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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone,

I registered and introduced myself about 8 months ago and then went silent because of a series of family illnesses that took up most of my time and attention. Apologies to anyone who answered my initial post and got no response or acknowledgment.

I'm interested in members' perceptions and experiences with different woods for functional sticks that go into the back country and need to handle real stress. I've looked at different datasets of wood-species density, hardness, and strength--tensile, compression, impact--and formed a general impression of where different tree species group in terms of strength and toughness. I'm curious how well that grouping fits the experience of those who have actually made and used sticks from various woods.

American white ash and European ash might be a good benchmark for comparison. White ash, of course, is the standard wood for baseball bats in the US, and European ash has a long history of combat applications from spear and lance shafts to faction-fight cudgels. My unscientific and subjective classification has four groups: (1) tougher than ash, (2) comparable to ash, (3) somewhat less tough than ash, and (4) maybe too weak for a functional walking stick. I've mostly focused on trees found in the northeast US, so will omit many that are widely used elsewhere.

Group 1: Hickories, hornbeam, hophornbeam, Oasage orange, others?

Group 2: Yellow birch, hard (sugar, rock, black) maple, elms, white oak, red oak, dogwoods, serviceberry (aka juneberry, shadbush, Sakatoon), hawthorns, apple, pear

Group 3: American and beaked hazel, red maple, paper and gray birch, American beech, black cherry, striped maple

Group 4: Aspens and cottonwoods, basswood, linden, black alder, pin (fire) cherry, willows, American mountain ash (American rowan)

I'd value feedback on the groupings themselves and also on the idea that group 4 is not tough enough to take on a serious back-country hike. I know aspens and willows are widely used in places.

I'd also be interested in hearing about peoples experience with native North American hazels. I have a nice stand of it, along with a few hawthorns, growing right in front to my house. The whole area was cut when I moved here in 2019. It was so dense and tall that it was hard to say just what was there, and completely blocked a lovely view of the White Mountains. I was delight to see tons of native hazel growing back and am removing the aspens, maples, and basswood saplings to encourage them.


Bill
 

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Glad you're back Dubyajay. Hope things are getting back to normal.

I'd say your groupings were pretty close to my experience with a couple of minor changes. I'd put hawthorn in Group 1 and black cherry and beech in 2. Some of the rest I haven't had enough experience with to make a good judgement, but yellow birch, maple(s) and ash are the three I use most often.

Hazel doesn't grow well in my area, so I'm no help there. I think the type of alder we have here is mostly green alder; makes a decent stick. Aspen (usually referred to as poplar or popple here) always struck me as too light so I've never tried it.

There is a mountain ash I've been keeping my eye on next to the irrigation pond my brother dug for my Dad a few years back. Growing pretty slowly with a nice shape to it so I'm hoping it'll make something decent. I know it turns nicely on a lathe.
 

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I reckon I'm kind of a simpleton when it comes to wood toughness. I collect what I can find no matter the tree species. If it is sturdy, dried and hard I work it, if it's still green I bin it in my stash for down the road at a later date. I guess being on the prairie I can't be too choosy as some of yall in local finds. I've tried purchasing woods but have had mediocre results with that so I'm determined to stick to my own scavengering.
 

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It has been a few decades sense I roamed the back country. Most of which was in the Grand Tetons and Colorado . A 1 to 11/2 inch diameter limb or sapling of many woods will work for a trekking stick. My first choice would be one from the hickory family of trees. I also used used apple and aspen. Here is a good site to look at hardness, elastic modulus and rupture strength.
Wood Identification Guide | The Wood Database
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Glad you're back Dubyajay. Hope things are getting back to normal.

I'd say your groupings were pretty close to my experience with a couple of minor changes. I'd put hawthorn in Group 1 and black cherry and beech in 2. Some of the rest I haven't had enough experience with to make a good judgement, but yellow birch, maple(s) and ash are the three I use most often.

