Walking Stick Forum banner
1 - 20 of 23 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just joined the forum today after reading many posts. I live in northeast Georgia in the Appalachjian foothills. I'd like to start a walking stick today (the end of May) -- probably American Hornmbeam, sourwood, or dogwood. Can I cut the stick this time of year, shellac or wood glue the ends, and start the stick after it dries for a week or so in my basement workshop or outside in a covered area? I'd like to start soon but want to avoid the checking/cracking problem. I know these are great woods and very hard, so I'll make a very simple walking stick (no carving, just adjusting the diameter with a drawknife and then smoothing). I've read that a genera rule is a year of drying time per inch of stick diameter, but will I have to wait that long? Or could I start on these woods sooner? If not, can anyone recommend a wood that dries quickly so I could start soon after peeling the bark? I have the fever! Thanks for any advice you can give.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,929 Posts
Welcome!

I understand the impatience to get started.

It's best to wait but you can make a stick from green wood too. A week really isn't enough time to do any drying at all. You might as well start as soon as you pick one.

If you can find an area that has had some trees cut or some windfalls you might be able to get some sticks that are at least partially cured though found dead wood isn't usually dry either.

The best advice I can give you is to gather a bunch of sticks. Go ahead and work a few with the understanding that they might develop some checking when they dry. You'll at least get some practice and satisfy your urge to get started. Meanwhile the other sticks you've gathered will be curing and you'll eventually have some dry ones to work with.

A cool dry place out of the way is the best place to cure your sticks.

Rodney
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,170 Posts
If the wood isnt seasoned then theres a good chance they will crack . Try your local shop to buy a chaep brush shaft and work on that Alternativly loads of guys over there can give you contacts to get some seasoned shanks
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
969 Posts
Welcome. I'm unfamiliar w sourwood, but know the other 2. Both are excellent. They can be carved, but you will need very sharp blades and patience.

As @Rodney said, a week isn't enough time. I lost an early stick that I let cure for just 6 weeks. When I cut into the glued ends, the wood checked overnight while I was working it. But worse, because I had de-barked it, it split longitudinally for maybe 18". After that, I only worked on deadfalls, or wood aged a year.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,086 Posts
I would look for some Found On Ground wood (FOG) if you feel the urge to start now, Chances are U may get a couple pieces that are dry enough to give decent results. Any wood that is cut now is going to have a heavy moisture content and will be very suseptible to checking, cracking or warping. Normally if I cut wood I will do so in late winter or very early spring before sap starts to rise. Summer I will go afield and mark woods I want to cut later in mid winter. As the other guys have said a stick should dry around a year before being worked. Smaller pieces I carve as toppers I may use at 6-8 months but these are pieces that I cut off at about a foot. I sometimes pop these smaller pieces in the micro wave for 30 seconds or so to make sure they aren't wet before carving.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks very much for the advice everyone - I confess that my eagerness to start got the best of my better judgement.

I'll look for some deadfalls and FOG wood. The young trees in the "hornbeam patch" were just too large, so I had to pass on anything there. I cut a young sourwood that was dying -- much of the bark was shedding and I could take it off with my fingers, but some bark was syill moderately adhereing to the base, about six inches above the site I cut the tree. It's isn't really straight, so it's not a great piece so I may practise on this one while the others dry and until I find a dry deadfall. This afternoon I also cut a small white oak, a red maple, and a lovely sweetgum. I sealed the ends of all sticks that I cut this afternoon with wood glue. I know that sweetgum is less desirable than other woods, but I'll use it as my less valuable hiking staff when I'm on trails and as a third leg when I'm fly fishing fishing at quasi-remote mountain locations. I once unintentionally left a good walking sticks along a stream and realized it an hour after I'd moved on.

The sweetgum bark has lots of cork pronounced into small spines and ridges. The bark of the sweetgum started to peel away at the site where I cut it, revealing very white sapwood beneath. If I remove the bark (the ends are glue-sealed) will the stick crack along the shaft? I thought it might dry quicker this way if I removed the bark now, but it may ot be worth the risk. The bark on the other sticks cling to the sapwood much tighter than the sweetgum. Has anyone had experience with sweetgum?

