A project that I enjoy working on is a home made walking stick. Why do I like to make walking sticks? Because anytime I can make something myself, it has a better feeling about it. When I make my own walking sticks I can add my own personal touch to them. Anybody who has read my other articles will know that my favorite people are the Native Americans and the Mountain Men of the mid 1700s to the mid 1800s, so naturally when I make something, that is the type of flair that I give it and I can’t buy that in a store.
When you are going to make a walking stick, the first step will be to go to the forest and find the branch that you want. I will warn you now that the dried up branches that you find on the ground are usually not good for making walking sticks, because they are to dry and brittle. You will need to take a limb saw or a hatchet with you since the limbs are too hard to break off. Take your time finding your branch, pick one that is big enough for your hand to comfortably hold onto and then cut it a little longer than what it will be when it is completed, the reason for this is because you will eventually want to cut a few inches off both ends to make them smooth.
The second step in making a walking stick is to trim the little branches off and all the loose bark that you can. This operation works best if you use a sharp knife, however remember to be safe and not to angle your blade to much or you will put deep cuts in your wood. This will be difficult or impossible to sand out later. In the case of Shaggy Juniper, which is the type of tree we have in our area. It will help to take off most of the bark with a knife, when you cut the small branches off try to get them as close as possible, so that you don’t have to sand as much later on. I prefer to do this in the forest so I don’t have as much of a mess at home to deal with.
The third step is easiest if it is done with a band saw or a table saw. First trim a few inches off each end of your branch, the reason for this is that often there are cracks in the wood; it also helps to flatten the ends. At this point you can make the decision to set it on end and allow it to cure, which means to allow the sap to come out and dry, or to go ahead and work it. If you decide to set it on end and wait, depending on the wood, it could take up to 3 months to cure.
The fourth step is to buy some heavy, medium and light sand paper and start sanding. Start with the heavy sand paper; this will help to take off most of the wood and the nubs where the branches were. If you begin working your walking stick before it cures you should be prepared to use more sand paper due to the fact that the wet wood will clog up your sand paper much faster. Once you have taken the heavy material off switch to the medium sand paper and continue sanding. It is important to remember that when you are sanding wood you need to sand with the grain of the wood and never against it; when you sand against the grain it scratches the wood. Next you will want to use the light sand paper to make it extra smooth and comfortable to hold onto.
The fifth step is to decide what type of tip you want on your walking stick, for example do you want a pointed end or do you want a flat end. If you want a pointed end find a steel 16 penny nail and cut the head off. After you have cut the head off drill a hole in the end of your walking stick about the same size as the nail. It is important that you drill the hole straight, because the nail will follow the same path as the hole. Once the hole is drilled put some heavy duty glue on the part of the nail that is going to be inserted into the hole and insert the nail. My personal preference is to put a soft rubber tip on the end of my walking stick because I use mine in other places and not just the forest. The soft rubber tip is the type that you find on canes or on crutches, these tips can be found at most drug stores or in the pharmacy sections of stores like Wal-Mart.
The sixth step is a matter of preference, decorating and finishing. I personally like to put three coats of wood lacquer on my walking sticks, lacquer helps to seal it from rain and the other elements. You can add whatever touches you wish to your walking stick. Maybe you have a pattern that you came up with, if so then paint it on. One of my favorite add-ons is to drill a hole through the walking stick a few inches from the top and then put a leather lace through it. I have even been known to attach a medicine bag which I can keep items that I might want out hiking, like matches, a pocket knife, etc. How you decorate and finish your walking stick is up to you.
The important thing to remember is that your walking stick should reflect who you are.