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Elegant Carved Walking Sticks and Canes

Updated on January 31, 2015

Walking Sticks and Canes with Character

Since the dawn of history, apes and humans have used sticks for many purposes. Whether slim canes, strong sticks or long staffs, they have been used as walking aids, as weapons, for self defense, and as symbols of status. Sharp stones, points, and carvings have been used to personalise canes, enhance their usefulness, and even show tribal allegiance.

During the 16th century, hand carved canes and sticks became very fashionable and elegant accessories showing social status. Louis XIV of France, the Sun king, is often depicted carrying ornate, jeweled walking sticks. They were his symbol of power. His subjects could not carry sticks in his presence, and he restricted their use to the aristocracy.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, in Europe, gentlemen and dandies carried walking sticks as a fashion statement. The elegance of the stick was a clue to how wealthy a man was. Sticks were also important for protection against street ruffians and robbers.

Faberge, Tiffany and all the important porcelain houses made beautiful walking sticks, using jade, quartz, enamel and even diamonds. Of course, not all sticks and canes were expensive. Many folk artists and seamen wiled away the hours crafting canes for their own use or for sale.

In recent years, sticks and canes have regained popularity as walking aids, of course, but also as collectors items. Depending on the type of wood used and the decoration or carving of the shaft and handle, they range from cheap to very expensive. A sophisticated hand carved cane is a unique and thoughtful gift for any collector.

This photo of a cobra head cane is copyright to me, and should not be used without my permission.

Amazing Animal Head Carved Walking Sticks & Canes

At one time, sticks and canes were defined by the materials used to make them. Those made of ebony, ivory, whalebone, and other valuable woods were called sticks. Those made of rattan, malacca, bamboo and other reeds were called canes. These days most people use these terms interchangeably. Both sticks and canes can be beautifully decorated.

Colors Don't Run Eagle Handle Walking Cane With Inlaid Ovangkol Shaft and Silver Collar
Colors Don't Run Eagle Handle Walking Cane With Inlaid Ovangkol Shaft and Silver Collar

Hand carved from exotic Ovangkol wood cane, the eagle head shows the character of this proud and mighty character. The shaft is implanted with red, blue and white woods, with a very smooth sanded finish which adds to the elegance of the cane.

 
Dragon Walking Stick Wood Carved Dragon Walking Cane Dragon Statue- OMA® BRAND
Dragon Walking Stick Wood Carved Dragon Walking Cane Dragon Statue- OMA® BRAND

Unique hand carved 40 inch Dragon walking stick, made from tropical monkey pod wood, Very detailed carving. Base protected by a black rubber fitting.

 

That is why, no matter how desperate the predicament is, I am always very much in earnest about clutching my cane, straightening my derby hat and fixing my tie, even though I have just landed on my head.

— Charlie Chaplin

Carving a Walking Cane or Stick

I have a lot of admiration for people who have the patience and skill to produce carvings this good! At many country fairs around England, you can see guys like this at work.

Cobra Statue Walking Stick Cane Wood Snake - Handcarved - OMA BRAND
Cobra Statue Walking Stick Cane Wood Snake - Handcarved - OMA BRAND

This cobra headed cane has been hand carved by skilled artisans. The shaft has a snake-like, interesting waved shape.

 
SE WS633-60E  Natural Wood Walking Stick with Eagle Head Carving, Steel Spike and Metal-Reinforced Tip Cover, 60"
SE WS633-60E  Natural Wood Walking Stick with Eagle Head Carving, Steel Spike and Metal-Reinforced Tip Cover, 60"

This smart walking staff is 60 inches long and made from huangtang wood - a type of pine. It is topped with a carved eagle head. Fitted with a metal spike on the base for better traction.

 

Carving Your Own Walking Cane

Stickmaking is a fascinating craft. I have spent several hours watching stickmakers in action at Country Fairs. I haven't made any canes yet, although I have collected suitable wood. I am quite proud of some shelves I made though.

Stickmaking can be a satisfying hobby or even a business opportunity for the talented woodcarver. The skills needed to hand carve sticks are not beyond the reach of someone keen to learn.

One well-known maker is Tom Wolfe. He has authored several books about stickmaking and carving, where he shares his techniques for creating walking sticks.

Tom Wolfe Carves Wood Spirits and Walking Sticks (Schiffer Book for Woodcarvers)
Tom Wolfe Carves Wood Spirits and Walking Sticks (Schiffer Book for Woodcarvers)

Tom Wolfe shows the budding carver how to find the Wood Spirits in drift wood, roots and old beams, as well as walking sticks. With step-by-step instructions, beautiful illustrations, and many examples and ideas, he will inspire you to carve your own.

