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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Fellas, I have been a member of this forum for a few weeks now and have noticed that there are several nationalities that post here. I can see that the majority of members are American so I was wondering, What are the main differences in Stick making around the world? I for one, would be interested in an explanation of when a walking stick becomes a cane, and why or why not remove the bark, or straighten sticks or leave things as nature intended?

Obviously there will be many differences between individuals but I am thinking more in terms of national traits. Thanks in anticipation. N.
 

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If one considers the origin of the walking stick it seems to me it is a convergence of several simple paths. The shepherd would use one as a tool of his trade, the tribesman would carry a spear that probably began as a simple stick to hunt with, others would simply pick up a stick to aid in walking on rough terrain or to keep the infirm or elderly upright. Of course as soon as soon as the first prehistoric man scraped a mark in his stick either to distinguish it as his or for decorative purposes the arms race of individuality was on. It's probably a fairly straight line from that first scratched stick to the bejeweled finery of the court of Lewis XIV. Utility to folk-art to symbols of power to fashion and finery, all would play their role. None of which answers your questions. Sorry, my verbose nature should really be suppressed or perhaps regulated by law.
 

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...I was wondering, What are the main differences in Stick making around the world? I for one, would be interested in an explanation of when a walking stick becomes a cane, and why or why not remove the bark, or straighten sticks or leave things as nature intended?...
From my perspective, a "cane" is a short walking stick with a handhold usually on top of the stick that would be approximately wrist length (from floor to wrist bump), intended to aid the users stability in walking on regular surfaces and may also be designed to be useful as a weapon. A "walking stick" would be a longer stick, usually grasped with a "choke hold" (grasped like you would grasp a hammer), with the elbow bent around 90 degrees or more. The walking stick would typically be used on uneven terrain as an aid to stability and navigation and may also be useful as a prop, weapon or tool depending upon design.

I prefer to remove the bark most of the time to display the beauty of the grain and/or the character of the stick. The grain patterns, knots, lumps, bumps, scrapes, spalting, insect tracks, twists and other distinguishing features all tell the life story of the stick that may not be visible otherwise and are marvelous in and of themselves. I generally strive to highlight and embellish the natural beauty and character of a stick, while making it useful. I wish to highlight the testament to the Creator that the stick offers. Sometimes that includes the creative aspect of man, created in God's image as a creator, by embellishing a stick with carving or other forms of artwork, usually pyrography for me.

Regards,
Gordon
 

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Cobalt said he was off for a holiday abroad, so perhaps he has little opportunity to respond. But his work is a good example of the long standing manner of British walking sticks. The stick dresser associations have competitions with many clearly defined traditional styles.

From what I can find, while walking sticks, hiking poles and the like are used worldwide, in the US, with the advent of automobiles, and an infatuation with "newness," stick use pretty much disappeared by the mid 1930's. For many years, the only times I saw anyone w. anything like a walking stick was the cane a person with disability used to help walk and stand.

The only walking sticks being made for many years were made as folk art in somewhat rural areas. There's been something of a rebirth. For a few years, they were being seen some as a gentleman's accessory, and the market for those was often satisfied by antiques, or from modern pieces w. a similar level of finish. But over all, more are being made where I live as something of a folk art, or craft work. I see a fair number of sticks that have obviously been adapted from something that was taken from a forest, and minimally finished. I see an equal number that have been somewhat refined, and often, many personal touches are added. Odds and ends attached to wrist loops, perhaps some carving, or a little paint.

Myself, I focus mostly on making the grip as refined as I can, but leave much of the stick just cleaned up so as to show the beauty of the wood. I try to find fairly straight branches to start, but often enough, crooked ones with defects have some of the most interesting natural shape. I only have a few I've made that a close to a "dress" stick. Most I make are intended for picking around woods and fields, and I expect them to get banged up.
 

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The practical questions of whether to leave the bark on or off or whether to straighten the stick are simple: It depends. :)

It depends on the maker, it's intended use, and more importantly the stick.

Straightening a stick is for purely practical reasons. A straight stick is stronger and easier to use than a bent one. Straightening sticks allows a lot of sticks to be used that otherwise would be unsuitable.

I think one reason why American sticks tend to be so different from British sticks is the way we use them. The sticks I see around here are probably more properly called staffs. They're up to 2" diameter and shoulder height or taller. They're suitable for hiking in the back country on rough terrain and can provide a significant amount of support.

