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Hi, Glenn,

See you're new here, and new to stick making. I've been working at making sticks for a couple of years now, and find new things to learn continuously. And then there's that pesky thing called practice. Amazing how much sawdust and shavings appear between inspiration and completion.

The first sticks I gathered were almost all from trees or branches that had been a dead a year or two. Most were pretty well cured. But I learned that the reason a lot of trees go down is rot and bug infestation. And that the stress of falling can produce cracks deep in the wood. While most of what I gather is from freshly fallen storm damaged trees, I've learned to examine them carefully, give 'em a whack, and pass on any that don't feel solid.

Give the wood as much time as you can to cure. I've found that if I have a stick that is 4 - 6" longer than needed, once the ends check, I can cut those away, and have a solid piece of wood. Only had one failure doing that, and I stopped the new checking w. a bit of CA glue.

My preference for hiking sticks are tougher hard woods. Currently slowly working on some hornbeam, and have some hickory and osage orange waiting. After working the hornbeam, white oak seems easy to shape. Beech and hard maple are fairly plentiful where I live, and both make good strong sticks.

I do use much lighter woods, too. Sassafras and sycamore are plentiful where i live. What I've found is that the toughness of the wood varies from stick to stick. Saplings that have grown rapidly in full sun light are less sturdy than ones that grew slowly in shade. Older branches are typically more stiff. You can look at the end grain. If the rings are thick, rather than thin, the wood will not be very strong. If I can bang a stick's shaft straight down onto concrete, and it flexes much at all, I don't consider it strong enough for hiking. If there is a little flex, or the flex diminishes with shortening, then its OK for a walking stick.

My experience w. burning is minimal, and I've never tried bending, so I can't offer much there.

As far as carving goes, the tighter the grain, the easier it is to get fine shapes and avoid tear out. At the soft end, bass wood is ideal. Many pines have such long fiber that tho' they are soft, accidents tearing out long splitters can happen frequently.

Good sharp tools are necessary for any project.

When I started, I used the standard methods I'd been taught for simple wood working. Once in a great while I'd sand to finer than 220 grit. Now 600 is standard. I always used common stains and urethane varnishes, or sometimes a tinted varnish. Maybe add a coat of paste wax. Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours reading over how to use shellac, and I'm searching for a local source for pure tannin so I can get a better ebonized finish on some oak. I suspect I'll never really learn enough about finishing.

At any rate, its a fine practice. Wood is often beautiful by itself, and making something that is useful and looks nice is a decent way to spend time.
 
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