Aha, I think to myself, that's a nostepinne! "That's a nostepinne", I say, "it's a pre-mechanical ball winder".
Dear reader, you know what the next question is already: "How do you use it?" one of the pair will say.
So, I take a stick (ahem -- nostepinne) and demonstrate. First, hold an end (the "handle end") of the stick in your hand, with the end of the yarn between your hand and the stick. Then, lay down a line of the yarn along the "working end" of the stick and wrap around it, fairly tightly, about 10-12 times, without letting go of the end tucked between your hand and the handle. Now, wrap up-and-around as you rotate the stick. This creates a nicely wound ball, and if you've kept that initial end out of it, you can pull from the center of the ball when you are done.
There are so many on-line resources for how to wind on a nostepinne, let me share those with you rather than recreating the 'pinny (grin):
ispindle.com's Winding Center Pull Balls on a Nostepinne is a Quicktime video starting at the beginning and shows winding from spindle to nostepinne.
fiberfool on youtube.com's How to Use a Nostepinne winds on a nostepinne in progress, to accompany the posting on her blog How to Use a Nostepinne.
Hatchtown Farms' Nostepinde Instructions - proving there's more than one way to spell it!
Now, if you are tempted to teach your knitting or spinning (or crochet, for that matter!) guild the wonders of nostepinne ball-winding, the Memphis Fiber Arts guild as a great one-page PDF handout. (Heck, check out all their instructions. Great stuff!)
See the related post, How do you Wind Yarn on a Niddy-Noddy?
If you are itching to get your own Nostepinne to try this on, The Bellwether carries a variety of nostepinnes including the lovely Nature's Nostepinnes as shown in the photo above.
(updated, originally from September 28, 2007)