Making a walking staff

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Andy T

Full Member
Sep 8, 2010
899
27
Stoke on Trent.
I've only just started making walking sticks so i'm certainly no expert, but i go for what i would consider a good quality stick that isn't too bent. Straightening them is easy enough, i lie mine along a radiator and when they have warmed up they straighten very easily. I also turn them a little every day so that dry out more evenly and dont warp so much. I dont know if this is the correct way of doing it but it works for me, and to date i havent had any split .
 
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treelore

Nomad
Jan 4, 2008
299
0
41
Northamptonshire
i would just have a go and try different woods. some of the stranger woods that i`ve used for walking sticks are cherry,alder and apple. I would just have a go and see what happens.
 
thanks for the seasoning advice going to get my wood asap and leave it between 6mths to a year, have an idea for a temp one, i'm going to the local martial arts supplier and get a bo staff and cut it to size, put a ferrule on it and a lanyard, should do the job untill i can get started on my own.
 

Laurentius

Native
Aug 13, 2009
1,905
194
Knowhere
In my experience practically any wood will do, so long as it is strong enough for the job you expect of it. It depends how fussy you are about it being straight though, however I think crooked ones have character.

The real test is will it bear your weight? will it break if you bend it too far? If it won't do either you haven't lost out at least you have some firewood.
 

peaks

Settler
May 16, 2009
722
2
Derbys
Hi,
have you thought of buying a shaft from one of the stickmaker suppliers - Highland Horn, Keith Pickering? - try googling.

Ash can be used green or seasoned (seasoned is obviously better) and you can straighten a shaft using a hot air paint stripper gun.

HTH
 
Mar 6, 2005
6
0
London
I've made quite a few sticks over the years, so I thought I'd throw in my two penn'orth...

A stick is a very personal thing, and the most important consideration is whether YOU like the look and feel of it. I like 'em straight and smooth, others like 'em gnarled and knobbly.

General points:

Don't get too hung up on how strong the wood is. The phrase "bear your weight" doesn't mean you will have to be able to pole-vault with it. You may well use it to help you jump a stream, so you don't want it to bend too much, but in all honesty I mainly just like the feel of a stick in my hand and it's primary job is thrashing nettles. Pretty much anything over about 3/4 of an inch in diameter will be fine.

I reckon sticks look best with the bark on, e.g. Hazel, blackthorn, birch. In this regard, I have found ash bark becomes badly wrinkled as the stick dries, and looks and feels rubbish.

The accepted wisdom, as Indoorsout says, is that sticks should be seasoned slowly without artificial heat, to avoid splitting. However, I get terribly impatient and have frequently thrown caution to the winds and stuck it on the radiator. True, it is more likely to split, but you can compensate for that by cutting them over-long. They don't usually split more than about 3-4 inches.

Trim any side-shoots/buds off while it's still green - much easier to get a good, smooth result.

Whilst you can straighten sticks with curves in them, you can't straighten kinks or doglegs caused by side-branches, so unless that's what you want, leave it on the tree.

My thoughts on particular types of wood:

Hazel - My favourite. Beautiful bark in lots of different colours. Nice and straight, found everywhere, easy to work when green, perfect combination of stiffness/flex when seasoned.

Blackthorn - Legendary strength, lovely bark with knobbly buds which turn a reddish colour when cut. Quite hard to work when seasoned. Well-protected by lethal spikes so always take secateurs and gloves when hunting blackthorn. Oh, and for some reason the stick you want always seems to be right in the middle of the densest part of the thicket!

Birch - Also has nice bark. Grows all over. Lovely to carve. Too bendy when green but seasons into a firm, sturdy stick with a good, slightly springy amount of flex. Can be difficult to find a sapling long enough which doesn't taper excessively.

Beech - Very strong when seasoned but almost impossible to find a length which doesn't zigzag due to frequent dog-legs.

Alder - Seasoned wood has a completely different character from green. Becomes surprisingly hard and strong when dry, grows like a weed, good and straight. I generally strip the bark off, which you can pretty-much do with your bare hands when green. You can hollow out the pith and carve a whistle in the handle.

Willow - I haven't had much luck with this. Unattractive bark and too bendy and insubstantial even when seasoned. I'm talking here about the species which grow in the UK. In the States they have Diamond Willow, which by all accounts makes a great stick.

Sweet Chestnut - Common in S.E. England, grows straight with only a slight taper. Bends well. It's what NHS walking sticks are made of. Most often stripped and chemically-stained. I think there are better woods out there.

Oak - Great if you can find the right piece. Extremely tough wood, so best to do your cutting and shaping when green. Main problem is that it tapers quite drastically and in steps, especially above the frequently-occurring side shoots. I am currently "training" a few saplings by snipping off any new shoots as soon as they appear, to see if I can get it to grow smoothly. So far it seems to be working.

Sycamore - Boring.

Maple - Very tough wood (butchers' blocks, dance floors) so work it green. You can find straight sticks with a bit of effort. Disappointing bark and not much better when stripped unless you stain it.

Dog Rose - Another surprisingly tough wood. Lots of perfectly sized shoots coming off a main stem, which often form perfect handles. If you leave the thorns on while it dries, then strip it, you get an attractive mottling on the shank. I often stain them by wiping with strong black coffee.


I think that's enough for now, but you can get some great ideas from Bob's Stickmaking Pages

Hope this helps.

Demob
 
Demob thanks for wood advice mate. found an excellent site with alot of straight birch. I do have a couple more of questions.

1) Would i be right and think that the best way to cut the branch as close to the trunk as possible?

2) is there a general way of of removing the bark, i know birch is usually easy but other bark, is there a similar way of removing it?

THANKSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
 

Harvestman

Bushcrafter through and through
May 11, 2007
8,656
4
51
Pontypool, Wales, Uk
Just to add to the range of woods on here, I've acquired two lovely bits of ivy recently. Definitely not straight (one of them is like a series of S shapes joined together), but that adds to the character, and the wood dries nice and hard in time. Probably best for decorative sticks rather than practical ones, but that's ok.

I get most of my sticks from fallen wood, especially recent treefalls, and I rarely cut living wood at all. In some cases I've taken a stick that was just lying on the ground, tidied up the ends, adjusted the legth, taken off the bark and sanded it. Once dry, you have a perfectly good stick.
 
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Mar 15, 2009
9
0
Wisconsin
do you keep these til you die? I use oak and maple(live in the woods of an oak savanah) and just cut a new one when the others are had. I peel all the bark and mark six inch intervals with a wood burner(to check depths). Cut it off armpit length and ready to go.
 

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