 

Carving Lifelike Handles

Another very talented craftsman is Frank C. Russell who has written several books in the Schiffer for Woodcarvers series. He specialises in carving life-like animals and birds, realistic faces and folk figures. His book on carving animal-handled canes includes projects for fifteen different animals, with informative text and photos covering all the techniques and individual steps. A second book covers fifteen bird projects ranging from Bald Eagle to Brown Pelican and Horned Puffin to Ring-Necked Pheasant. These projects are challenging for novices and pure pleasure for experienced carvers.

Carving Wildfowl Canes And Walking Sticks With Power (Schiffer Book for Woodcarvers)
Carving Wildfowl Canes And Walking Sticks With Power (Schiffer Book for Woodcarvers)

Discover how to create lifelike wildfowl cane handles, with 15 detailed projects. The tools, materials and techniques are explained, and the book is illustrated with more than 145 clear color photographs.

 
Carving Animal Canes & Walking Sticks with Power (Schiffer Book for Carvers)
Carving Animal Canes & Walking Sticks with Power (Schiffer Book for Carvers)

Learn to carve lifelike animal-handled canes and walking sticks, with patterns for 15 projects, including bear, cobra, lion, squirrel and more. There are more than 180 clear color photos, along with concise and informative text.

 

Folk Craft Canes

If you prefer a more rustic cane, you might enjoy a hand-crafted and painted animal handle canes. I have seen many designs: turtle, eagle, alligator and more. For lovers of elephants, there is a charging elephant with trunk in the air.

They are sturdy and have been carved to give a comfortably shaped handle. They are approx. 35 inches in height, with rubber butts for traction.

I think my favorite has to be the frog, but if you are a bird lover, have a look at the Eagle and the Loon.

Hand Carved and Painted Wood Turtle Walking Stick Cane
Hand Carved and Painted Wood Turtle Walking Stick Cane

A handsome hand carved turtle decorates this rustic cane. This sturdy, hand painted walking stick is approx. 35 inches in height. The cane has a rubber butt for traction.

 
Hand Carved & Painted Wood Alligator Walking Stick Cane
Hand Carved & Painted Wood Alligator Walking Stick Cane

A little more unusual, an alligator cane for those with a wild streak!

 

Collecting Canes on a lImited Budget

If your budget is restricted, it doesn't stop you collecting lovely walking sticks and canes. You can find some very nice pieces on eBay at under $50. However, the old adage "buyer beware" has to apply to online purchases, especially for more expensive items.

I have seen many elegant, hand-crafted canes available on eBay. These smart canes can be in the price range of $100 to $500. To protect yourself, make sure you read the description carefully and study any photos. Don't be frightened to ask questions about 'provenance', that is the history of the cane: who made it? who owned it? how did the seller obtain it?

Be particularly careful with scrimshaw, and don't be mislead. I have seen descriptions of canes boasting that the item has 'faux scrimshaw'. Think about this: "faux" is just a French word meaning "false". However, even faux scrimshaw can be quite exquisite.

There are also some beautiful mid-priced walking sticks and canes available between $50 and $100. These make lovely gifts for the collector in your life. Or as a treat for you!

Are you a woodworker? - Tell us about something you are proud that you made

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    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      I have been wanting to get a walking stick for my dad, because he is having a bit of trouble walking and won't get a cane.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Julie, I'm not a woodworker, but I do create art in other materials and appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship in many of the walking canes you've featured here. I also enjoyed reading about some of the history of walking canes prized not only as practical tools but also as works of art and fashion statements.

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 3 years ago

      A plate rack.

    • sierradawn lm profile image

      sierradawn lm 3 years ago

      I am not a woodworker, but more of a whittler. I did carve my own walking stick though, from a piece of twisted wood that had been through a fire. I carved emblems all over it. I love walking sticks and you have an extraordinary collection of gorgeous ones here!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I enjoyed seeing these beautiful and unique carved walking sticks.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Nice cane selection.

    • profile image

      Scott A McCray 4 years ago

      My mountain dulcimer I made...lots of fun and good sounds, too! (There's a pic on my "My Dad, My Superhero" lens...)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm not a wood worker but I sure do admire the art that you are displaying here....the intro picture drew me in and many more delights were found along the way, what wonderful artistry that has a practical use as well! :)

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @MarcStorm LM: Thanks for visiting, and for your comment. The penny whistle cane sounds fun!

    • MarcStorm LM profile image

      MarcStorm LM 4 years ago

      A really great presentation of some great canes and how to make your own! I can remember back around St. Patrick's Day, on a home shopping channel network, here in the states, they were selling a limited quantity of an Irish made walking stick(hand made & handcrafted by a special carver) with a top/handle that unscrews to reveal a removable penny whistle, very cool! It sold out in like 2 minutes!

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      I'm not a woodworker, but I can certainly appreciate those who are! These are beautiful pieces. I especially like the bird and frog canes, very whimsical.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      No, I am not a woodworker but I do like some of these canes. I think my fav has to be the green frog walking cane. And although I do know a bit about French Hostory, I did not know that the Sun King liked to use walking canes.