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I moved out here (Seattle area) about 3 years ago from the Midwest. Ill probably have to leave in the next year or two. (Job transfers)

Id like to collect some locally available wood walking sticks

I am thinking:

Sitka Spruce

Western Red Cedar

Douglas fir

Does anyone have any experience with any of these. Is one better than the other? Are any of these not worth the effort?

Thanks!
 

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No expert here, I work with saplings of hard woods mostly.

The wood types you are talking about are good woods from mature trees, that is smaller branches, nor sapling size trees are not always strong enough.

When I have seen these woods used it is usually something 10 to 12 inches in diameter carved down to stick size.

Hopefully some others here can give a more personal insite.
 

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I carved some of what i was told was douglas fir many years ago. Soft, and easy to get fine detail, but had long fibrous grain. It was sometimes hard to avoid pulling out long slivers.

I was looking at some Western red cedar at a wood shop yesterday, and it doesn't look to different from the Eastern I've carved. Medium dense wood, can have fairly twisty grain, also somewhat prone to having splinters tear up. Mentioned I was carving some to a friend who is a cabinet maker, and he agreed that while beautiful, it can be difficult to get a refined edge.

You might try visiting local history nd/or art museums to view the Northwester tribal art. I believe that the carvings I've seen often mention fir as the medium. Might give you an idea of the level of detail the wood will take, and hint at the thickness needed for strength.
 

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One of my favoret woods is Alaskan Yellow cedar. Nice to carve.
 

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I haven't used any of the softwoods you mentioned for sticks yet. Of the three cedar might be your best bet. The other two can be full of pitch. I tend to prefer hardwoods.

There's a good selection of hardwoods available here. Alder, maple, vine maple (if you can find a straight enough stick), hazel, birch, holly, cottonwood, cherry, Oregon white ash, willow, dogwood and Oregon white oak all grow wild here for starters. Madrone might be interesting as well, but again, difficult to get a straight stick. I'm sure there are more trees and shrubs that are suitable that I haven't mentioned. There's also all the domesticated species available if you happen to see someone pruning their trees.

Given all the wind, it might not be a bad idea to take a walk through a local park and see what came down.

There are plenty of choices.

Rodney
 

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I assume you are talking about carving? Living a few hours north of you and not being a carver, I have enjoyed working with cedar and alder and both are very nice woods. Some of the cedar have some great beetle grooves bored through the wood and once peeled of its stringy bark color ages nicely. The alder is very nice as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
To be honest, I really suck at carving. I am looking right now more for wood types that make a good stick. Although I must say I am intrigued by that Bear Head topper in the gallery.

So I think I am going to try to find some of that yellow cedar, let it dry for a while, and then maybe take a stab at it.
 

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Here in WA yellow cedar grows at higher elevations, say 3000 ft+ from what I've seen. Most of what you're likely to find in lower elevations will be western red cedar. You said Seattle area. Check out the Alpine Lakes Wilderness east of Seattle when the snow melts. You should be able to find some there.

Rodney
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Ill do that, checking the maps out right now. Along the river valleys or closer to Lakes? I'm checking the maps right now.
 

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I would be inclined to try some of the local conifers.

I have made sticks from lodge-pole & ponderosa pine as well as Engelmann spruce. Carved all 3 specie as well. If I remember from a trip we took to your area there were large stands of conifers on the Olympic peninsula and in the North Cascades.

In my experience pitch is not an issue if the wood has been dried sufficiently.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
These are the big ones in the Olympics:

Sitka Spruce

Doug-Fir

West hemlock

West red cedar

Bigleaf maple

Vine Maple

Red Alder

Black Cottonwood

I can ID them all except for maybe Vine Maple, but that's just making an effort to look it up and know what I am looking for.

Been spending most of my outdoor time in the Olympics this time of year. Still a lot of snow in the Cascades. I think I am heading out there next week when the 21 yr old is home for Spring Break, so we will see what we can find.

And I am in no hurry. I am still working on my first official walking stick that I first cut down back 2008 or 2009. Sugar Maple from Northern Michigan. So letting them dry for a year or two or three isn't a big deal. I just wanted to get a few from so locally available wood, before I leave the area in the next 18 months or so.

So for instance I really want to get some Sitka Spruce, I wont be finding much of that if I go back east :)

I was just wondering if anyone had experience with these wood types out here, and if there was one kind or another to avoid for some reason. :)
 

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Vine maple is a large shrub/small tree that grows under the bigger trees. There's a lot of it in clearcuts too. Google vine maple images to see what it looks like. I was going to try describing it but that's the easy way. I used to make sling shots out of the forks in it as a kid. It grows perfect forks but getting a straight shank before the fork will be a challenge.

Rhododendron also grows in the Olympics. Again, a straight piece can be hard to find but my experience is it's a nice wood to work with and some of the crooks might be good for handles.

There's a lot of spruce on the coast. From what I've seen it prefers growing along the edges of marshy areas. It can be full of pitch but you're not likely to break a limb of the stuff.

Pacific yew might be a good possibility too. It's not pitchy and is much harder than cedar.

Rodney
 

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Vine maple is one of my favorite woods. We have a ton of it up here in the Cascades where i live. Beautiful wood with the bark either left on or peeled and sanded down its lovely. As Rodney said though it can grow quite twisty and bent and found on the forest floor and most often here covered in moss.
I've also used it to make a few slingshots in past.
Red Western Cedar I don't have to worry about splitting and it dries faster than other woods.
 

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Pacific yew might be a good possibility too. It's not pitchy and is much harder than cedar.
I've been working w. some yew for the past few years. Assuming pacific yew is similar to what I have, the wood is spectacular in several ways. Very dense, even the sap wood. Sort of waxy, and naturally water resistant. I have a root ball of it that sat in the ground for 2 years, and there was no rot at all in it. Probably because it is also toxic, and so breathing any dust could be hazardous. Wonderful reddish color. Thin branches are mildly flexible, but I can't snap them. Not the easiest for detail carving, sort of fibrous, but doable with patience.
 

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The working characteristics are about the same as what we have here then. It's tough stuff. One major use is for bows but the trees grow twisted so it can be hard to get a good blank.

I have a board of it here that I found several years ago. Maybe I'll cut a piece and turn a stick from it. Depends on the grain. I can't see it due to the board being older and dark. I prefer straight grain for my sticks. It's much stronger.

Rodney
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Picked up a couple red alder blanks over the weekend. Was out in the woods for a bunch of other reasons and just happened upon them. :)

Thanks for all the advice!
 
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