Worm Charming, Worm Grunting, and Worm Fiddling: An Overview

One of the more enigmatic questions we ever received arrived in our inbox recently: “what tools to us for worm grunting what is a flat bar.” This perhaps might be rephrased in the following way without doing injustice to the reader’s intent: what tools are used for worm grunting, and what is the worm-grunting tool known as a “flat bar?” Assuming this is the correct interpretation, we think we can answer our reader’s question, as we do know a bit about worm grunting, which, as the above title implies, is also called “worm charming” and “worm fiddling” (although there are slight differences between the terms).

First, and prior to any questions you may have about tools, you might be wondering what worm grunting (or charming, etc.) even is. Basically, it is way to extract earthworms from the ground – this basic action is covered by the general term “worm charming” – which people have an interest in doing for a few different reasons. Most people probably do to find worms for fish bait, which they either use personally or sell (there are, believe it or not, professional worm charmers), but some do it as an end in itself, which explains why there are worm charming competitions, such as the World Worm Charming Championships held annually in England.


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As for our reader’s more specific questions, there are a couple of different tools people use for worm charming. The first set of tools is associated with what is called “worm grunting,” which is evidently what our reader is most interested in. To grunt for worms, you need a “stob” and an “iron,” a wooden stake and flat piece of medal, respectively. Stobs tend to be a few feet long (about a meter) while irons are generally shorter, generally a couple of feet long (and two or three inches in width). Worm fiddling is a little different: it also requires a stake, but a dull saw is used instead of an iron. We suspect our reader is referring to an iron when he writes of a “flat bar.”

Worm grunting and worm fiddling rely on the same principle: both cause the ground to vibrate in a way that is similar to the soil movement caused by a burrowing mole (which eat worms), and these vibrations drive the worms to the soil’s surface, allowing the worm charmer to reap his or her harvest. The same technique is used by some animals to get worms to come to the surface of the soil. For example, some birds will tap the ground with their feet to generate the required vibrations. In the case of worm grunting, the stob is hit and rubbed with the iron, causing soil vibrations, whereas worm fiddling creates the same effect by dragging a dull saw across the top of a wooden stake.

So, to concisely answer our reader’s questions (such as they are): the tools used for worm grunting are a stob and an iron – that is, a wooden stake and a flat piece of metal (or a “flat bar,” if we are understanding the reader rightly). Worm fiddling relies on similar tools and achieves the same end as worm grunting. Worm fiddling and worm grunting are unified under the broader concept of worm charming. And with that we will conclude our overview of worm charming, worm grunting, and worm fiddling.

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