Walking Stick Forum banner
1 - 20 of 31 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,086 Posts
I was having a discussion with one of our members (CV3) regarding carving certain woods so I thought I'd throw this topic out for a little "chew the fat"

Myself if I have preference I like the look of a red maple staff, but I found out through trial and error its a miserable wood to try and hand carve, so after seeing our friend from England (Cobalt) affixing carved toppers to his sticks a light bulb went off I and started adding toppers to red oak staffs. I have expanded to a couple other woods as well.

I find adding the toppers a bit less stressful than carving a complete staff. For me decent sticks are at a premium and as a new carver I feel more comfortable turning a topper into designer firewood than trashing a whole stick if I screw up.

I like just about any wood for a staff, I have made mine from silver & red maple, red oak, black cherry, hickory, buckthorn, sassafras, tulip poplar and white pine, I even have a balsam fir stick I salvaged off the scrap Christmas Tree pile.

Carving the wood is another thing. As I previously have stated I have found red oak a rough wood for a noobie stick carver to work with and I have given up trying to carve it at this point.

Black cherry for me is a hard wood to carve also, but it doesn't crush when using gouges or V tools, it finishes nice and holds very good detail, I like it. I have carved several toppers and a couple canes from it.

Lately I have been carving toppers from old white pine 2x4's. Pine is an easy wood to carve, holds decent detail, but it is very tough to get a good finish on as it is bland in color so oils don't do much to it and it stains blotchy even after using stain conditioner. ( I have since read to use conditioner twice prior to staining)

I have carved maple with similar results to white pine, though it takes oils a bit better and doesn't seem to break or chip as easy.

Now I am going to expand my horizon's and try whittling on hickory next. I know it's a very hard wood and will require patience and a lot of stropping, but hey I'm retired what's the rush?

Also anybody work with mulberry? I've got a couple weedy white mulberry trees I keep lopping off with the chain saw in the spring and at the end of the season they are back to 15' tall. Thought I'd put them to use.

Gee, guess I didn't pick a favorite did I? I suppose my favorite is the wood I'm whittling on now!

Well what say you guys and gals, have you got a favorite?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
969 Posts
I don't have a favorite at this point, but I have a few preferences based on what I intend to do.

My earliest focus was on hiking sticks, and I was primarily concerned with durability. I like using any oak, but its hard to find branches that are straight enough of any length. Mostly straight lengths of beech, 3' - 6' long are quite nice. I've tried a variety of maples. Only the sugar maple seemed to be sturdy.

I did not initially consider adding carvings. The only thing I was interested in was creating a comfortable grip, and adding a little detail, mostly to keep a hand from slipping too far from the grip area. The red and black oaks were pretty easy to cut. The sugar maple I tried to detail, but proved brittle, and prone to chipping. The softer maples carved easier, but didn't seem too sturdy.

Along the way, I discovered sassafras and sycamore. The quality of those woods is quite variable. Sassafras doesn't take detail well (that I've been able to manage) but is surprisingly rigid for its weight. Sycamore can be rigid depending on the piece, and also light. Takes detail a bit better, but the grain tends to be very irregular. I've been able to put nice finishes on both without much trouble.

I'm moving more towards carving figural work. To date, I've had decent results from black cherry.

I haven't tried any lime, aka linden, which appears to be the great favorite for figural and decorative carving. I did try working on some American linden, aka basswood. My opinion was that it was way too soft for hiking sticks. I've subsequently learned that European linden is harder than American, and is closer to the maple called box elder.

I'll mention some preferences from my sculpture prof. from way back when. His favorite for sculpture was black walnut, which had also been his teachers favorite. Next was mahogany, but finding that was hard and expensive. Cherry was good. He did a few in sycamore, but I suppose it may have been because he also was an Indiana native. I know his teacher used a wider variety of woods, one of which was a so called rosewood. There are a number of species called that, and all are quite hard.

My only encounters with linden were when used as a block for wood cuts. It was easy to cut about any shape into it. But the down side was that after as little as 20 impressions, the edges of the cuts would begin to disintegrate. The only sculpture I ever saw made from it had been covered w. gesso (gypsum or chalk dust w. glue binder) and then painted of gilded. As Cobalt has mentioned, the wood has little figure of its own, and somewhat boring by itself.

