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In studying cargoes carried on the Stroudwater Canal in Gloucestershire in the late nineteenth century, I have noted many cargoes of birch poles and birch planks that had been imported through Sharpness Dock on the Severn estuary. They were destined for walking stick factories run by William Dangerfield at Bliss Mills, Chalford, and by Charles Hooper at Griffins Mill, Thrupp (near Stroud). Can anyone recommend any books/articles about such businesses and/or explain why birch might be particularly suited to making sticks, was the word 'pole' used for something the diameter of a stick and was it usual to convert planks into sticks?

hughcj
 

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In studying cargoes carried on the Stroudwater Canal in Gloucestershire in the late nineteenth century, I have noted many cargoes of birch poles and birch planks that had been imported through Sharpness Dock on the Severn estuary. They were destined for walking stick factories run by William Dangerfield at Bliss Mills, Chalford, and by Charles Hooper at Griffins Mill, Thrupp (near Stroud). Can anyone recommend any books/articles about such businesses and/or explain why birch might be particularly suited to making sticks, was the word 'pole' used for something the diameter of a stick and was it usual to convert planks into sticks?

hughcj
Here is a site that will tell you a little about Birch sticks. The word pole may have been used based on the length of the sticks being shipped. That is just a guess.

http://www.derryhicksticks.com/wood-species-2/birch/
 

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My guess is that Birch is an economical wood that is excellent for staining to look like more expensive items. The planks mentioned are probably used for making the handles.
 

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As someone who uses birch (specifically yellow birch) in making sticks, I can tell you it is an excellent wood. Yellow birch has considerable stringiness to it which makes it a lot tougher than one would imagine. Quite a few of the older homes around here (the fancier ones at any rate) have yellow birch for hard wood floors.

The color variations in white and yellow birch are pretty amazing. I have a stick of white birch somewhere which you'd swear was cherry. The pictures I've seen of hazel sticks showing their color variations are comparable to the variations I see in the yellow birch I collect.
 

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Here, where I live in NW Indiana, part the Great Lakes Region of the Mid West, we are fortunate to have a diverse selection of native trees to choose from for our stick making. River birch and white birch are native to our area, with river birch the most common around me me. I have made several sticks from river birch. It carves well, stains well and makes a strong stick that is light in weight.
 
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