Most American sticks look a little out of place to me when I see them in the city.

British sticks, like Great Britain itself, tend to be more civilized. They are more suitable for walking trails and paths or the sidewalks of a city than for wilderness hiking. I don't see much of the style here though the blackthorn knob stick I saw a few weeks ago looked perfectly appropriate in Seattle.

Rodney
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
This question has given me several perspectives of differing attitudes of individuals, not necessarily different countries. Thanks fellas.

I never thought of using a walking stick as a weapon but it is pretty obvious when you look at the Irish shillelagh which is used as a cudgel and even prehistoric man carried a club!!! With evolution we end up where we are today. N.
 

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This question has given me several perspectives of differing attitudes of individuals, not necessarily different countries....I never thought of using a walking stick as a weapon but it is pretty obvious when you look at the Irish shillelagh which is used as a cudgel and even prehistoric man carried a club!!! With evolution we end up where we are today. N.
Haha! Your post made me laugh out loud. I was going to include the word "defensive" when I used "weapon", but did not wish to impose the limit. I have never had the need to use a stick for a weapon, defensive or otherwise, but would not hesitate should the need arise. You never know when you might cross paths with a snake in the wild ;-)

Here's a quote I found while searching for the origins of the cane sword:

"Back in the Edwardian world of Dickens, Verne and Gentleman Jack, Europeans adapted cane swords to meet their needs. Unlike today, it was expected of a gentleman to be able to "thwart" the use of violence against his person, to be a protector of those under his auspices, and to be skilled in the "manly arts" of weaponry and self defense. "
 

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Our walking sticks are generally a larger dynamiter than what you see in European sticks. We seem to carve more on the the sticks them selves rather than just use the toppers. The wood spirit is a good example. You do not see may of them from other areas of the world. We also seem to have a larger selection types of wood to work with. I hope to use more horn and toppers the next year I like the look.

I have made a number of self defense canes for people, And I have taken a few classes on the use of a cane as a defensive weapon. It can be a effective self defense tool. I have not had to use it for more that walking but I like knowing I can if it became a issue. It is that old Marine Corp mind set of being ready.
 

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I have no expectation that I would ever need to use one of my sticks as a weapon. I do think they would work fairly well though.

A good sturdy stick has been around a very long time.

It's a shame that these days we run the risk of legal trouble either criminally or civilly if we actually defend ourselves from attack. My how times change....

Some of the old weapon canes were pretty amazing works of art and engineering. I would love to get my hands on an antique gun or sword cane. I think most are considered illegal to carry these days though. Be very careful to understand the laws of your area before you decide to use one.

The French came up with some really nasty weapon canes that had spikes, barbs or blades come out the sides of the shafts. If a person tried to grab your cane to take it away in a fight they would have their hands shredded.

Take a look at Les Diabolique, Les Redoubtable and I don't quite remember the name of the third one of the type. The French government made them illegal almost as quickly as they were invented.

There were also more subtle weapon canes made. A spring steel shaft covered with washers of different materials or wrapped in leather is a very effective weapon that won't break.

My apologies for the severe thread drift but I do find the subject extremely interesting. I've seen plenty of city sticks that were made as weapons but very few rustic or folk art sticks that were also concealed weapons. The only exceptions I can think of are the Irish shillelagh-a barely disguised club- that Rodnogdog mentioned and the Basque makhila which is basically a combination hiking staff and short spear. Traditional makhilas are still being made.

I guess this does tie in in the sense that styles evolved in Europe regionally to suit the needs of the people there. As carrying swords fell out of fashion people still felt a need to defend themselves so hid their swords and later, guns, in canes. The Japanese did a similar thing when Samurai swords were outlawed. The USA doesn't have those traditional styles due to the relative newness of our country.

Rodney
 

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Just a simple hook handle cane with a few simple modifications is all you need if you learn to use if. The basic rule is not aggression. It is self protections if ever required. But there are laws and you should know them as part of being ready. The times, they are changing whether we like it or not.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
From what I read here in the UK Sword canes are illegal as obviously are gun canes but it would be fascinating to see one made! The nearest we get to a walking stick weapon is with a drinks flask inside, it may provide courage at least.

