This article will explain how to make a walking stick. The process is simple, relaxing, and rewarding.
Selecting a Stick
Selecting a good staff is important. The wood selected will determine the strength, flexibility, and longevity of the staff. There are many popular options such as birch, elm, oak, ash, maple, or hickory. Each wood type has different characteristics. The availability of certain woods varies from place to place.
It should be aligned from top to bottom. It is difficult to find something in nature that is totally straight. As such, the staff does not need to be perfect.
Treatment using a hot air gun will allow the wood to bend and harden into a straight line. The staff should be checked for rot, insect infestations, and knots. If the wood has been damaged significantly, it should not be selected.
However, small natural scars from rot or insects can make wonderful and unique decorations on certain walking sticks. Knots can weaken the staff, but can also be sanded down.
The freshness of the staff is another consideration. If a stave is too fresh it will require considerable time to harden. It is important to never rip a branch from a live tree.
This damages the natural environment and will only create problems as the staff will be too fresh. Large fallen branches that have aged a bit make for the sturdiest walking sticks.
Stick Length and Diameter
Trekking poles have the advantage of adjusting to different lengths. However, a walking stave is static in length and requires planning during construction.
The exact length of the stave will vary depending on several variables including the terrain and the height of the user. A shorter cane should be used when hiking uphill or up difficult terrain since the cane will help with load-bearing pressure.
A longer cane should be used in downhill situations because it provides better balance and increased control during the descent. On a flat surface, the perfect cane length would leave the arm parallel with the ground.
For general purposes, a cane that stands tall from the feet to the chin is suitable.
The diameter of the staff is important. The exact diameter needed will depend on the weight of the user and the type of wood selected. Typically, a heavier hiker will require a cane with a larger diameter.
It should be noted that this will also increase the overall weight of the walking cane. Rosewood and hickory are very strong woods and support weight quite well. Ash is considered very weak. The diameter and size of the stave should be considered carefully.
Stripping, Straightening, and Hardening
All of the bark from the stave should be stripped off. The most common way to strip the cane bare is using a hawkbill pocket knife or another sharp utensil.
Some woods require immediate stripping of bark such as Navajo willow. Others, like mesquite wood, need to be treated with sunlight for six months before stripping.
The difficulty of bark stripping will depend on the season and the type of wood. If the cane is especially difficult, a pressure washer usually provides enough power to remove all of the bark. However, the nozzle for the pressure washer should be carefully selected and should not be stronger than 4,000 psi.
If the stick is too curvy, it can be straitened using a heat source. The most popular heat source for straightening sticks during woodwork is a hot air gun.
The heat from the hot air gun is sufficient to remove most kinks from sticks. Another option is steaming, but the results can be mixed depending on the strength of the wood.
Soaking the stave in hot water should be avoided – it is not a good alternative if dry heat or steaming is not available. It should be noted that heating the stave by hot air gun or steam typically causes some discoloration in the final product.
The hardening process is very important. Research the wood type before the hardening period because the hardening time needed can vary drastically. The most popular way to treat the stick during this period is with natural sunlight.
Finally, the stick should be sanded using sandpaper. This will assure a nice, smooth finished product.