I was taught that pear wood was a good choice for detail work, and saw a number of good finished works. However, I've never seen a supply of it, even though the trees are very common for fruit where I live.

I haven't carved white pine, but I have carved other pine, and Douglas fir. Easy to cut, but prone to tear out. Also, as noted, the finish between the softer and harder portions of the rings can be very different.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,170 Posts
Have to agree with gdenby about lime no charactuer but if your going to paint it ideal. sometimes i also find it a bit soft ,but that a case of getting used to carving it.

I love most fruit wood apple pear nice grain if you can incorporate it into the design.Sycamore is oftern used here .bit of a favorite for crooks and cardigan sticks..also cherry good grain.

The advantage of lime is you can use shape and dont have to restict yourself just to the shape of the staff.

it also allows you to try and get the immpresion of movement such as a bird flying, or animal leaping of the staff.Birds heads are easy to cary but allow a nice flow of the design into the shank.As i oftern find some carvings just stiff and rigid in apperance and need to get away from the restrictions of shape the shank otherwise it looks rather dead.

Pine i dont like the grain is irregular and its light with not much strengh rather brittle.

There is a wood called pink ivory its from africa expensive but great colour

Most of the firs i wouldnt use

Gennerally i always use gesso as a primer for most of my painting, but cheap ones are to chalky. but it does allow a good finish .

but my favourite has to be the fruit woods for toppers and blackthorn and hazel and sweet chestnut for the shanks

thanks guys good topic
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
969 Posts
I have a couple of mulberry sticks curing, and a small log that I will break up and us as BBQ smoke wood. The log is about 40 years old. I have hopes for both. I'm uncertain of what subspecies it is. My best guess is black mulberry.

I had a small slab from the log that I left out over the winter sitting in a flower pot to see how it weathered. It checked a lot, and darkened considerably. I split of a chunk yesterday that would have fit in a 2" cube. Pictures below.

After cutting out the chunk from a section w. little sap wood (pic1), I roughly smoothed it (pic2.) It was still quite tough, and my rasps were not very effective across the grain.

Brown Wood Natural material Hardwood Tints and shades

Wood Natural material Artifact Fossil Close-up

I continued smoothing and lightly sanding to get a curved edge, similar to a stick shaft. The color was quite nice. Not as bright as Osage Orange, to which it is related, but eye catching. (pic 3)

Wood Rectangle Wood stain Hardwood Cuisine

I tried carving some detail lines. One line was made w. a cheap craft blade. The other w. a needle file, and enhanced w. the same craft knife. (pic 4)

Food Wood Ingredient Dish Cuisine

I tried making a few dimples with a small gouge. And then a larger deeper cut w. a few different tools. (pic 4 & 5)

Even though I had just sharpened and honed the gouge, I could not cut cleanly across the grain. With the larger "leaf" shape, the gouge worked well enough cutting along the grain or going somewhat diagonal. I needed a straight edged blade to get a clean cut across the grain down into the wood. As w. the dimples, it was hard to get a clean cut because the wood was alternately mushy and tough. I put an accent line in the trough of the leaf w. an engraving tool.

Natural material Wood Artifact Cuisine Trunk

General observations.

Although substantially softer and less massive than Osage Orange, the heartwood is quite tough, being harder than birch or hard maple. It has a brilliant color when fresh cut, and if that could be maintained, would be quite attractive. The softer portions of the rings are prone darken dramatically.

Given that my sample had been exposed to harsh weather for months, and it came from a log that had been cut a year earlier, I can't say if the mushiness of portions is standard.

However, among the samples I have cut, I've noticed that the quality of the wood varies dramatically, as would be expected from any tree that can "grow like a weed." I have cut branches of the same diameter, and found that some will be nothing but sapwood, while others will have a substantial portion of heartwood. The log section I have is mostly heartwood, and the diameter is about 6". There was a mulberry cut down at a vacant house a few blocks away. I had watched it grow for about 15 years. It was more than 8" thick, but had almost no heartwood.

My guess is that if mulberry was polled, and grown in an area where it was naturally limited by shade and lesser amounts of water, one could be assured of a fairly good shaft wood that might be suitable for simple shapes.