As for self defence I was once told by a bobby that if you ever try to protect your own possessions from a burglar (even on your property) with a club or weapon then it is hard to prove "self defence" on the other hand, if you have one of the really large Maglite torches and you hit a robber with it then you have a greater chance of proving that you were only protecting yourself and your property and the torch or 'walking stick???' was just "handy" when you heard or saw the intruder. I am no solicitor or lawyer so this could be total rubbish but it makes some sense to me. N.
 

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I make both walking sticks and canes. As has been stated by others my North American style walking sticks are larger in diameter,

1 1/2" to 2", taller, usually chest to shoulder height, than European sticks and with bark left on or off depending on the individual piece. I carve the top section above the handgrip or the shank below. I use a braided lanyard on my sticks to add a bit of flair.

My canes are a designed as a walking aid, usually with a with a "T" type handle. I either carve an animal head on the handle or perhaps a wood spirit on the shank. They generally are sized to fit the length from the "crook" of the wrist to the floor. As the baby boomers in this country age I see more and more people using a walking aid. There is a niche for what we make that keeps getting bigger as more people express their individual taste with a custom made cane.

In regards to walking sticks a weapon. Man has been carrying a stick in one form or another for self defense since the beginning of time. In the rural areas we walk folks are very likely to leave the family dog loose on the farm. Most are friendly, though a few seem aggressive with much bristling and barking. A stout stick to shoo them away is a comfort to have. I have always lived by the age old adage of "Speak softly and carry a big stick", since becoming a stick maker that has never been more true!
 

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Hi I'm new to the forum and I know this post may be a little dated but anyway.. to my knowledge a cane is a stick made from cane as in bamboo,rattan or the like. In America where we like to complicate things by simplifying them anything not a staff became a "cane" and a staff became a walking stick! As far as I'm concerned if it's not made from cane it's not a cane.
 

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Hi Fellas, I have been a member of this forum for a few weeks now and have noticed that there are several nationalities that post here. I can see that the majority of members are American so I was wondering, What are the main differences in Stick making around the world? I for one, would be interested in an explanation of when a walking stick becomes a cane, and why or why not remove the bark, or straighten sticks or leave things as nature intended?

Obviously there will be many differences between individuals but I am thinking more in terms of national traits. Thanks in anticipation. N.
missed this post whilst on holiday interesting view points

but to clear things up

What a American calls a cane is what the British call a walking stick .the British would only call it a cane if it was made from bamboo

a shank is the stick its self, with or without a topper

A hiking pole is about armpit high

a thumb stick is generally approx. elbow height .there is no rule as to the height of any walking aid of any kind its just personal taste but there are general guide lines which are based on common sense.

There are severally types of walking stick handles here such as the derby and cardigan stick handles which generally have a specific shape and size even the leg cleek generally has a size based on our coins which are used as a measure

The stick has evolved over years here mostly from the drovers and shepherds from time past from driving sheep cattle geese etc.

I am hoping to put together a appendix of terms for stickmaking for the forum with a explanation for both American and British terms including market sticks leg cleeks crooks etc but stickwithdave video has a very good visual explanation and recommend anyone to watch it which gives the Uk explanation of terms.

I have never heard anyone referring to a hiking pole or walking stick as a weapon and find it strange

whiterose is right about it being illegal to carry a sword stick or a gun here or any knife with a blade over 3 inches long ,thank god it is as we don't have a problem here with these issues.
 

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The SHILLELAGH is typically Irish made from bog oak traditionally and apart from the cosh was used by press gangs in the 1780 to subdue people to force them into recruitment into the navy pretty violent ways for recruitment into the navy it was often used as a defensive / weapon and is still held as a favourite for a lot of people particularly in America with a high proportion of Irish immigrants as a walking stick
 

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I have had the unfortunate experience on a few occasions of having to use my sticks for defense. You might like to check out author John w.Hurley. He has a couple books on shillelagh making as well as history and fighting techniques. They've helped me a lot!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thank you for your extensive knowledge! I would be very interested to read your appendix of stickmaking terms cobalt, I for one would really benefit from such a post. I am also pleased about the knife laws in the UK, I have carried a Victorinox Swiss Army knife for the last twenty odd years, (not that I go out alot these days) and the most aggressive thing I've done with it is trim side shoots from a shank! I am not making light of knife crime as I realise it is a rising problem in the larger British urban areas and has always been a problem in parts of Scotland. N.
 
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