Walking Stick Forum banner
1 - 17 of 17 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
75 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all!

Being new to this hobby I have a question about wood types. I live on 7 acres here in VA and have lots to choose from. I'm trying to stick (pardon the pun) to hickory, maple and other hard woods. My question is this, is it ok to use 1 1/2 in- 1 3/4 in saplings since they are the perfect diameter to begin with and could yield 2-3 sticks? Or is it better to use thicker branches or even logs cut down to the heart wood?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,843 Posts
It depends. Hickory is a great wood but tends to be heavy. A 1 1/2" hickory stick will be about as strong as a stick can be but it will be heavy to use. You can use thinner sticks and they will be plenty strong enough. The British think most of our sticks are way to thick. Maple also makes a great stick and is lighter than hickory. I tend to prefer hardwoods and don't mess with pines, etc much.

For a hiking stick I would aim for around what you said at the top of the stick with the taper down to the bottom. My canes are generally around 1 to 1 1/4" at the top and taper down to around 7/8" at the bottom.

I've used saplings and branches and like both. Most of my sticks are made from alder saplings. There are a lot of them around here and they grow straight. They also have a smooth attractive bark. No need to peel them. I use other woods too when I find them.

Branches are great for rustic sticks. They can have great character. I like oak in particular.

This is a great time of year to find sticks. Winter tends to be best but you can pick them any time. Start laying in a good supply now. Gather more than you think you want for the next year and pick them longer than you want the final length to be. If there's any splitting as they dry it will generally be at the ends. They need time to dry. Put them somewhere where they'll stay dry with good air flow and leave them alone for about a year. For hiking sticks it may not matter as much but generally the longer the better. The hardest part is waiting for the wood to dry. I've ruined a few good sticks by being impatient. Found dead wood tends to be dryer faster but will probably be too wet to use right away when you find it. Make sure it's sound.

I haven't found it to be necessary to split the wood down to heart wood. I like the variation in color between the heart and sap wood.

Probably more info than you wanted.

Rodney
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
75 Posts
Thanks Rodney, like I said I live on 7 acres here in VA so i have a lot to choose from. We also took down some trees about 4 yrs ago with a backhoe and the stumps with the roots and all are just down the hill...another good source! On the subject of drying I have another question. We built an addition onto the house which has an 800 square Ft basement that I use as a shop. Because we had to add another heat pump with AC for the addition, that basement has central air. It keeps the basement at a constant 68-74 degrees with very little humidity. Using the 1 yr to 1 inch thickness drying formula, will drying the sticks in that basement speed up the process? I also intend to hang them from screw in hooks in the ends to minimize warping and to save space.

By the way...information is something you can never have too much of and I welcome detailed explanations. When I answer a question it's never just a yes or no, I want the person to know why it's yes or no LOL
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,843 Posts
You sound like me. Most people I know prefer yes or no, not why the real answer might be maybe. I drive my wife nuts.

I dry mine in an unheated shop. Your basement sounds good. I might be a little concerned about too quick drying. Keep an eye on them. If it looks like you're getting too many splits in the ends move them to a dry unheated space. Coating the ends will also help slow drying and help keep checking under control. Cheap latex paint works ok. Bowl turners swear by Anchorseal but it's on the pricey side.

If you're impatient like me and want to get started right away you can try to find some sound dead sticks. There are also a couple guys who sell blanks online.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/TomsWillowCraft?ref=search_shop_redirect

https://www.etsy.com/shop/KentuckyWalkingStick?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Tom and Randy are both members here though they don't post often. I'm sure there are other vendors as well.

Dead sticks are generally dryer to start with and are less likely to check. Any checking that was likely to happen most likely already has. It varies. If you're making one piece sticks or hiking sticks it becomes a little less critical that the sticks are completely dry. I would recommend starting with a stick you don't particularly care about if you want to work with green wood. That way if it does split you're not out as much.

I wouldn't worry about hanging them unless it's a good way to keep them out of the way too. I make enough that I built racks to lay my sticks on but then that's because I make around 40 or so a year. If you're only making a few just prop them in an out of the way corner.

I can't say I've ever had a stick warp from improper storage.

