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I have a Staff I made out of a devil's walking stick tree that I found in a small dead patch of them, mowed over by a flood, and sun baked in the middle of the Frio river in Texas, around 1998 when I was ~15. I picked out the best one in the patch, burned off the ends in a fire, widdled away the thorns all over it, and the bark, and then sanded it, and drenched it in pledge wood oil. It is 69 Inches in length (5' 9"), about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch diameter at the bottom, and about 1 inch at the top. Thats about the basics of it. Since then I have used and abused this stick. it is strong, lightweight, and looks great, despite the plethora of vertical cracks that have always been there. I trust it is what I am saying, and I want it to still be with me when I am an old man. I really want to finish this staff, but I have very little info to go on, and even less info about devils walking stick wood... The bottom section has some cracking and splintering, and so I ordered a end piece that I think should work out pretty well, with options for indoor and outdoor use, to prevent any further damage and increase its utility. Any advice or info on how I should go about finishing this thing? What kind of wood prep needs to be done before shellacking? should I shellac? special instructions for treating cracks before sealing (there are a LOT of them)? leave them alone and maybe just give it some danish oil once every 10 years instead? Do you think that end piece, made out of stainless steel is good enough? What about finishes, are their better options I can look at before I permanently alter this thing? ect, ect, ect... Any help would be greatly appreciated. When it comes to materials and methods, I am aiming for stuff that will give this stick at least 100 years of useful life, if that is possible. It is the only walking stick i really care about, and don't want to hear about how it has too many cracks and isn't worth the time. It has already proven itself in over 15 years of use...

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Greetings and welcome to the site Falling Skies .

First of all I would cut the stick down to a manageable size walking stick . Most walking/hiking sticks stand no taller than the users shoulder. To determine proper height use this as a rule of them. Hold your arm straight down at your side then bend your arm into a 90* L at your elbow. The height of your hand is the grip area of your stick another 9"-14" above your grip area is perfect. As I am 5" 9" I grip my stick around 44" so my average stick height is 58" give or take. Your stick should be thickest at the top and taper to the narrow bottom.You may be able to get rid of some of the bad areas just by cutting the stick to length.

Filling cracks.

All stick makers have had to deal with cracks at one time or another, here's how I do mine.

I start with a stainable/paintable carpenters wood glue. I use Elmers Wood Glue Max. I mix the glue with sawdust into a paste and fill the cracks. This may take several applications depending on depth of cracks as the glue will shrink. After I have built the patch up, I will then sand the whole stick with 80 grit, then 150 grit. Its at this point I would stain the whole stick with an oil based stain such as Minwax special walnut ( a dark stain will cover repairs the best) and see how the repairs blend with the original wood. After the first coat of stain is thoroughly dry I would then sand again with 220 and apply another coat of stain. Then finish with at least two coats of Spar polyurethane. Once again I use a Minwax product, Helmsmen Spar poly. It an oil base. A paracord or leather wrist strap makes for a nice addition to any walking stick.

Have a look at some pics of my sticks and some of the other stick makers in the photo gallery to get some ideas. Hope this info is helpful & happy sticking!

Mark
 

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wow, great info! I have been looking at the sticks around the forum, and there appears to be a lot of different ways to make good walking sticks, all of them good... I am sorry, but cutting this stick "down to size" would be destroying it in my eyes. It's length is one of its best features, and I don't consider cracked sections to be "bad". If we cut out every cracked section, there would literally be nothing left of the stick lol... I especially love that little crook at the top. Thanks for the info on crack repairs. that sounds like a lot of work for a few cracks, and this one is covered in them... Im starting to wonder if its worth it to do that lol... Or is that a mistake, and the cracks will get worse if they are not filled in? It's "ugliness" is part of its charm... I am really starting to warm up to the idea of just soaking this thing in danish oil every decade or so ever since I heard about danish oil, yesterday :thumbsu: . Any thoughts on that route? What about teak oil? Do I need to worry about the pledge with orange oil currently in there? Would it maybe be a better idea to treat the wood with danish oil, then wait a while, years even, before doing crack repairs and finishing? or would the opposite be true? I don't have much experience with working with wood... sorry about the seemingly endless questions...
 

