Coat the Cuts With Wax
Dip each end of the wood into the melted wax to coat the cuts. This prevents the wood from splitting, called checking, while it dries. Brush wax onto any places where you cut off twigs. Allow the wax to dry.
A good walking stick usually starts as a fairly straight piece of wood that is approximately one to two inches in diameter.
Pine will almost always be “sappy”, which will leach out past the finish and need to be covered with tape or leather over the handle area. It can be used for a walking stick but is not a “good” walking stick and has better uses.
3. Dry the wood. Place the stick with bark removed in an area of the house or shop that is about 55 to 70 degrees for maybe 4 to 7 days. Don’t rush drying like placing wood in hot sun.
A staff should be at least as thick as the user’s wrist, but slender enough that they can get their hand fully around it. You can purchase such staves, but far better if you find one in nature! Reinforcing the staff can be done with such things as strong twine, leather strips, wire or cloth.
Hold the wood in your left hand, the knife in your right with the blade facing towards you. Brace your right thumb against the wood, and squeeze your right fingers in order to draw the blade to your right thumb. Make your stroke short and controlled. Keep your right thumb out of the path of the blade.
Sassafras makes a light weight, strong walking stick and it is easy to carve or decorate.
If you’re forced to peel branches in the winter, or after the bark and sap has dried, you can loosen the bark first by applying heat and water, most effectively in the form of steam. A steam box is just the ticket, but you could improvise something simpler by pouring boiling water over the sticks.
For a walking stick, almost any oil will be fine (any oil for wood, not olive oil). Boiled linseed, Tung, Danish, etc. I use Tung oil with a citrus solvent so it dries a bit faster and it smells like oranges. Also you will have to reapply every season depending on how much you use it.
Certainly, there are all kinds of polyurethane, shellac and oils that will preserve the life of the bark on the walking stick; but, unfortunately the wood and the bark will decay, dry and change dimensions at different rates. Eventually the bark will mechanically separate from the wood.
If weight is not an issue, most types of hickory, ironwood and birch are all incredibly strong and make excellent walking sticks. Like hickory, oak is hard and strong, but very heavy.
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