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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am often questioning if a wood will make a safe walking stick or cane. Because a wood is thought of as being a soft wood does not always mean it cannot be use for a stick. This is how I answer that question for myself.

When they talk about the hardness of wood this is most often refereeing the Janka hardness scale. This is really an impact resistant measurement. It is done by measuring the penetration of a steel ball shoot against the wood. For example Black Walnut is over 1010 an the Janka scale and Douglas fir is 620.
But there are two other measurements that can determine whether a wood has the strength to work as a walking stick. The modulus of elasticity (MOE), is a measure of the stiffness of a body and the modulus of rupture (MOR) to evaluate its load resistance of a wood. It is the ratio between the two that determines the strength for braking under a load. Walnut and Douglas fir have good MOE and MOR ratings. The fir will dent easier. I do not know the formula to make that calculation. But I can compare the MOE and the MOR of the wood I am questioning against those I know are safely used for canes and good walking sticks. I use this data base to do that. These measurements are made with the woods moister ratings at about 12% Ratings over 20% will not have the same strengths.
www.wood-database.com/
 

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Good to know.

So far I've mainly worked with local or common species that I already pretty much know what to expect from them.

Rodney
 

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Hickory is often used for large sledge hammer handles, and that's the handle on my geologist's hammer & cane.

I'd bet Bois d'Arc, aka Osage Orange would have great specs too.
 

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Good topic! I think the problem is more in the question. Asking if a wood is strong enough for a stick is like asking what Rockwell is best for a blade. It all depends on the use. Also if you think of something like bamboo (I know, not wood) which people never think of as strong until they see it used as scaffolding.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I want to be as sure as I can that the woods I use and canes I sell meet or exceed standards accepted for commercial wooden canes. I can be held liable for things I sell if it is not to accepted commercial standards. I never use any shank less than 1 inch in diameter and large men I will go to a inch and a half. Tapered to a inch. That's Just my Standards.
 

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Obviously, kiln-dried or other lumber with no cracks is stronger than wood that is checked, has worm burrows, or has some dry rot. I suppose the easy source would be a lumber yard or lumber mill that sells what you need, but that may limit you to perfectly symmetrical sticks without the features of more natural sticks.

I suppose that market demand, cost of the raw materials, and the time required to shape, sand, and finish the product all complicate your decision.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Natural sticks are normally more than sufficient CAS14. If a stick has cured well and is a good wood with the strength for the use it is going to be task with it may do better than kiln dried lumber..

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Good discussion topic, yes some woods are stronger tan others and technical strengths assume that there are no defects/stress raiders in the piece to be used. I tend to stay clear of woods that have a soft core and my test is to but the tip of the shank piece against a wall and lean into it, you can hear a crack starting. The other thing to bear in mind is the diameter of shank being used, most hiking poles tend to be long and stout in dia. to afford "push up" uphill and support downhill, and yes these need to be good and strong, I think that most woods cut and seasoned correctly perform well, the ones that are fallen and aged on the ground need more checking for strength as the ground due to differing seasons, wet, dry, freezing can have an adverse effect due to contact on one side only and I have never used fallen wood for a shank.
 

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Great question! This is one that I get often.... Seems like a simple question, however, much is to be considered..... my standard response is "depends"... Several things to consider when selecting a piece... Your post is "spot on" regarding some of the most important aspects to selecting a quality /safe stick.....The wood data base you refer to is an excellent starting point [I refer to it routinely]... Thanks for posting the article.... looking forward to reading responses from folks out there......
 

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I am often questioning if a wood will make a safe walking stick or cane. Because a wood is thought of as being a soft wood does not always mean it cannot be use for a stick. This is how I answer that question for myself.

When they talk about the hardness of wood this is most often refereeing the Janka hardness scale. This is really an impact resistant measurement. It is done by measuring the penetration of a steel ball shoot against the wood. For example Black Walnut is over 1010 an the Janka scale and Douglas fir is 620.
But there are two other measurements that can determine whether a wood has the strength to work as a walking stick. The modulus of elasticity (MOE), is a measure of the stiffness of a body and the modulus of rupture (MOR) to evaluate its load resistance of a wood. It is the ratio between the two that determines the strength for braking under a load. Walnut and Douglas fir have good MOE and MOR ratings. The fir will dent easier. I do not know the formula to make that calculation. But I can compare the MOE and the MOR of the wood I am questioning against those I know are safely used for canes and good walking sticks. I use this data base to do that. These measurements are made with the woods moister ratings at about 12% Ratings over 20% will not have the same strengths.
www.wood-database.com/
Excellent post. Thank You!
 

