As a woodworker, one of the most intriguing and satisfying projects you can undertake is making walking sticks. There are several types of wood with which you can make walking sticks. The trick is to identify the wood that not only suits the purpose but looks good as well.
In this post, we look at different types of wood to use for walking sticks. We also consider the various aspects that make one type of wood preferable over another one. Each wood has unique characteristics, and you can make the best walking sticks if you understand how to take advantage of each type of wood.
What to Look for in Walking Stick Wood
While any wood will suit your purpose, you need to identify the kind of wood that has certain unique characteristics. Some wood is more suitable than others for the reasons highlighted below:
The stick you select should be reasonably straight.
The diameter of the stick should be a bit larger than it is comfortable to hold. However, after turning, it offers a more comfortable grip.
One end of the stick of should be thick enough to form a carved handle. The rest of the stick needs to be slender enough to form a straight stick.
An adult of average height will need a stick of about 55 inches long. A taller person will be more comfortable with a length of 58 inches to 60 inches.
Harvesting Green Wood
If you use green wood, cut the piece a bit longer than required. This is because when the wood goes through the curing process, the ends are likely to split, so you will have to trim them down.
Cut your wood above and from the underside sections of branches, as those locations are prone to cracking or splitting. If you have a branch section, keep it until the wood has cured sufficiently. Later on, you can cut the branches off or retain them to create shapes on the top of the stick.
Ensure to leave enough of the bole for carving the handle. The bole is the section on the tree from which the branch emerges. You can also take advantage of a burl to carve a shape or handle for the walking stick.
Best Wood for Walking Sticks
Now that we have seen what to look for while selecting wood for walking sticks let’s get into the heart of the matter. Yes, we shall look at some of the best wood for walking sticks that you can find.
You can use grey birch, cherry birch, or black birch. The wood cuts smoothly and has a regular grain. The light cream color of birch opens up myriad possibilities for staining the wood in different colors and hues. You can also highlight burls or bark fragments to your advantage.
Despite being hard, black walnut cuts well and sands easily. The main attraction of this wood is the stark contrasting colors in shades of brown of the wood grain between the sapwood and heartwood. However, this may not be prominent on small branches. Nevertheless, you can get some great walking sticks from this wood.
Also called white walnut or oil nut, butternut also provides contrasting colors, but it doesn’t show up much with small branches. The softness of this wood makes it popular among woodcarvers, and it goes on to make good walking sticks and handles, too.
Dogwood is another favorite wood amongst woodcarvers, and it makes good walking sticks indeed. Unlike black walnut and butternut, the color variation between the sapwood and heartwood persists even in small branches. In addition, the contrast between the reddish sapwood dark brown heartwood makes some interesting patterns.
Almost any variety of maple is good for carving and making walking sticks. The soap-like smoothness on finishing gives a nice texture to any walking stick you make, keeping it sturdy as well. You can also make use of the gnarled and burled bits to enhance the appearance.
The main attraction of oak is the attractive grain lines it develops on curing. The wood is robust, heavy, and strong but easily workable. You can also get spalted oak which you can use to get some interesting patterns on the wood.
Yellow poplar, which comes from the magnolia family, does not bear any relationship with the other popular varieties. The wood is porous, responding well to penetrating stains with some dramatic effects. Its porosity also allows you to add several coats of varnish to bring out the grain patterns.
On aging, beech tends to develop spalt lines, and the older growth also develops crookedness and burls, all of which incorporate well into a walking stick. You can cut beech smoothly in almost any direction and still get some interesting grain lines on applying a finish to the wood.
Ashwood is a robust wood that is good to wield as a stick. There are several varieties of ash, including mountain ash, green ash, and white ash. Green ash particularly has branches at 45° angles that make good walking stick handles with bird heads and so on.
Conversely, if exposed to the weather while curing, Mountain ash shows an interesting surface spalting. There is a good contrast between the light sapwood and dark heartwood that produces some attractive patterns. The wood is soft and reasonably easy to carve rustic walking sticks from it.
This wood exhibits some interesting shimmering colors in the bark, from dark brown to silver. You can make beautiful walking sticks out of hazelwood. Hazel walking sticks are particularly popular with the British as they go exceptionally well with the traditional British tweed suit, which has similar flecks of color like in the wood.
Some interesting folklore about hazel is that a hazel rod is believed to ward off evil spirits. In some parts of England, hazelnuts acted as charms and were supposed to ward off rheumatism.
Superstition apart, hazel makes an exceptional traditional country cane. It looks stylish and is comfortable to hold as well.
The Romans introduced chestnut to England in the 12th Century. Today, it is available the world over and in many places in the United States. To make a chestnut walking stick, you can peel and steam the branch or leave the bark on to give it a more rustic appearance.
Chestnut makes good walking sticks with “thumbstick” handles, also simply called “Thumbsticks.” These walking sticks have a natural “V” shape on the handle where you can place your thumb while grasping the handle with the rest of your hand. This type of walking stick provides excellent support and balance.
Blackthorn is a small, thorny tree with extremely dark brown branches. Although the tree is short, more like a bush, the wood is tough and durable. The strong point of blackthorn wood is its rich dark color and smooth texture, making it suitable for walking sticks.
When it comes to choosing wood for walking sticks, there is no definitive answer due to the infinite variables involved. Factors like aesthetics, weight, hardness, flexibility, durability, and so much more come into play.
Wood is not a commodity that fits all requirements. However, you can mold wood into a living, breathing entity as you personalize it to suit the variety of walking sticks that you can make from it. Here, we discussed a few of those factors. We also took a look at some of the best wood for walking sticks you can find.
If you consider these factors in selecting the wood for making walking sticks, you can create some masterpieces in wood. As you work, you may discover many more types of wood for making durable but beautiful walking sticks that people will remember you by.