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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone! I'm very excited to find a site such as this one as my 11 year old son and I have decided to try our hand at making walking sticks. Our interest in the subject stems from my desire for an irish blackthorn cane/shillelagh so while researching the subject I found this forum. Today we cut our first two test subjects, one of which appears to be some type of birch possible. I know this probably isn't a suitable wood, but it does have a kind of decent shape to it after we dug it up. So, how do we begin? Hand it up? Or do we need to prepare it some way for seasoning? Thanks for the advice and direction as we start out!
 

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Greetings Spoonhead and welcome to the site. I don't know much about shillelaghs, our resident shillelagh expert, RAD, can probably help you out.

I do know whatever type of wood you have there if it was recently dug up it will need to season for a while. I would figure at a minimum 6 months before you can start the stick making process. I would find a dry spot in the garage, basement or barn and put it away for awhile. As far as how to store it, I don't do anything special. I keep my sticks to be in a big fiber barrel in the corner of my garage. Some guys put wax or Elmer's glue on the end to keep the stick from cracking. I personally don't mess with it as most of my sticks are long enough to cut any cracking off the end and still have enough left to work with.

Mark
 

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Welcome to the site! Looks like you have a great speciman for a Shillelagh!! Do a search on this site -- we've done a lot of talking about preparing the sticks, seasoning them properly etc. etc. -- Most the sticks that I dig up like the one you have, I hang in the barn for a couple of years before I work on them --- I know, that will be frustrating to wait! There are some methods to spead up the process, but they can be expensive -- like a Pentacryl dip. We've talked about that method to some extent on this site; and I have personally used it - and it works. Once I got started with the Shillelagh making, I went out and started searching for trees that I could dig up and eventually have a supply that would keep me very busy! So go out and dig up some more! Then when you start doing it you will have a constant supply to work with. BTW -- the early Shillelaghs were not made out of Blackthorn, but Oak -- so if you have access to a supply of white oak saplings that would be great! I have also found a few Hawthorn trees (the closes thing we have to Blackthorn here in the US) on my property that will also make great Shillelaghs! Frankly though, unless you are planing on using your Shillelagh to thump someone over the head at the county fair, or unless you are involved in the art of stick fighting, any properly shaped hardwood will do the trick! ---- If I can be of any help don't be afraid to ask!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you gentlemen for the welcome and advice! While I'm not exactly planning to thump any heads, with 22+ years of martial arts teaching experience, I wouldn't be opposed to the idea should a situation arise. ; )

So, with a two year wait on my homemade version, is there a forum member who makes them to sell? I think my wife and son are contemplating buying me one for Christmas and the ones from oldshillelagh.com are a little pricey.

So why the long wait for the seasoning process? Is there something I need to do to it while it seasons?
 

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Rule of thumb is that you let them dry 1 year for every inch in diameter. A Pentacryl dip would cut that at least in half -- maybe more, but it is also pricey and you could probably buy one from Oldeshillelagh in the meantime cheaper! The Oldeshillelagh shop in County Wicklow is the place to buy one if your going to do that!

I'm not selling yet! At least not in time for your needs. One of these days I will -- but the ones I've made thus far I can't seem to part with! It's a sickness, and an addiction that is hard to overcome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Are you sure I couldn't persuade you into parting with one? I have seen a few of your pics posted on here and could assure you that it would become a valued family heirloom to be passed down to future generations. In other words it would be going to a good home. ; )

In looking at the oldshillelagh site, the current selection is sparse. I've added myself to their list for updates but am afraid it might not be replenished in time for Christmas. I want a stick that is the correct length for a 5'9" gent but am unsure of what would be best. Also I would like it to be of diameter and weight to be comfortable to carry, but also capable of head thumping as mentioned earlier. Standing straight, my wrist joint measures at 33.5". And honestly I'm not sure what shape head is most desirable in a blackthorn? I would also love to have one of the fighting sticks but guess I should start with a cane.

Again any and all advice appreciated!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This one is gorgeous! What species wood is it? And can you direct me to any threads that mention the methods used to create it?
 

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One word on the drying process, heat. I leave my future walking sticks in the unheated garage as I'm not in a hurry to work them as I have some that are ready, but If you store your sticks in a warm place they will season a bit quicker. An attic is a great spot to dry sticks.

We also collect a lot of downed wood that has been dead and drying for some time and is ready to work.

Another thing I do with "found" wood if I am carving a topper for a stick I will throw the piece I'm carving in the microwave to dry it out.
 

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This one is gorgeous! What species wood is it? And can you direct me to any threads that mention the methods used to create it?
It is crab tree -- one of the acceptable woods for a Shillelagh -- I just used a hand rasp and sander on it -- they are really not hard to make when you start with the right shape like you have!
 