You can steam mild bends out. Sharp bends are there to stay.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
966 Posts
Last year I came across a nice straight yellow birch which had grown as a sucker from a bigger tree which had been knocked over a bit by a skidder. I cut 5 shanks from it each just over a yard long. The one closest to the trunk of the original tree was just shy of 2" in diameter, too big to leave as is, but could be cut down or maybe carved.

Definitely check those roots for usable handle material. You never know what you can make from a root with a nice shape.
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
75 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Beautiful cane handle! Did you use a harvested stick for the body or a cane blank? I know at least one stump and root ball is oak the others are probably poplar. I also trimmed a choke cherry tree and have some 3-4 inch thick logs. The heartwood is a dark brown and may make some nice cane handles depending on the grain.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
966 Posts
The shank is a piece of cherry I found standing dead as I recall. Bit of buffalo horn for the spacer. More about it here if the link works.

https://walkingstickforum.com/topic/5674-new-stick-ive-been-working-on/#entry58514

The oak root ball may be worth a look; I find poplar too soft though I have seen some use it. I think some of the wood I have used and called cherry may have been choke cherry. Great stuff.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
75 Posts
True Rodney, the poplar is soft. I'm trying to avoid soft woods for my sticks since any I may sell around here would be used by serious hikers that might want to beat down briers and kudzu vines.

DWW2, the reason I asked is because the shank looks lathe turned rather than natural. I eventually want to get a lathe for canes or use pre-turned blanks if I can find a good cheap source, but my walking sticks and staffs will pretty much stay "primitive" style.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
966 Posts
The shank was about 2" in diameter when I found it. I shaved it down with a spoke shave, then sanded it. I have a lathe but have never incorporated any turnings into a cane. I think Rodney has done some turned shanks though.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,843 Posts
I do a few turned ones. There are some things I would look for in a lathe.

First off you're going to want 36" or more between centers. This is going to rule out a lot of the mini lathes unless they have a bed extension. If you want to sell canes I've found it best to make them long and cut them to size when they sell. I use my daughter's lathe that has about 30" and a home made bed extension. It's not ideal.

Look for a lathe that has a threaded headstock with a morse taper inside it. #2 Morse taper is easiest to find accessories for, older Craftsman lathes used a #1 Morse taper. Accessories are still available but you have to look a little harder. Unless it's a really obscure thread size on the headstock most chuck manufacturers will make an adapter to fit it.

A lathe with a cast iron bed would be my first choice.

You want a tailstock with a Morse taper as well for the same reason.

A lot of cheap Asian lathes had square tube beds and a non-removable centers. Avoid those like the plague. They're wasted time and money.

While you're waiting to buy a lathe you can accomplish a lot with a spoke shave or even a good sharp hand plane.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,843 Posts
That's pretty much exactly what I was warning against. Try to find out if the head and tailstocks have Morse tapers. I didn't see those listed in the features. You're going to want to be able to switch out chucks, drive centers, etc. for different jobs.

Also in a lathe heavier is better. The extra mass fights vibration.

I understand about budgets and wanting to keep costs down. If you're handy it's not hard to buy and fix up a used lathe. I bought most of my machines used.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
966 Posts
Rodney's 100% correct. That one is way too light. Might be ok for doing mini vases or something, but get any weight on it and it'll vibrate itself to pieces. If you decide you like turning and want to get a decent machine, you'll probably never find anyone interested in taking that one off your hands.

This is the one I have. It is a very basic starter lathe. Definitely not as heavy duty as they come but nearly 20 years ago, it was the best I could afford (on sale it was about $500 including tax as I recall.)

http://www.semesh.com/houston/ads/images/41/f3L43F93J35Ie5Ka5J3d4o47ab6c17d1f116c7.jpg
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,843 Posts
That looks like a copy of the Craftsman tube bed lathes. Same basic design anyway.

The Craftsman ones been around since the 50s in various forms. The Craftsman ones tend to be relatively common and affordable. They do accept Morse tapers and have threaded headstock spindles. Most likely a #1 Morse taper and 3/4x16 threads. Accessories are easily available.

I'm not sure how long the bed is on them. They're considered somewhat light duty by many turners but they are decent starter lathes.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
966 Posts
Yeah. I don't really care for the tube bed. I found that the tool rest and tail stock don't seem as steady as they should be. But, like you said, it was a good starter lathe. The two biggest bowls I've ever done on it were both around 10-11 inches in diameter and they were maxing the thing to its capacity.
 
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top