Taking Inventory: Stick

Stick around for some pointers!

The humble stick might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the most interesting items in Minecraft. But it’s secretly one of the most important items –serving as a foundation for almost every part of the game’s mechanics.

Consider for a moment what Minecraft would be like without sticks. There’d be no pickaxes, swords, shovels, axes, or hoes – so no mining, combat, or farming. There’d be no rails, armour stands, bows, campfires, crossbows, arrows, banners, fishing rods, levers, ladders, item frames, paintings, grindstones, signs fences, tripwire hooks, or torches either. What’s left? Er... collecting flowers, I guess?

As appropriate for its fundamental position at the bottom of Minecraft’s tech tree, the stick was added to the game very early on – Indev version 0.31, to be precise. 

You know how to make them already – two planks arranged above each other in a crafting grid. Recently, though, we added another recipe – two bamboo in the same configuration also gets you a stick. Useful if you spawn in the middle of a bamboo forest biome.

If you’re stuck in a tree- or bamboo-less wasteland, there are a few other ways to acquire sticks. You can catch them while fishing (though you’ll need a stick to make a fishing rod), they’re sometimes dropped by witches on death (though you’ll need a stick to make a sword), and they also drop from dead bushes and leaves when they’re destroyed or they decay. Finally, in a pinch, you can find them in several village chests.

How do you use them? Well, other than crafting, which is their superpower, you can burn them as furnace fuel. Two sticks will smelt one item, which is useful if you have one or two things to smelt up but don’t want to use a whole lump of coal in the process. Fletcher villagers, who make arrows, also find sticks pretty useful – they’ll buy 32 of them for an emerald.

In the real world sticks are almost as important as in Minecraft. Our earliest ancestors, and a few indigenous cultures today, used them for digging out roots, tubers or burrowing animals, and in agriculture – making them one of the earliest tools.

Sticks are also used in many of the world’s martial arts – the best known is probably Japanese kendo, but others include Myanmar’s banshay, Ireland’s bataireacht, Ethiopian donga, Indian silambam, Egyptian tahtib, and Algerian matrague. Sticks are useful in defence (if attacked while lightly armed) and also when training to use more dangerous weapons.

Another common use of sticks is to help elderly people walk. The walking stick offers stability and support for people who aren’t so steady on their feet, or are crossing uneven ground. They can also be a fashion accessory – often called a cane – but their popularity in fashion peaked in the 18th century. You don’t see many fancy canes out on the streets today.

Possibly the most interesting real-world use of sticks is in ceremony – for which they’re normally called a “wand”. Traditionally made of oak or hazel, the concept of the magic wand was first used by the ancient Greek writer Homer, in his books The Iliad and The Odyssey, but they didn’t become serious part of the occult until the the 1200s latin grimoire The Sworn Book of Honorius. Today, both stage and real magicians carry them as a symbol of magical power and for reaching, pointing, and directing their audience’s attention.

Finally, musical conductors also use sticks (known as “batons”) in a similar manner to direct the attention of their orchestra. So next time you’re conducting an orchestra of note blocks, consider bringing along a stick with you to serve as a baton. It’s sure to stick in the memory of the audience.

Written By
Duncan Geere