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Hi. I can understand your sentimental attachment to that particular stick. Myself, I'd find the length unwieldy, but I understand the stick has its own history by now.

I think the metal tip is a good idea.

I'd guess that if the cracks were caused when the wood absorbed water in the flood, and then baked in the sun, causing uneven drying. While you may not have had any trouble, my concern would be that the cracks could grow if more water got into them, and the wood expanded.

Filling them as MJC4 described would certainly stabilize them. If you like the look of them, I can think of 2 things to do. The first, which might be a fuss ,would be to work a little glue down into the cracks. Lots of wood workers use very thin "super glue" to stabilize end grain, and keep it from cracking. I haven't used it much, so am uncertain how easy it would be to squirt into the cracks. I know carpenter's "yellow" wood glue is very enduring, and water proof, and dries semi-transparent. But it is viscous, and I don't know how hard it might be to work into the cracks. Also, it doesn't soak in well to old dry wood.

The second thing I can think of is to simply give the piece a light sanding overall, and refinish with several coats of oil. Tung oil, originally used for ship decks, forms a tough barrier after a few coats. I've used teak oil, so called, which is thinner, and penetrates dense wood better. I know others here have used boiled linseed oil. If the wood is smooth enough, oil alone can end up having a nice sheen, but not glossy like varnish.

Don't use shellac. Shellac does not hold up well out doors. I haven't used varnish for awhile, as it can become brittle and flake off, and wears away under one's hand. I suspect lacquer might do ok outside, but the lacquered works I've seen also had chipping and flaking, so it may be unsuitable for rough use.

If you do varnish, you might want to wrap the grip area so the varnish seal isn't broken by hand friction.

I doubt the Pledge is doing much of anything at this point. I don't think it is for exterior use, and has probably broken down from exposure to UV in sunlight.
 

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Ok... I am starting to warm up to the idea of crack repair... even if it does take a long time... Would adding sawdust to the mix help? I have read around here that danish and teak oil are more likley to soak into the wood because its a bit thinner than most other options, and I like the sound of that. Why Tung oil? How about both, danish followed by tung? SO MANY OPTIONS! And again, should I wait to do crack repairs untill after I have treated the wood? and if so, for how long? days, weeks, months, years? That order of operations just seems to make sense to my mind. am I wrong? I am looking for a good result, and I don't care if I have to sit on the project for a while to make sure it happens. Oh yeah, and this stick should expect to get wet again... Thanks for all the info!
 

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The reason to mix sawdust w. glue is so the sawdust can absorb some surface finish. Also, the common practice is to use the dust from the wood being filled, so the fibers will expand and contract more like the wood itself. In general, on must be careful when joining different woods together because all expand an contract w. heat and moisture at different rates.

I have used Elmers ProBond Interior/Exterior wood fillers, which comes in various colors, but I have used relatively small amounts, just enough to seal gracked knots, of fill small rotted areas. I don't know what effect it might have when used in larger amounts. The Elmers filler is stainable, so I would suppose it would absorb an oil finish.

If you put the oil into the cracks before the filler, it will prevent the filler from sticking as well as it might.

The composition of Danish oil depends on the manufacturer, but it usually is mostly Tung Oil. I suppose it was formulated to dry somewhat quicker than Tung, and perhaps be more penetrating. As I mentioned, I've used Tung as a finish, and like how it works, but the final coats took over a week to dry sitting in sunlight. Also, I use lots of dense woods, and Tung is too thick and viscous for good penetration. I've switched to "teak" oil, which is thinner. Its components also depend on the manufacturer. Another upside is the brand I've been using, Watco, isn't as yellow-ish as pure tung oil.
 

