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Willow and poplar are not noted for their strength. Most fast growing trees that suck up lots of water are like that. They stick may be fine for downward pressure, but not so good from the side. My basic test is to ram the stick downward, and forward, as if I were using it as I stumbled. If it flexes, I consider it as only good for show.

I suppose something like hanging a full gallon of paint off the stick while the stick bridges a gap would also be a reasonable indicator of its ability to withstand sideways pressure.
 
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