May mess w. some sapwood today, and see if its worth anything.
 

Attachments

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,126 Posts
Gee, guess I didn't pick a favorite did I? I suppose my favorite is the wood I'm whittling on now!
I have so much to learn, and of the two woods I will mention, one is unlikely to be carved successfully. Both are very hard woods, once fully cured.

I have had a lucky first attempt using honey locust. Each piece seems different but the stick for my son had inner bark that adhered firmly to the sapwood in places, imparting some interesting color variations.

Sandwiched between other projects, I am working on some bois d'arc aka Osage orange. A draw knife shaves huge, flat, coarse pieces off, my kiln-dried sticks. Control is tricky, and the hard knots will ruin the blade if I don't drill them first. But as the wood is worked down, sanded, and dries even further, the wood texture seems to miraculously transform to a beautiful fine texture. The sticks will wind up mostly very thin, as the wood is very dense.

I will find a photo or two.

This is my son's honey locust stick:

Green Wood Branch Plant Trunk
Leaf Plant Wood Trunk Twig

This is a segment of an Alpenstock style of European rock hammer of mine from honey locust:
Brown Brickwork Brick Wood Building material

I may have to take a photo of some unfinished bois d'arc work later.
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,170 Posts
A couple of interesting peices there , both woods i have never seen

Have come across the problem of the grain being very soft and some very hard ,i just put it down to the conditions it was stored under?

Thats a nice grain on the locust shank . ,

I have a peice of cherry i am working on at the moment it has a knot in its very hard takes the cutting edge of the chisel, but hopefuuly when the viking finished it will enhance the look of it,
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,086 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Tx for all the input fella's.

From your pics Gdenby, the mulberry looks to have wide growth rings much like silver maple, I have had some success with silver maple staffs, also your mulberry seems to have some nice color as well.

I think I'll wait till mid winter to lop down the white mulberry's this year, let the sap go down and dry them out. What the hey, even if they don't make decent sticks I still have to cut them down. They are growing in the middle of the shrub border and are shading out the bridal wreaths and lilac bushes. Momma says they got to go even if the birds love the fruit. (birds probably planted them)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
My favorite type is 'Free'
I don't really have a favorite, I look for overall shape instead of grain.

I like fruit woods, hard to find a nice straight stick though.

I like black walnut but hate carving it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,485 Posts
Black Walnut is at the top of my list! It is hard, finishes nice, resists everything, and is fun to turn and finish on the lathe!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,170 Posts
the honey locust looks a nice shank the colours are good .Pity i cant get some of the woods i have seen on here .If i did i would mayby remove the bark more on the shanks,I also would like to see if i could straighten them ,as i would see it as a challenge .Most of the sticks i see and work with are pretty straight and over here it would be considered inferior not to be ,but i can see the attraction of the natural look. Hazel generally grows straight just needs tweeking after seasoning . But a good range of working methods are helpful when dealing with different types of wood .as the are quite a lot of different methods of stripping the bark.

I have only stripped the bark of hawthorn and used a draw knife then scrapped it it worked well.

But i wouldnt remove the bark of some shanks they have a good colour like chestnut and hazel, but this depends where there grown .The hazel in the west side of the uk tend to have a pinky snake skin pattern wheres as the one i harvest are darker with flecks of silve,browns .Also the growing conditions effect the colours those grown on clay ground tend to be darker than those grown on chalky/sandy soils and drainage plays a big part in the finished look.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
969 Posts
Tx for all the input fella's.

From your pics Gdenby, the mulberry looks to have wide growth rings much like silver maple, I have had some success with silver maple staffs, also your mulberry seems to have some nice color as well.

I think I'll wait till mid winter to lop down the white mulberry's this year, let the sap go down and dry them out. What the hey, even if they don't make decent sticks I still have to cut them down. They are growing in the middle of the shrub border and are shading out the bridal wreaths and lilac bushes. Momma says they got to go even if the birds love the fruit. (birds probably planted them)

The rings on the sample were fairly close for mulberry. It hadn't been growing in full sunlight, and had been cutback a few times over the years. Most of the rings in that piece were about 1/8", some smaller, a few larger. I've seen mulberry rings as big as 1/2"

I cut a long section from one last winter in the middle of the fierce cold. It was just across the alley, and the snow was up to my knees, so that was about as much stick harvesting as I wanted to do. Guess what, I just looked at it in my garage. There are leaves sprouting over most of the length. The log I brought home kept sprouting for 6 months. I doubt waiting for winter will make cutting them a lot easier.