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Tho' I was initially very concerned about the toughness of wood species, I've come to think that in most uses, walking sticks do not need to be high on the rupture scale. Mentioning fir, it, like many "softwoods" actually has quite a lot of lignin, which is what gives wood its strength. However, it is fairly flexible. Won't snap too easily, but that means it can flex without snapping. Myself, I need something stiff to help maintain balance. Weight support is less necessary for me now because I've found that after a few hours even w. a light but string stick, my shoulders and elbows feel the strain.

As an aside, I had a friend, now passed away, who was quite a large fellow. Sometimes worked as a bouncer at music halls and bars. He had a wood stove, and would split his own wood. I once watched him shatter 3 hickory maul handles in one session as he laid into the logs. Eventually, he found a plastic encased fiberglass handle that he could not snap. So even the toughest of woods can fail when heavily stressed.
 

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As I've stated before, most of my experience with sticks has been from a martial arts viewpoint. So I tend to judge the qualities of them by a combination of weight, durability and flexibility as walking support is a secondary factor. Take for example one of my favorite "going to bad places" sticks that I made from a 3ft piece of rattan with another few inches set perpendicular for a handle (is there a proper name for that type?) It's light, very strong and will flex on impact. By the way.. Any properly seasoned and re-greened stick will do much the same.
 

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Interesting point about liking a light and somewhat flexible stick. I guess I have too direct of a personality. I tend to think "Heavy and Stiff" if I want to hit something with a stick.

I tend to prefer denser hardwoods like oak and holly, tropical hardwoods would be good too if it weren't for the cost.

What do you mean by re-greened?

Rodney
 

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Re-greening is the process of replacing the moisture that was dried out during seasoning with an oil. The old technique(I think I posted this once) was to coat the stick with lard, wrap it in butcher's paper and shove the whole thing in a dung heap! The heat it gave off was enough to both season it and allow the maker to periodically remove it to straighten it. Luckily the way now is to soak in an oil bath until it sinks or repeated sessions of oiling and sanding for about a week. Keep in mind this was mainly for fighting sticks and when you think how light, strong and flexible a wood like blackthorn was already, then you can begin to see how they became such formidable and treasured weapons. And as far as flexibility is concerned.. I'm sure there are a few people here who never want to see a willow switch again.
 

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But there are two other measurements that can determine whether a wood has the strength to work as a walking stick. The modulus of elasticity (MOE), is a measure of the stiffness of a body and the modulus of rupture (MOR) to evaluate its load resistance of a wood. It is the ratio between the two that determines the strength for braking under a load. Walnut and Douglas fir have good MOE and MOR ratings. The fir will dent easier. I do not know the formula to make that calculation. But I can compare the MOE and the MOR of the wood I am questioning against those I know are safely used for canes and good walking sticks. I use this data base to do that. These measurements are made with the woods moister ratings at about 12% Ratings over 20% will not have the same strengths.
www.wood-database.com/
THANK YOU! Don't know how I missed this. I think walnut will be used for my jogging swagger stick!

Vance
 

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I agree, that there is no BEST wood, it depends on the application and availability.

The following information is for woods used for impact training in martial arts.

As you can see, there is some disagreement between the different authors - a sure sign that there is no universally accepted opinion regarding what is THE BEST.

For example one of the sources lists blackthorn as inadequate wood - for Japanese weapons, while admitting that it is wonderful for shillelaghs.

On the positive side, we have a variety of excellent choices. :)

http://www.aikiweb.com/weapons/goedkoop1.html

http://www.aikiweb.com/weapons/graphics/graph.pdf

http://www.ejmas.com/tin/tinart_taylor_1100.htm

http://www.zaimoku.org

http://www.zaimoku.org/home/excellent-woods-for-high-impact-practice-within-japanese-martial-arts/

http://www.zaimoku.org/home/woods-that-can-make-acceptable-to-very-good-high-impact-weapons-albeit-with-one-or-more-deficiencies/

http://www.zaimoku.org/home/more-research-on-these-woods-needed-very-possibly-excellent/

http://www.zaimoku.org/home/woods-that-are-barely-adequate-for-high-impact-practice/

http://www.zaimoku.org/home/woods-that-are-barely-adequate-for-high-impact-practice/

http://www.zaimoku.org/home/wonderful-woods-could-otherwise-be-used-but-endangered/

https://www.kingfisherwoodworks.com/the-strength-of-wood.html

From what I have read for North American woods air dried "impact grade" hickory which was hand riven will produce extremely strong sticks.

Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) is also extremely strong. Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) and healthy timber from black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) would also make very strong sticks.

In Europe Cornelian cherry/cornelian dogwood (Cornus mas) would be an excellent choice.
 
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