Thanks again for your kind replies. I very much appreciate any and all advice.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,898 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,929 Posts
I'm trying to think of a good way to explain this. Knowing something and explaining what you know are two entirely different things.

As wood dries, it shrinks. Wood loses moisture fastest through the end grain. That's why checking is more likely and more severe at the ends and why sealing the ends helps prevent checking. With that said, wood will still lose moisture across the grain too-just slower. Peel a growth ring off a stick and lay it flat. The outer rings are wider than the inner rings. Wood shrinks at a set rate and shrinks most across the grain with hardly any shrinkage along it's length. The outer rings therefore shrink more than the inner rings. Something has to give. Once the shrinkage exceeds the tensile strength of the wood, the wood splits. Drying slowly helps to minimize and equalize the forces involved in drying wood. In my admittedly limited experience the bark does slow and helps to equalize drying along the length of the stick.

The short version: You have less chances of the wood developing radial splits if you leave the bark on while it cures.

Cutting the stick long will minimize checking where it matters without sealing the ends. I do anyway so I have more choices of where to cut when I make the final stick. As you go along you will develop methods that work for you. Most problems have more than one right answer. The good news is a few radial checks won't affect the strength of the stick significantly. They just look bad. You can also fill them with a contrasting material and make a feature of them if you choose.

Sweetgum isn't native here but is grown as an ornamental along city streets. I haven't had a chance to work with it.

Rodney
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
907 Posts
Welcome to the forum Plethodon, starting is always the hardest part due to the waiting, as Cobalt says use a broom handle or as CV3 sugessts look for a supplier of shank materials. I have seen on you tube a video done by Allen Goodman (USA) he carves a woodspirit on a green wood staff (green wood is easier to carve) and part of his finishing is to use a product called Pentacryl which drives moisture out of the wood to prevent cracking, this product is more common to wood turners.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks again everyone for your very informative responses.

I started the sourwood piece last night after dinner and before I knew it my watch said 0100. I had no idea it was so late. The stick is turning out pretty good and the wood is easy to work with a draw knide and wood rasp. This stick is from the top of the young standing dead sourwood. It's dry and light weight. I'll sand it again with fine grain sand paper and steel wool, then probably apply teak oil. If I can figure out how to post a pic here on the forum, I'll post a pic of my first stick. I don't see an insert image icon in the toolbar.

I imagine there are different ideas on capping a hiking stick - leaving it plain versus caping, and metal versus other types of caps. This is my first "practise stick" that I'll use use on local trails (some are access trails to the Appalachian Trail) and as a stabilizer stick when I'm fly fishing in freestone streams. Any suggestions? I'd appreciate any input.

Thanks again for all replies. I'm really glad I joined the forum.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,126 Posts
Deadfalls: around here (northeast Oklahoma), occasional severe ice storms and wind gusts can break off suitable branches. However if they lay on the ground long, they become highly burrowed and quickly rot. Sometimes I've found a broken branch still hanging and that worked out.

Also, the crews that clear power line right-of-ways will sometimes stack wood along the margins of the right-of-way, and not haul all of it off. If you have permission to access such an area, that has provided some wood for me that wasn't in direct contact with the ground.

Best wishes! My supply is depleted too, and I have to get busy hunting for new material. Sometimes I can hike all afternoon and come back empty handed. The knees are making such things more difficult, but it's fun just tramping about the woods looking for good raw material.

If money is no object, I've found a kiln in Missouri, I don't know what the guy's main business is. But he dries Bois d'Arc (Osage Orange) and sells the staves to bow makers who want a traditional Native American bow. He is very pricey, but in an "emergency" it's a fall-back position.

Some have asked me if I'd make a stick and sell it to them. I always respond that if I charged $1 / hour, they couldn't afford a stick. ;-)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
480 Posts
I've ruined what could have been some wonderful sticks thru lack of patience. Seasoning really is the most annoying part of stick making, especially like in my case now, you have some great sticks that you just want to start on. It's quite a pain but think what's more annoying? Waiting or starting early, putting in all the time and effort and then watching the crack of doom open up?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the note about powerline right of ways CAS14. I'm familia with osage orange and it's reputation for self bows. I made a self bow a few years ago for my son. I saw osage orange often in Missour and in Alabama, but not here in northern Georgia. I wish I'd cut some osage staves for bows and walking sticks before I left Missour in 1988!

