago

How interesting! I had no idea. Maybe I’ll start naming my levels – Jameson, Glenlivet, Fireball.

Gail
5 months ago
Reply to  Janet

Great idea, Janet.

Two for the Road
5 months ago

Also called a spirit level.

Steve
5 months ago

Oh, woe is us! The smart phone can be used as a level. One more technology destroyed by cell phones, along with the camera, wall clock, wrist watch, stop watch, compass, altimeter/barometer, radio, TV, home phone, wall calendar, Rolodex, encyclopedia, highway atlas, free gas-station map, and such recent inventions as the handheld calculator, PDA (Palm Pilot and Blackberry), iPod, Game Boy, and even GPS!

Primo Rudy's Roadhouse
5 months ago

great, fun article. My level just became my whisky stick

T Edwards
5 months ago

Absolutely great piece of trivia. Keep doing your “level best” bringing us other interesting stories.

Susan Banks
5 months ago

I unhitch, check my front to back by eye, then side by side. That is when I decide which way my pillow will go so I do not roll out of bed. Keeping it simple. Has worked every time.

Bob p
5 months ago
Reply to  Susan Banks

And you don’t have to replace your fridge more than twice a year. Lol

Edward Wullschleger
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Actually, 3 degrees (refrigerator safety factor) is a fairly noticeable angle.

Sign up for the RVtravel Newsletter

Your information will *never* be shared or sold to a 3rd party.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Every Saturday and Sunday morning. Serving RVers for more than 20 years.