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You are right on target when it comes to length -- you measure from your wrist to the floor. Shape is a very subjective and personal preference -- traditionally the knobbier the head or topper, the better it would split the scalp. :) I prefer what looks nice to me.

A great book to read on the subject is John Hurley's "A Shillelagh Makers Handbook"

Do you by chance have an Irish heritage?
 

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Welcome fellow Volunteer. That looks like a fine stick (from the bark, I'd guess Oak or Maple, leaning toward Oak)

I'm going to go against the grain here for a couple of reasons I'll get to in a moment.

I'm going to tell you to go ahead and make your shillelagh

First knock all that dirt off :)

Do you have a belt sander? If so go ahead and round that sucker off slowly with a rough grit paper. It will go quickly so, just try to take the outer edges off and see how it looks.

If not, with a nice sharp knife start whittling away the roots and skin from the top 6-8 inches. Don't try to cut too deep and always cut away from your self.

Depending on how green the wood is underneath, you may have a little waiting to do. If it is really green and wet, mix 50/50 dish detergent and water in a small bucket and put the sanded end into it and let it sit for a week or 2. Then take it out and let it dry for another couple of weeks. When you can, start sanding it with finer and finer sandpaper to the finish you want. Then start stacking Tung oil treatments until it won't take any more.

Then you can cut the length to fit your purpose if you desire.

Now for the reasoning.

#1 It's your first stick and you are raring to go and there is no reason for you to buy one. If you mess up, there are plenty more out there.

#2 Where you live, it is not arid or dry, The stick will dry slowly (unless you put it next to the fireplace) and shouldn't check very much.

#3 Experience is the best teacher. Once you have a feel for what wood does and is, the posts of this great forum will make more sense.

#4 You will not stop at 1 :) so once you get this one under your belt, you will be out looking for a stockpile

#5 You aren't selling it, it's for you and your son, a shillelagh is nothing but a rounded stick ;) (I know that technically it is culturally more, but in essence :))

Any how, get started get your son started and if you have any questions, shoot em out.
 

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JJireh's got a point! Your not out much if you go ahead!! And a stick maker is always an experimenter -- Whatever you do, keep us posted on your progress!

JJireh --- what does the soap solution do? I'm assuming your keeping it from checking, but how?
 

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So a while back, I was looking for green wood alternatives to Pentracryl and came across this article.

http://www.ronkent.com/techniques.php

About halfway down, this gentlemen notes his discovery that once he roughs out a green wood bowl, he lets it sit in this mixture and fewer of his bowls check or crack.

The "how" is unclear, some osmotic reaction that pulls something from the soap that allows for the wood to elastize enough that while drying it doesn't break down. *shrug* :)
 

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Let me put in a mention for a forum member who has not posted in awhile.

http://www.derryhicksticks.com/

Some fine sticks there, blackthorn and hawthorn among them, which are quite appropriate for a shillelagh. Oak also is, but none offered at the mentioned site.

From what I've read, the blackness of a shillelagh was from the stick being hung in a chimney, where the heat drove out the moisture, and the cooking fats and smoke sealed it to further moisture.

When I started a few years ago, tho' I was mostly using storm downed sticks, a lot of the wood was still quite wet. After carving some, and having them check badly, I coated the ends of others with dilute "Elmer's" white glue. Those held together a lot better.

Oh! And hi, nice finding you here.
 

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Welcome to the forum. Hope you and your son enjoy this fab hobby together.
 

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welcome to the forum.

Stickmaking is addictive . but have fun with it. there are plenty of stick suppliers selling all kinds of seasoned sticks just choose the ones you like .

But like most members on this site i collect my own and season them for a year , and its about the right time of year to collect them. just take some lopers or apruning saw when walking.and keep you eyes open dont forget ato take loads of string to bind them together. for ease of transport

I never treat my shanks with anything i just dry them in the garage and never had any split yet. but ths may be due to the type of shanks i collect.
 

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Hello and welcome to the forum I can't add any more to what other have shared with you. There may be some alternatives while you're waiting for the seasoning process do its job. I cannot get out like I once did to harvest sticks. So I rely on those who do sell stick. One I can recommend it a member of the forum. Stixman . www.kywalkingstick.com/BlankSticks.html . He has a large selection of seasoned sticks. I do not know if he has shillelagh shapes. But if you call he will work with you. Treeline carving supplies also offers stick. You can add a shillelagh like topper to a stick. You and your son could make some great canes and sticks while waiting for the new cuts to season. I look forward to seeing your new hobby grow. As cobalt said it is addictive.

Randy
 
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