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Almond Wood For Shillelagh

14663 Views 21 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Fordj
I find on the Janka Scale that almond is a moderately hard wood. I'm planning on making a shillelagh, and have a virtually unlimited source for almond wood. I'm wondering if you all can tell me some of the good and bad about almond being used for a shillelagh.

I'm not planning on making something suitable for professional fighting. Rather I want something that will serve as a nice loooking stick, and yet make a decent club if needed. Maybe 3' long, or thereabouts.

Any thoughts? Also, I might have a source for eucalyptus. Any ideas about that? Thanks (-:
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Both almond and eucalyptus will work well. Almond should finish up beautifully. Any of the nut woods, pecan, hickory, etc... tend to be hard and finish nicely.

See, there you were saying there was no good wood around you. A "virtually unlimited source for almond wood" sounds pretty jealousy-inducing to me. I'd love to get my hands on some.

I've also never worked with eucalyptus, but I seem to remember that it works well. Sounds like you have some real possibilities.

Let us know if you get your hands on some almond that is appropriate. I bet it's going to be dense and heavier than you think. Also, fruit and nut wood has a tendency to crack as it dries, but remains quite stable even with the crack.
Almond, peach, plum are all "stone fruits" and closely related species, therefore will have similar properties. I understand the ornamental purple plum is quit attractive as well as apricot.
I was assuming that fruit wood wasn't any good, because there are very few almond wood sticks or canes available on the net. Heck, what am I saying? I haven't seen any at all. But this is the almond producing capital of the world. There are even electricity co-generation plants that run on almond fuel here, it's so plentiful.

When I was younger, I had a little firewood business that worked this way: farmers would actually pay me to cut down their trees, which I in turn sold for firewood. It was sweet. After a while, they started selling trees, because they realized people would pay for them. I spent one entire summer in high school removing 32 acres of almonds, all given to me free, because that's how it was done back then.

Later on, I remember paying $1 or $2 for a decent sized tree. Usually it took about 5 - 7 trees to harvest 1 cord of wood, not counting the mountains of brush that resulted. Sometimes it only took 1 or 2 trees, and other times up to 10 trees. We threw away everything under 2"- 3" in diameter. How many good sticks did we throw away and burn? Wow.

Now the eucalyptus is another matter. Here in California, after the Gold Rush, business and industry expanded greatly (obviously), and much of the oak wood forests were removed. As the story goes, the railroads needed railroad ties, so they planted stand after stand of eucalyptus trees, as a means of replenishing the wood supply. It turned out that eucalyptus wasn't suitable for railroad ties, but the eucalyptus stands remain.

I didn't look it up on the Janka scale, but eucalyptus seemed very hard to me. As a tree ages, it rapidly sheds its bark and dead wood, which collects on the ground becoming a serious fire hazard in some places. There are many stands of eucalyptus trees around, usually near railroad tracks, in groups of 25 to 50 trees, generally right off the road. I imagine it would be fairly easy to find pieces suitable for walking sticks.
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Eucalyptus has a reputation as a very hard, rot-resistant wood. Sounds like a great wood for sticks as long as your tools are sharp.

Go take a look around and see what you can find.
@AAAndrew I might actually do that today. I know where a stand is, just a couple of miles from my house.
At least someone else in California has made (and sold) a staff made of local almond wood:


This is a nice cane:


According to this source there is a tradition, that allegedly the staff of Moses and the rod of Aaron might have been of almond wood:


In 19th century Persia walking sticks made of almond wood were very fashionable:


One of king Tut's walking sticks was made of almond wood:

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Wow! Thanks for finding those links. The guy with the ad on etsy and I live in the very same area. Also, the article about Moses' staff was especially interesting to me. Really, really fascinating.
Kemjak, like AAAndrew I am jealous too. Almond seems to be a very nice, if not a premium stick material. Janka hardness of 1700 makes it hard, harder than hard maple and almost as hard as hickory or pecan.

Both maple and hickory were used by native Americans to make war clubs. Hopefully almond wood is not too brittle. Since it is in the same genus (Prunus) as blackthorn, damson, chokecherry, there is a chance it might be tough enough wood to make a good shillelagh.

Judging from the pictures on etsy, it has also a beautiful bark or underbark.

Do you plan to make some sticks with the bark/underbark left on?

Please, let us know about your experiences with this wood.

My experience with wood... well, it's like this: I have a good amount of experience in cutting down trees, and in sawing dimensional lumber. But as far as finishing wood goes, my experience is virtually zero. I've made a few tables and things like that over the years, but I've never applied myself to anything like a really nice walking stick, except for one I made last year. That one came out ok, but after reading some of the posts here, I'm now considering doing some carving on it.

Now about making a shillelagh from almond, I'll probably take off the bark. I don't think it would stay on the round anyway, since almond bark comes off pretty easily by nature. I do think I can find a stick suitable for a good shillelagh without too much trouble. But again, after some of the posts here, and after seeing those pics, now I'm thinking of making a nice cane.