Hazel doesn't grow well in my area, so I'm no help there. I think the type of alder we have here is mostly green alder; makes a decent stick. Aspen (usually referred to as poplar or popple here) always struck me as too light so I've never tried it.

There is a mountain ash I've been keeping my eye on next to the irrigation pond my brother dug for my Dad a few years back. Growing pretty slowly with a nice shape to it so I'm hoping it'll make something decent. I know it turns nicely on a lathe.
Thanks, dww21 I was on the fence about where to put hawthorn, beech, and black cherry, also serviceberry. All hard, tough woods. I have a black cherry marked for harvesting in the fall. It will be by first stick with that wood, and I'm looking forward to working with it.

I cut a handful of hazel sticks last fall. It's quite common here, and I have at least a dozen dense clumps of it in front of the house. The problem is finding stick of adequate size. Both native varieties her, American and Beaked hazel have maximum heights and diameters that are smaller than common European hazel. On top of that, they tend to grow here as a small understory shrub, with growth kept down bt shading from taller trees. I'm hoping that opening up light for them will encourage longer, thicker stems. The growth habit, multiple stems emerging from a central root mass, means that many have great natural root handles Automotive tire Road surface Asphalt Wood Wheel
and can be sustainable harvested without killing the tree.

Automotive tire Road surface Asphalt Wood Wheel
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I reckon I'm kind of a simpleton when it comes to wood toughness. I collect what I can find no matter the tree species. If it is sturdy, dried and hard I work it, if it's still green I bin it in my stash for down the road at a later date. I guess being on the prairie I can't be too choosy as some of yall in local finds. I've tried purchasing woods but have had mediocre results with that so I'm determined to stick to my own scavengering.
I reckon I'm kind of a simpleton when it comes to wood toughness. I collect what I can find no matter the tree species. If it is sturdy, dried and hard I work it, if it's still green I bin it in my stash for down the road at a later date. I guess being on the prairie I can't be too choosy as some of yall in local finds. I've tried purchasing woods but have had mediocre results with that so I'm determined to stick to my own scavengering.
I've seen some of the sticks you've made from your "own scavenging!" You seem to do pretty well out there on the prairie! Your basic point about not overthinking stuff is a good one that I'll keep in mind!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
It has been a few decades sense I roamed the back country. Most of which was in the Grand Tetons and Colorado . A 1 to 11/2 inch diameter limb or sapling of many woods will work for a trekking stick. My first choice would be one from the hickory family of trees. I also used used apple and aspen. Here is a good site to look at hardness, elastic modulus and rupture strength.
Wood Identification Guide | The Wood Database
I'm north of the range for hickories, unfortunately. They'd certainly be among my top choices if I had access to them. Thanks for the link to The Wood Database. It's a great resource. One relevant measure it doesn't provide is impact bending--important for baseball bats, cudgels, and any application involving hard knocks. This 1999 report from USDA includes impact bending, but it has nothing like the range of species as The Wood Database: https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr113/ch04.pdf

Edited to include link to USDA report
 

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I'm north of the range for hickories, unfortunately. They'd certainly be among my top choices if I had access to them. Thanks for the link to The Wood Database. It's a great resource. One relevant measure it doesn't provide is impact bending--important for baseball bats, cudgels, and any application involving hard knocks. This 1999 report from USDA includes impact bending, but it has nothing like the range of species as The Wood Database.
You can order hickory sticks. Treeline USA is a source. HICKORY WALKING STICK
 

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Hickory can be harvested in the eastern half of my state (including my county) but it's usually on private lands so hard to get. I do love working it however and have used it for toppers on canes and hiking sticks by purchasing bags of hickory chunks for smoking meats at my local grocery.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hickory can be harvested in the eastern half of my state (including my county) but it's usually on private lands so hard to get. I do love working it however and have used it for toppers on canes and hiking sticks by purchasing bags of hickory chunks for smoking meats at my local grocery.
That's a great idea for topper material!
 
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