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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys and gals if there are any! Anyone know of some American grown sources of blackthorn? I can't get unfinished shanks imported and apparently it's classified as an invasive species in New York so growing it myself is a no no. Any info would be great! Thanks.
 

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I'm going to guess you will have a hard time. It was naturalized to the New York area, but if now listed as invasive, I'd guess most orchards have destroyed it. But if there are some lingering, perhaps you might find someone in the countryside who would let you help eradicate what is left.

When I looked up shillelagh, one article said that originally they were oak, but once the oak was cut down, the blather came into use. I made a shillelagh-style stick a couple of years ago out of some white oak that that I ebonized using a mix of steel wool dissolved in vinegar. I may have also painted on a little extra tannin to get a deeper black.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Steel wool in vinegar? Never would of thought of that! Thanks! I know one of the traditional ways was to rub the stick with leaded grease but I think the modern version of black shoe polish rubbed in with 00 steel wool is safer! I actually rub in mink oil then hand buff it to a nice waterproof shine.
 

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Blackthorn is in the same family with plums and cherries. Maybe you could experiment with wild plum or black cherry saplings.
 

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I find Blackthorn to be a horrible tree! Right up to the point where you have it ready to make into a stick, where it becomes the most (arguably) beautiful of shanks! On more than one occasion I have been cut to ribbons trying to get to the shank that is right in the middle of the bush! No wonder it is used for stock fencing, that is why we are lucky to have so much of it all over, it breaks my heart when I see farmers using their tractors to just level it! The tractors just leave it shredded so it is not much use to anyone. Hawthorn is a similar dense wood, does this have the same status in the U.S.? N.
 

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Steel wool in vinegar? Never would of thought of that! Thanks! I know one of the traditional ways was to rub the stick with leaded grease but I think the modern version of black shoe polish rubbed in with 00 steel wool is safer! I actually rub in mink oil then hand buff it to a nice waterproof shine.
I forget the exact chemical the mix makes, ferrous or ferric acetate I think. In the old days, cabinet makers would toss a few iron nails in a vinegar jar to have the stuff on hand. That reacts w. whatever tannins are in the wood, staining the wood black, well, very dark, permanently. Many woods will show pronounced darkening because of high levels of tannins already in them. I learned that cabernet sauvignon wine, or avocado pit juice work well as an addition. But eventually picked up a little tannic acid powder from a wine making supply shop. I used the mix on some american hornbeam, which is a very dense, compact wood. Even wood dyes did not penetrate it more than superficially. It took maybe 8 coats, but painting the mixture on carefully, the bottom of the stick is shoe leather black, but I faded it way so the handle is the pale tan the wood has after it ages a few months.
 

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LilysDad is right about the hawthorn -- it makes a good substitute for the blackthorn! But Gdenby is correct - Oak is what was originally used -- crab apple is also an acceptable wood. I have made Shellalaigh's out of all three woods -- and I have to say, the crab apple looks nice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all the advice folks! Hawthorn is allowed here and I'm considering planting a hedge of it. I have used crab apple, it darkens up beautifully after it's debarked and oiled. As for shillelaghs.. I've read many theories about the origins of the name. One that I tend to agree with is that the name comes from bata-siuil-eille(bata-shoollelagh) which translates to thonged walking stick.
 

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I've used steel wool & vinegar. It works well. Just test on scraps first and make sure you like the color. Different woods color differently.

I've used flowering plum for sticks twice now. I like it. It's a nice hard wood similar to cherry, possible just a bit harder. The bark is nice too.

Sorry I don't know of any sources for true blackthorn here.

Rodney
 
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