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I've also used Watco Danish oil, and 100% Tung oil. My intuition is that gdenby's observation is correct, that Danish oil may be more penetrating than pure Tung oil. I don't know which is more protective of the wood. I also agree that it is very important to seal the cracks prior to finishing the stick, if you plan to do that. I recently bought some Watco teak oil, but I haven't yet tried it.

Good luck with your project. Sounds like you will create a family heirloom.
 

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These thoughts on different oils are great. Might it be said that teak is the thinnest, followed by danish, and then tung? I am imagining a 1, 2, 3 application process... 1 of teak, 2 of danish, and 3 of tung? overkill? I dont mind overkill...

And it is now clear to me that my next/first step will be crack repair, and this talk of wood penetration, and observing that many of these cracks have very thin ends... I am going to need a thin glue for at least the ends of all cracks... Gotta do some more research I think... I would like to use the same glue for the entirety of all cracks though... if there are options, i would prefer ones that are time tested/old rather than new chemicals that might break down and at the 40 year mark or something...

Edit: Below I am generating an order for me to follow, and it includes ideas that I have not yet brought up. Sorry if it seems a bit over-involved or elaborate... Thoughts welcome.

---------------------------------------------------

Fit End piece/shape end section for it

Crack Repair/Sanding

embed tx star in top hole/fill top hole

initials Carving/info burning?

Oil Applications

Install end piece

Finish/seal? (seal over the chrome section for rust and water protection? )

handhold wrap?

Find another rubber end to go over the interchangeable rubber end to protect it/delay wear (sacrificial surface), since it is essentially a permanent part after all that work to install it and seal it in...
 

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I'd be hesitant to apply different kinds of oils. While there is pure teak oil, I haven't found any. All of the teak oils I've seen are proprietary mixtures of various substances. Likewise Danish. And most of the stuff out there with the word "tung" in it are also mixtures. So at first I settled on pure tung. Aside from taking forever to dry, it seems to work pretty well. It was only when I made a few sticks out of very dense wood, hornbeam for one, that I sought out "teak." The Watco brand appears to be a mix of napthol and a variant of mineral spirits.

Seems to me that you are taking on a rather complex task. Sort of like being a painting conservator, not just a painter. Not just making a fine appearance, but fixing up existing problems too.

When in doubt, research. Then research some more.
 

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I'd be hesitant to apply different kinds of oils. While there is pure teak oil, I haven't found any. All of the teak oils I've seen are proprietary mixtures of various substances. Likewise Danish. And most of the stuff out there with the word "tung" in it are also mixtures. So at first I settled on pure tung. Aside from taking forever to dry, it seems to work pretty well. It was only when I made a few sticks out of very dense wood, hornbeam for one, that I sought out "teak." The Watco brand appears to be a mix of napthol and a variant of mineral spirits.

Seems to me that you are taking on a rather complex task. Sort of like being a painting conservator, not just a painter. Not just making a fine appearance, but fixing up existing problems too.

When in doubt, research. Then research some more.
Yeah, i guess it is kind of like a conservatory project when you look at it like that. I was mainly just aiming at my objectives, but the end result is almost the same, but with a focus on it still being able to take on heavy use. It's main job lately has just been to prop open my bedroom door as I like, :rolleyes: .... In the course of messing around with this stick in irresponsible ways, I have learned that it is also a great defensive tool... I was thinking about getting another staff or two made of about the same length, to purely abuse and learn some defensive skills with...
 

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Can't go wrong with carpenters wood glues. Time tested products.
And that is looking like one of my best options at this point... I am curious about sawdust being added to the mix... How much of a worry is adding any random old sawdust, or is there a particular kind I can look for that will be less trouble? I think my only other option would be to take a trip down to the frio, find another patch of plants, cut one down, and saw it up just for dust.... or is all of this completely unnecessary and i can do without adding anything at all just fine?
 
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