The thing about almond wood though, is the many knots. Generally, to get really good heartwood you need to go to the stump, but these are usually too short for a walking stick, so the next choice is the first limbs growing out of it. These limbs are usually long enough, but lots of branches are usually present. Besides, the limbs are too big around, unless someone wants to turn them on a lathe.

So the next choice are the secondary branches, which sprout from the limbs. Here is where I would find my shillelagh, because the stick's diameter would be about right, and I could use the wood where it's cut from the limb as the mallet end for the shillelagh.

These secondary branches have lots of other, smaller branches coming out of them, so it might be kind of hard to find material for a cane without too many knots. There are different varieties of almond trees, some bigger than others, and a few get pretty large. But these very large trees are not the norm. Most of the trees around here just aren't that big, so finding a stick that is long enough, without too many knots, suitable for a can might be kind of tough.

It does occur to me though, that I might be able to find the perfect stick from the roots. Here's where I would ask for advice: can root stock be used for a walking stick? You see, almonds have a very shallow root system. They grow well in sandy loam. When orchards are removed, the typical process is to cut down the trees, then rip the stumps out of the ground with a tractor. One company here even developed a machine that rips two trees at a time, simply by driving their tractor between rows of trees.

The root ball is very thick, but it's not uncommon to see nice branch-like roots radiating out in a fairly straight fashion. What I don't know is how hard the roots are. I just don't have any experience with these, other than watching them being ripped out of the ground.
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Roots can be used and especially the main roots will harden quite well when dry.

As for lots of knots, part of the charm and appeal of a shillelagh is the knobby appearance. Traditionally made from blackthorne, which is a knobby wood, lots of knots help with the authentic look. Knots also make for better grip, and a better weapon. ;)

Sounds like almond will make quite a handsome shillelagh, though more of a blonde one. Dense, heavy, hard and knobby will be right up there in what you want.
Here's a little information about another kind of wood that is readily available here in California's big valley: walnuts. They grow a lot of walnuts here. In fact, I'm looking back to the seven years I spent living on a walnut ranch, and kicking myself for not taking advantage of it. I probably could have gotten a hundred nice sticks just from the prunings.

Walnut wood is big business here, but not the way you might think. I don't know the technical terms for the different varieties of walnuts, but Black Walnut is normally used for the root stock, and they graft on English walnut for the rest of the tree. When they remove these trees, it's the Black Walnut stumps that are most prized. On the ranch where I lived, the owner had every stump numbered, catalogued, and insured against theft. That's right, theft. People would actually come around at night and take down these trees, just for the stumps!

One year at the ranch, they took out some trees, and ended up with a 40' semi-truck trailer completely loaded with Black Walnut stumps. They were sold to a guy in San Francisco for a pretty penny, from what I understand.
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Black walnut can go for quite a pretty penny. Of course, English Walnut as a wood is, in my opinion, even prettier. It's more mellow and has a warmer look, at least to me.

Tree theft is a big business in the US, and even bigger in tropical countries with looser controls.
Yeah, tree theft is something! One night, at 2:00 am we were awakened by sheriffs who were investigating someone messing with the trees. I guess people think it's safe to steal, since orchards are out of town, and hardly anyone around. The sheriff just happened to be driving by that night, and saw someone parked in the orchard and moving around. Nothing out there but trees.
Apple wood brings a pretty penny both for working, and for smoking. Apple-wood smoked meat anyone?
Looking over shillelagh pics on the web, it appears most Irish blackthorn sticks have lots of side branches. They are fairly straight. Other than being a pain to cut off and around, side branches don't seem to be much of a problem structurally. If the branch has long since died, the knot may be rotten, and that wouldn't be so good for a fighting stick, I suppose.

I have a batoning knife, cost about $8. Not quite a hatchet, but very sturdy and sharp. I've started collecting sticks as thick as 3", because I can hack them down to heartwood w/o too much trouble, other than sweat.

Many canes are made from saplings, with the root portion used as the handle. I have to suppose that something that pushed thru soil is harder and/or tougher than some thing that grew thru air. Googling around, I found 1 article that says the strength of the root often depends on the distance from the stem.

Here's a pic of an almond cane. Looks great.
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That's a very nice cane. Say, I noticed in reading that cane's description, it talked about the 'collar'. I've seen that word used in other descriptions as well. What part of the cane is the collar?
Also, what little experience I do have with almond roots tells me there's a lot of dirt ingrained in the wood. I know that because I've had to cut a few, and it dulls a chainsaw in a heartbeat.

On the plus side, since they're grown in sandy loam around here, the sand granules might give a sparkly effect. Anyone ever seen that?

That's a very nice cane. Say, I noticed in reading that cane's description, it talked about the 'collar'. I've seen that word used in other descriptions as well. What part of the cane is the collar?
Typically the collars are used to conceal the joint between the handle and the shaft, and provide a visual transition between what are often 2 dissimilar materials.. I've not made a 2 piece cane yet. Perhaps those who have will comment more.
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@gdenby Yeah, that's what I thought, but I wasn't sure. Thanks.
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