are a lot of woods that work well for making walking sticks or canes.
Here are just a few: maple,
alder, cherry, diamond willow, aspen, sassafras, and even ocatillo
cactus or walking stick cabbage. They all can be peeled, carved or
If you are not into searching the timbers for a stick or branch,
you can purchase them from different wood dealers.
The Northwest Wood Carvers Associations Resource List or vendors
at the Northwest Wood Carvers Show are a good starting point.
To find out about other area shows, go to our web page
"Events and Clubs". From our "links" page,
find a supply store and some of them will sell sticks for canes. Youíll
also find books, tools and other materials needed for this subject.
It is a good idea to pay attention to the balance of your
stick or cane, especially when it is curved or twisted.
When creating a cane for someone else, be sure that it is
not too tall or short. I
was told that when the hand is on top of the cane, the arm
should be slightly bent, approximately 10%.
Check the thickness of the wood for sufficient strength. A diameter of 1-11/2 inches is good.
Tips: Measuring for the cane: To get the correct
length, stand up straight with your normal walking shoes on. Let your
arm hang naturally at the side. You will probably notice that it has a
slight bend to it rather than being perfectly straight down. (thus the
10% bend which is higher than straight down). Have someone else measure
from the floor to the second crease in the wrist. That is the proper
length of the cane.
for the walking staff:
Hold a broom handle where it is comfortable for your arm.
Take a few steps to make sure.
Then measure from the floor to the top of your hand and add 2
inches to this measurement for the length of your staff.
The hand location is where you would put your hand covering if
you are going to use one. For
a more decorative staff topper you may add inches to the top but your
hand still goes where it was measured.
For most people it will feel comfortable when your elbow is at a
90 degree angle or slightly higher (that is with the forearm parallel to
Hand saw, gloves (carvers glove is best), eye protection, draw
knife or large knife for removing bark, gouges, v-tools, and a drill may
be needed to complete your project.
Other tools that may be helpful are a Dremel, vice and power
sander. Or if you keep it simple you may only need your carver's
Iíve made myself
a large cardboard flat that folds for storage under my
workbench. It does
a pretty good job at containing my mess when I work indoors.
When I am finished, I simply pick it up and dump the
chips into a bucket for later use as a fire starter.
It is best to harvest in the winter months when the sap has stopped
will be less shrinkage, and therefore less checking. (Cracking at
the cut ends).
Lay sticks flat to keep them straight.
Itís been said that itís best to dry green wood in a garage or
shed (at a natural temperature), not in the house.
To prevent checking, dry the wood slowly. One way to do this is to
wrap the wood in plastic. Unwrap
for a few hours a day, gradually lengthening the time until dry.
There are substances that can be purchased at your
local woodworker store to coat the ends of your stick to prevent
If you choose to de-bark the stick itís easiest to remove from
Dried Wood: (cut
and dried 6 months or longer)
If the bark is hard to remove, try heating it over fire or steam.
Check for areas of rot that might weaken the
Bugs can be killed by placing the stick in one or two large
plastic bags spraying insecticide inside.
Seal the opening and let set for a few days. Use caution;
read directions, spray in a well ventilated area and wash hands
after touching the stick.
This is a tip I like to mention to new
carvers: carve what you love to look at--then you are less
likely to get bored with the subject.
Placing the design onto the stick can be
done with a pencil or a black marker (which is easier to see).
On a walking stick/staff you should make
a place for a handle.
The amount of carving on the piece
depends on your preference. Some
say that the majority of the carving should be limited to the top
third of the stick so that it does not become overwhelming.
Iíve seen sticks carved to ranging degrees and found them
Decorative tops can be carved separately,
and added later.
the wood is very hard and difficult to carve, make a
solution thatís part water and part denatured alcohol and
spray onto the wood to soften it.
The alcohol helps the water to penetrate the wood
method can be used in all areas of carving.
This is also a good way to repair minor dents in the
stick grips, tops and cane handles:
materials for grips are: Leather,
jute (twine), nylon, or decorative braids.
can also be carved grooves encircling a stick.
A ďVĒ tool or ďUĒ gouge works well to carve these
Place the grip where the hand meets the walking
stick while the arm is bent 90 degrees at the elbow.
itís a natural bend in the stick or separately attached piece,
make sure the handle is strong enough to bear the weight of the
into account the curve in the palm for the most comfortable grip.
If you are making the cane for someone else, have them make
an impression on a cylinder of modeling clay to get an idea of the
size and shape of their grip.
materials such as antlers or horns can also be used as handles.
Keep any trimmed pieces from your cane for possible use
as a handle and to test your finishes on.
is good to experiment with some of the different ways to attach
handles since there varying characteristics to woods. The load they have to bear is a factor. The most common method is to use a hardwood dowel, dowel
screw or double headed screw.
Drill a hole into both the handle and staff to fit the dowel or
screw. It has been
suggested to drill as deep as 2 inches into the staff.
Mark your drill bit with a piece of tape at the desired depth for
Dry assemble your pieces for proper fitting before finishing with
glue or epoxy.
The top 11/4 inch of the staff can be carved down to a dowel shape
and inserted into the handle as above.
Similarly, both the staff and handle can be turned or carved with
a dowel-like end and inserted into a brass or copper pipe fitting
approximately 1 inch wide and 2 to 4 inches long. This adds a bit of shine while covering the seam.
|Tip: Rings of
different colored woods, bone or metal can be added between
the handle and staff for a nice touch to the cane.
Save the sanding dust to mix with glue or putty.
This will create a filling that more readily matches
Protecting The Base:
Rubber cane tips can be purchased at pharmacies and medical supply
stores. They are
designed for slip resistance indoors and out.
Rubber stoppers are an inexpensive alternative and can be
purchased at most hardware stores.
Attach by drilling a hole in the stopper and the end of the
cane, then gluing in a dowel.
Brass or metal ferrules make an elegant tip for a cane.
To attach, rasp the end of cane or stick into a gentle
taper, try the ferrule for fit, then fix with glue and a small
After carving and sanding is completed, be sure that all dust has
been removed from your walking stick or cane. Use a dusting brush, vacuum or tack cloth.
Wash any areas with bark and allow to dry completely.
Be sure that staining is done in a well ventilated area. Read and
follow all directions given.
Use rubber gloves and an apron to protect skin and cloths.
Use plastic or cardboard beneath the stick or cane, to protect the
are many finishes available, so choose one that best suits your needs.
Make sure you apply the recommended number of coats.
Make sure any paint used is compatible with the finishing
substance, otherwise yellowing may occur.
Books that may be helpful:
Tom Wolfe; Woodspirits and Walking Sticks
Tom Wolfe; Carving Canes
and Walking Sticks
Tom Wolfe; Creative Canes and Walking Sticks
Andrew Jones and Clive George; Stick Making, A Complete Course
George H. Meyer; American Folk Art Canes
Adolph Vandertie With Patrick Spielmen; Hobo & Tramp Art
Maxwell; Old Time Whittling
Harry Ameredes; The Fantastic Book of Canes Pipes & Walking
E.J. Tangerman; has a number of books that might be helpful.
-- Here's a link to information about cane making supplies &
Cane, Staff and Walking Stick Page