Oy! Geroffmylawnyadamnkids!

My father’s knees are not what they used to be and he also has unstable blood pressure. So he needs a walking stick for support. He has a nice pair of aluminum sticks for nordic walking which he uses when he goes to town, but those are not entirely practical for when he goes into the garden and needs to, for example, carry a tool or a bucket in one free hand. Or hang the stick on the fence when he fills the bird feeder.

Thus I have decided to make him an old-fashioned walking cane to shake at clouds and kids stealing apples etcetera. It was a fun little project for a few days with me gathering walnuts in between its steps.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I have started with approx 25 mm thick and just under 150 cm long hazel branch fully dried offer the last few years in the attic. I have shaved off most of the bark with a drawknife and then I have straightened all those small bends it had using the same method that served me well when making my walnut collectors.

Then came some more work with a drawknife and a plane, until I had a straight-ish and round-ish stick approx 20 mm in thickness.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I have cobbled together a template for the bend and after boiling the end of the stick in water for circa 15 minutes, I have put it in and bend it about half the way.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Old trizact grinding belts are soft and pliable, whilst being very strong. so I have used one as a backing to prevent raising splinters. Unfortunately, I did do a mistake in subsequent bends so I have raised splinters eventually that has led to a loss of circa 2-3 mm of wood on the outer curve, but hey, I have never bent wood this much before, so I was still learning, despite having some prior knowledge and experience.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

With a succession of several heats where I have been bending the stick more and more, I have gotten to a stage when it was fully wrapped around the template. Then I have put it aside to dry for a few days.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

When the wood was completely dry, I took it off the template, sanded the whole thing to 320 grit (although definitively not as thoroughly as I would a knife handle) and I scorched the wood with a propane torch. Scorching serves several purposes – it makes the surface of the wood a bit harder, it gives the wood nice dark color and it makes the surface more resistant to rot.

I have also added a piece of steel pipe to the bottom of the stick to give it a better purchase on the soft garden ground, to prevent the wood from splitting, mushrooming, and abrasion.

After that, I have spent several weeks applying several layers of linseed oil by wiping it on-off every two to three days until the surface was sealed but not too shiny.

The last step, finished yesterday, was to add paracord wrap around the handle. It bulks the skinny handle a bit, compensating for the loss of material during incompetent bending. It has a lanyard loop so my father does not need to drop it whenever he needs both hands for short time. And the bright color makes it easy to spot when – not whether – he forgest it somewhere in the hedge or near the garden patch.

I have positioned the lanyard near the straight bend to force my father to use the stick with the hook end protruding between the thumb and index finger and the supporting stick being aligned with the ulna. There are many people who use these walking sticks the other way around, but in my opinion that puts more strain on the wrist and is actually less safe. I do not have scientific data on this, so I might be ronk. But this stick is ever so slightly bendy and when I test it, it seems to be more rigid this way than the other way around.


And what I have learned? First that I can do this. Second that I should make the template in such a way that the bend is drop-shaped, not semi-circle-shaped because the wood springs a bit back after taking it off the template. If I ever need to do this again, I shall do better. I can make snazzy walking sticks now is what I am trying to say.




  1. kestrel says

    This reminds me of my shepherd’s crook. I remember reading somewhere that it’s really cool to stand around holding a shepherd’s crook, because it will make you look really wise. They are also a fantastic tool for catching wayward lambs, snagging down bales of hay from a high stack or keeping aggressive dogs at bay. But most people don’t use them for that, they just have them hanging on the wall or something decorative like that. So take that shepherd’s crook down and stand around near the road looking thoughtful! People will assume you are really wise.

  2. StonedRanger says

    My dad used to make walking sticks/canes out of vine maple. The way it grows it has a handle kind of built right in. Not sure if it would bend well or not. Thats a great looking first try.

  3. Ice Swimmer says

    A fine walking stick. The dark colour also makes it more threatening looking for shaking it at kids and clouds 8-).

    Bent-wood coat racks/hooks next? Making a matching set of knives, knife block and a bent-wood rack for aprons and tea/dish towels* could also be a cool thing, but I’m not sure if that’s feasible or marketable.
    * = Finding a co-conspirator to make custom embroidered aprons, tea towels and tea towel covers** could be a nice extra.
    ** = Or whatever they’re called in English

  4. Tethys says

    That is beautiful, I hope it works as intended for your Father. Dealing with aging parents who really don’t want to acknowledge that they are aged can be a challenge.

    In MN there are several species of willows (including one that is confusingly named a diamond willow) that are susceptible to a fungus that causes them to grow in a strange pattern known as diamond willow. This wood is highly prized for walking sticks.


  5. says

    What a glorious walking stick. When I was a kid, if you went to some touristy destinations, they would sell bent badges hat you could attach to a walking stick with some nails.
    I once had a hiking stick, which I bough for a few bucks from an old man who sold them from his garage in the rural part of Asturias. It was quite tall, straight, and ideal for hiking in the mountains, since you could adjust its length with your handgrip, depending of whether you were going up or down. It didn’t have a nice metal foot and thus started to break, so I asked my grandpa to please attach a foot i had bought.
    Unfortunately my grandpa was a bit stubborn and set in his ways, so he used the opportunity to “adjust” the length to a walking stick…

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