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Welcome aboard, I'm rather new here myself. I just picked up a 40" Vevor lathe for less than $200, not the greatest thing but I wanted to try my hand at it first. Harbor Freight has a 33" for $399 and it gets good reviews. Market place on FB or Craigslist for better equipment cheap.

Natural sticks which are fairly straight can be straightened with heat and then sanded to be very round/tapered.
I also mill out a straight stick out of larger not so straight stick or thick lumber, sometimes with a spoke shave other times with a band saw. .

I try all kinds. I'm still looking for a Hazel bush in my area, so far no luck. Love working on Diamond Willow too.
 

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My oak saplings here are White, Red, or pin oak, I think White and red are best, I take the top 8ft off a sapling and let it dry with the bark on, and if you wax the ends that will help too but might extend the dying time.

This oak is extremely strong for it's diameter but would be tough to carve as it does not have many growth rings, so it's best for adding a topper of what ever sort.

John
 
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