And birds always plant them. The berries can cause diarrhea in both humans and birds.

I've recently read that enough glyphosate on recently lopped young mulberries might kill them. I've got one in the midst of my lilacs, where I would not want to use any poison. I cut it back beneath the soil at least twice a year.

Yesterday, I worked w. a small diameter stick which had very little heart wood at the thickest point, and maybe 1 ring of heartwood at the thinest. Average 1" thickness. Not completely rigid, but also not completely dry. Also cut during the winter, and left exposed outside. The inner bark was bright green, and slippery. Just loosened bits with a knife, and pulled whole strips of bark away by hand.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,170 Posts
Keeping busy with the mulberry ?

Its interesting that most people put more effort into the shanks than i do .perhaps it a wider range of material available to you.

I tend to be fussy on the shank i use but put more into the toppers?

It is odd what attracts people to this oftern irratating pastime, still its a good way to chill out and relax

I wonder whats going to happen to the shank gdenby when it dries? so let us know but just be careful what you find under the mulberry bush lol
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
969 Posts
Now that the weather has swing around to quite warm, I have to adapt before I can be very busy w. anything. Temp around 30C today, and almost completely clear, so the near solstice sun is quite strong.

I'm investigating mulberry because it is so very common where I live. If the sap wood proves to be rigid, it would provide a huge source of shanks. Because of the weed like nature, they are often cut back, but in a few years will produce several new trunks that are straight for over 8 feet, but still thin enough to shave down to walking stick thickness. Sometimes those young trunks are mostly free of side branches, and the bark is fairly smooth and attractive. Alternatively, it is very easy to strip away the bark when it is still green.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,170 Posts
I not sure you have the old wives tale that children used to be told ,that they where found under the mulberry bush
Have no idea where it comes from or why the the mulberry bush ? but anything like me in my youth it probably was`nt the mullberry lol
Dose the bark need removing if its looks good?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,086 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
In the UK kids were found under the mulberry bush? I always thought the stork brought baby's. My mother got it all wrong!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,170 Posts
they do bring them lol,
but the others are a unexepcted finds due to fooling aroud with maidens in your youth
The saying comes from a old nursery ryhme
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
969 Posts
The bark looks OK to me. But seeing how easily it peels away when green, I wonder if it would start to flake away w. time.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
45 Posts
This is an excellent thread that you've started, MJC4. I like learning about the character of these woods, and what other carvers are experiencing -- what they like or don't like about them. Very helpful.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,170 Posts
I harvested about 100 hazel shanks in march i think just drying them out in the garage ,no signs of any splitting.They are abot 6-8ft long so i can always cut them dowm which i will do when i have straightend them before i cut to size..but hazel grows pretty straight so just tweek them with the hot air gun.

Would like to see the mulberry when you finished it gdenby its a wood i have never used for a shank ,sounds as tho theres possibilitys there .different and never heard of anyone using it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
969 Posts
Here's a pic of some mulberry that's mostly sapwood.

Plant Wood Tree Natural landscape Trunk

I've smoothed the smaller branch, w. the result that the brighter yellow of the top layer is mostly gone. Still, its fairly rigid, and I think is adequately strong.

The larger small trunk show the yellow that the inner wood has. I stripped off the bark almost entirely by hand. Pried up an edge w. a knife, and pulled strips away.

The down side is that the wood had only seasoned for maybe 6 months, and is beginning to split longitudinally. The wood holds so much water even in the winter, that a pice like that might take several years to cure. Oh, well.

I inserted a pic of a portion of the stripped bark. I was quite dry and stiff, so I sanded and oiled a portion of it. Not all the green tissue had faded. But much of the smoothed bark was still a nice yellow-orange-brown.
 

Attachments

1 - 20 of 31 Posts
Top