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The best way of straightening shanks is to steam them when there cured just pop them over a boiler let the steam do its work then pop them into a vice(or vise) i think you call it. let it cool them it will be impregnated in the shanks memory and will always stay straight. If you need to tweek a shaft just use a hot air gun like you use for stripping wallpaper or bruning paint off make sure you dont s burn the wood then bend it on your knee or pop into the vice,its very efffective.You can always use a jig if its really bent.Will post a pic of the jig i made when tweeking sticks. just heat up the area you want to treat. its quite simple when you tried it once or twice
 

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a few pics of jig just make sure the jig is firmly attached to the vice .I think this was turned form a piece of mahogany shelf by a friend just slip the shank in to jig where it needs shaping either hold for a while aftre heating it or clamp the shank into the position you want.

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Glen is right about suitable wood,However I think if a stick is straight it gives it moe strenght any flaw or bend in it thats the place it will snap if enough pressure is applied , but its a personnel; preferance 'If you plan to carve straight onto the stick ar rotary tool is very useful.I always draw a template out the cut it , lay ontyo the wood, .or place ir onto the stick if its a toppoer to ensure the balance of the finished item looks okay.. Some times i model a pieces very quickly and stick it on top just to get the feel of what i am trying to achieve.

Some woods are heavy and feel clunsy in the hand woods like birch and oak .My preferanc is for hazel, blackthorn,chestnut.But it is a preferance but you have access to a bigger variety of wood in the states,try them all

But you can ask a hundred people and you will always get different ideas its what suits you.

There are some great american wild fowl books they even have ready made templates to use which gives a good guide it is however a only a guide,Its always better to follow your own insticts and make modifications to suit you.But dont restrict yourself look into items that interest you and develop those
 
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