Yesterday I cut several sticks (hickory, sourwood) and sealed them, but I won't start them for a year. In the meantime, I've started on two sourwood sticks that were dead and dried, but not rotting. Sourwood is the tree whose flowers are the source of sourwood honey that's coveted in the southern Appalachains. Historically this wood was used for tool handles, sled runners, and other things because it's very close grained, dense and heavy. My brother and I tried splitting a downed sourwood once for bow staves -- and gave up! It's a really tough wood to split.

Sourwood is the most common understory tree on my property and adjacent areas. To satisfy my curiosity, I removed the bark from a small piece of "waste sourwood" about two feet long -- wow was it wet - and sealed the ends to see if it would develop the "cracks of doom" (mentioned by Batakali) along the sides as it dries. If the side cracks don't develop or are minimal, I thought down the road I could try a stick after removing the bark after cutting so that I'd have minimal tooling marks on the surface and have the surface untouched except to smooth knots. I read the extensive post on diamond willows from sticksite.com. He noted that he always removes bark after he cuts the trees and rarely has side cracks that develop. I'll let you know waht I find.

Thanks again for all comments.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,126 Posts
Perhaps three years ago, I made a container from 5" PVC, filled it part way with pentacryl, purchased from WoodCraft, pricey at $65/gal.

That chemical is supposed to penetrate the wood, replace water within cells, and thus reduce shrinkage. I never performed a controlled experiment with two pieces of green wood from the same branch, to compare shrinkage. But those sticks which I immersed for a month
never cracked. My preference is to wait, but when I'm impatient I resort
to penracryl.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
497 Posts
A couple of woods to try; crepe myrtle. If you can find some trimmings these can be very interesting. River cane, I believe this grows all over the south doesn't it? won't carve well, but it should wood burn very nicely.

Bark- I wouldn't be too quick to always remove the bark. Some bark can be very interesting to look at if it is just sanded smooth and oiled. Leave the inner bark on sassafras. It has a very nice color and interwoven design.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,929 Posts
Some smooth barked species look great with the bark on. It's one of the reasons hazel is so popular in the UK.

Leaving the bark on saves a lot of time spent stripping it off then sanding the wood underneath too.

Rodney
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,126 Posts
A neighbor cut down a diseased beech several years ago. I call this one "sum beech." Plant Wood Trunk Grass Tints and shades


The bark has remained solidly attached. I did soak it for a month in pentacryl.
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
River cane is locally abundant along some streams - I'll give it a try. Never thought about crepe myrtle LilysDad. It would be pretty "as is" after the bark sheds with a little oild finish of some type. I have a piece of red maple that has very smooth bark so I could finish that one with the bark on. Thanks to all for the suggestions. The cost of pentacryl will probably be prohibitive, but I appreciate the suggestion CAS14.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
If you run your AC regularly(and your wife lets you), I'd just leave the sticks inside if you are going to work them.

This will allow for more time for water dispersion at a slower rate and could help with checking.

Sticks can check and still be useable. I have cut and immediately started many sticks with carvings. Sometimes a crack will appear right through my spriirits face, but it makes it look old and weathered. As long as the strength of the would isn't compromised it could be a good thing. Most have been fine, especially dogwood, it's fibrous nature that makes it 'fun' to carve sometimes also helps prevent checking.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks for the tip JJireh. I decided to let my green sticks cure for a year. They'e lying on a table on my screened porch because I don't have an outbuilding with a workshop, unfortunately. I do have two sticks that I'm working on now that were standing dead. They'e both sourwood and need about two additional coats of finish. I have two more sourwood sticks (sourwood is a very common tree in this area) that were also dead with bark coming off, but I'll fininsh the first two - and learn from mistakes as I go - before I start on those. Meanwhile, I'm keeping my eye out for a young sasafrass that's dead or dying, but may end up ordering a cured sasafrass stick online later in the summer.
 
1 - 20 of 23 Posts
Top