How to Make Your Walking Stick with a Natural Wood Handle

Choosing Blanks for your walking stick

Choose the optimum wood for making your walking stick - Blackthorn is Ideal
Choose the optimum wood for making your walking stick - Blackthorn is Ideal

How to make a walking stick from your blank wood

A walking stick blank is a piece of suitable wood (Blackthorn, Ash, Holly or Elder) that has been left for around a year. This curing process hardens the wood. The sap within the wood begins to dry and becomes workable. Making a walking stick too early means it is likely to split. Curing the wood is an essential art of learning how to make your walking stick. The choice of wood is really up to you and depends on what is either available locally or what can be purchased from markets or the internet.

After Curing

After your blank wood has cured, and since your handle has already been made, you’ll now need to turn your crafting skills to the main walking stick pole itself. This part of crafting your walking stick shows your very patient nature as the average curing time for your walking pole is around 1 year since it was cut from your chosen tree or bush.

Preparation - Cleaning your Walking Stick Blank

Now the real fun part starts as your walking stick really begins to take shape. One of the first processes you’ll need to accomplish for your walking stick to really come to life will consist of cleaning it from any naturally occurring detritus, dirt or mold. Use a mild detergent with a plastic based cleaning pad as your primary tool. The key here is to ensure your stick or shaft is ready for the next part of the process. Here the wood really comes to life and takes on a beauty unique to wood as a crafting material.

Providing it’s mildly abrasive your cleaning pad combined with warm water will help clean any lichen or dirt from your cured walking stick. Try to avoid over saturating your pole with water, as you don’t want to reintroduce high water content at this stage to your blank. A damp scrubbing brush works wonderfully.

Finding a good blank is the first step

Traditional walking stick blanks
Traditional walking stick blanks | Source

Cleaning your walking stick the full wood effect

Now your wood looks a lot cleaner you’ll notice the natural wood bark effects. This is a key part of the beauty of natural walking sticks, and how you finish it (choice of lacquer) will enhance these natural swirls and colors. Depending on your chosen wood, you'll start to see distinctive bark marks, colors, and whirls. Next you'll need to ensure your shaft is as smooth as possible. Remove any branch shoots or tough spikes of wood with a sharp craft knife.

A Stanley knife blade works extremely well. Remember to use hand protection, anti-cut gripper gloves work very well. Remove any annoying rough spots so the pole becomes totally smooth. Run your hand up and down the pole to ensure all blemishes have been removed.

Choosing the Correct Length for You

Your blank walking stick will vary in length, and if you cut it correctly at the beginning of your nature hunt, you’ll have 4-6 inches excess at both the top and bottom of your walking stick. This helps protect your wood if it begins to check or split. Now you can cut the top and bottom flush to the desired length. Ideally the length of your wooden pole should be from the ground to a natural position in your hand as it rests at your side.

Too low and you’ll end up stooping down, to high and you’ll find the stick uncomfortable to move naturally as you begin walking. If you’re planning on selling your walking stick, leave the length as uncut until the buyer has chosen their preferred length. You can then cut accordingly showing off your excellent customer service skills as you prepare to sell a custom made walking stick.

Walking stick preparation

Making your own Walking Stick

Beautiful walking sticks add to your health as well as your identity and can feel a part of the family.
Beautiful walking sticks add to your health as well as your identity and can feel a part of the family.

Enhancing the Natural Wood Color of your Walking Stick

To bring out the natural color of the wood you have chosen for your walking stick, gently rub down with a fine wire-wool. The key here is not to remove the bark or scratch your walking stick wood, but to create an abrasive surface for the application of oils for the next stage of your walking stick preparation.

The Use of Boiled Linseed Oil

It’s advisable to add two coats of boiled linseed oil. After rubbing in one coat with a rug or brush, allow your stick to dry and then gently rub down with very fine sandpaper. Remove the dust by rubbing down with a clean cloth. Then apply another coat of linseed oil. Dry in a dust free area. To provide a protective coat use a polyurethane based paint. Polyurethane protects the stick from damage; it’s remarkably flexible yet extremely strong. Your stick is now ready for adding a walking stick handle or ferrule.

Making a walking stick

Metal or Rubber Ferrules?

The choice of ferrule really depends on your personal taste and how you want your finished product to look. Orthopedic Ferrules (Large soft rubber) , steel tipped ferrules (Brass with flat steel plate welded to brass base), Brass ferrules or even Alpine spikes Ferrules all offer a unique function to your finished walking stick. You can even add a magnetic tipped ferrule! I personally prefer steel tipped as they last a long time and make a fantastic clicking sound when walking on gravel or stone.

Uniting your Walking stick handle with your shaft

Next you’ll need to connect your shaft to your stick handle. You can create a fantastic look by using a metal bead or collar. This collar essentially hides the connection between the stick and handle and gives the finished product a professional look. Collars are made from either nickel, copper, Brass or even silver!

Engravings on the collar also offer a way of personalizing your stick and make fantastic personal presents to a loved one. In addition to metal collars you can also try something more natural and add an Antler collar to your finished walking stick. These collars look fantastic and give your walking stick a really natural look.

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