How to Craft a One-Of-A-Kind Walking Stick

Walking sticks are not just for people who are getting older, or people who are “lame” or otherwise invalid in some way.
Walking sticks have been in use probably as long as “homo-erectus” has been walking on two legs instead of on four!

Walking sticks are not “crutches” per se, and are not only used to help support a person as they walk. Some walking sticks can actually be considered more of symbols of status or of character, depending on the style of walking stick in use.

Indeed, it is quite easy to imagine an English Nobleman with a quite ornate walking stick, tap-tap-tapping his way along the gas-lit, cobblestone alleyway in London. Likewise, it is easy to imagine a Tibetan Monk trekking up a steep mountainside, clutching his ‘staff’ to help him keep his footing and balance.

So, we can see that walking sticks very likely have been around a very long time, and they have been used for a variety of functions.

I am about to tell you how to craft one for yourself. It will be unique, one-of-a-kind, and it will become a part of you, as you work it through the simple steps to completion. It will also cost you very little money!

Tools and Materials needed:
Safety Glasses
Leather work gloves
Hand saw (small “bow” style, or similar)
Hand pruning shears
Tree branch (which will become your walking stick-see below for how to choose)
Razor knife with sharp blade; for stripping bark from branch
Chair-to sit in while stripping bark!
Place to strip the bark from the branch (it can be messy, so outdoors is recommended).
Medium grit sandpaper
Clear enamel spray paint

SAFETY TIPS:
Saws, razor knives, pruning shears and spray paint can be sources of injury if not properly used. Follow manufacturers’ recommendations for safe handling or use.

The challenge of the search:
Note: Pine trees are “rich with pitch”, and, consequently, are not very good candidates for this particular method of crafting a walking stick, unless you are prepared to become “rich with pitch” yourself! For obvious reasons, “hardwoods” are best for this walking stick (oak, birch, maple, ash, willow, lilac, etc.).

One of the most interesting facets of crafting your own walking stick is the search for that ‘perfect’ branch. If your property has a number of trees, I am sure you can find a ‘perfect’ branch on one of them. If not, certainly a lonely country road nearby will have what you are looking for.

Look for branches that are low to the ground so you do not need to climb any ladders; then look for one that has a fairly straight section for at least 30-36 inches. This, of course, depends on your own specific height. If you are very tall, you may need to find a longer one; if you are very short, you will undoubtedly have more branches to select from! Look also for a “crook” in the branch that can become the “handle”.

Once you have found the right walking stick for you, cut it from the tree using the hand saw. Trim all smaller branches from your walking stick branch (as close to the branch as possible) so you have only the walking stick “rough-draft”, sans any twigs and leaves, etc.

The crafting process:
Now you are ready to enjoy the beginning of the ‘transformation’ process.
Find a place where you can set up your chair and where you don’t mind depositing a few bark shavings. Or, if you prefer, you can lay down some newspapers in your garage or driveway and ‘deposit’ the shavings there, for easy cleanup.
Bring your chair, safety glasses, leather gloves, razor knife and sandpaper along.
Sit in your chair (with safety glasses and gloves on)
Using the razor knife (and always pushing it away from your body or body parts!), trim any remaining ‘nubs’ left protruding from trimming the twigs, etc.
Holding the branch firmly (at the thick end) in one (gloved) hand, and the razor knife in the other (gloved) hand, cut the knife blade lightly through the bark, then flatten the knife blade under the bark, then push the knife away from you for as far as it will freely go along the length of the branch (i.e., if there are ‘nubs’ from cut off twigs, you will have to go around those).

You will find that the bark removes quite easily from freshly cut branches, and once you get the ‘feel’ of it, you will easily remove the bulk of the bark within a very short time.
Once the majority of the bark has been stripped, you will likely have some areas where small amounts still remain; especially near twig locations, or in the “crook” of the handle end. You can remove that quite easily with the razor knife…just be extra careful you don’t slip and cause injury to yourself! Use light pressure and slow, even movements. Or…if you choose…you can leave some small sections of bark on the branch; sometimes that adds visual appeal!

After you have cleaned all the bark from your branch (that you want to remove), allow it to “dry” for a few hours.
Once your walking stick has dried, simply sand down any remaining “rough spots” with the medium grit sandpaper. When complete, the surface of your walking stick should feel smooth as you run your hand along its length (cautiously…don’t get slivers on something sticking up that you might have overlooked).

If you are satisfied your walking stick surface is nice and smooth, you are ready to give it a couple coats of clear enamel spray paint to help preserve it. If you prefer, you can wait a day or two before “sealing” your walking stick…but don’t wait too long, as it will dry out too much!

To paint your walking stick, simply suspend it from a branch (or other outdoor location away from the house, cars, etc.–if necessary, install a small hook or screw-eye in the bottom end of your walking stick to suspend it while painting) and apply two or three light, even coats, waiting five to ten minutes between coats.

That’s it! You have just crafted your own unique, one-of-a-kind walking stick. If you wish, you can give it a name (sort of like a ‘friend’), and you can hand-paint decorations on it, or you can just leave it ‘natural’!
Whatever you do,I hope you ENJOY your walking stick in good health!

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