In 2014, my son turned 3 years old. I think that's about when I began taking him out for walks in the woods. He seemed to really enjoy hiking with daddy and would often find a straight branch along the hiking trail to use as a walking stick.
After our hikes, he usually wanted to keep the sticks he had found, so I took some of them home.
In August 2017, I decided to sand, stain and finish one of them to see how it would look. It turned out much nicer than I expected, so I began making more.
After trying to remove bark with a draw-knife (aka: spoke shave or draw shave) from the first few sticks, I soon realized I needed something to hold them securely while I worked on them, so I watched a few YouTube videos and learned how to make a draw-shave horse.
The horse works like a charm!
I later added a seat to the the back of the one in the picture.
I searched around the Pierre area to find more sticks to work on. It wasn't long before my workshop became cluttered with sticks, so I built a fence to store them.
Most of the sticks I found locally were not very straight, so I built a 6'-long steam box and purchased a 1.3 gallon steamer online, so I could straighten them.
I tapered the sides of the lid, so it would fit in the hole, but after steaming for an hour, it warped too much and became unusable. Also, the back side of the steam box cracked.
I replaced the back side, adding reinforcement to prevent cracking.
I built a new door with a hinge and latch, which worked perfectly.
I also stapled bubble insulation to the entire inside surface, hoping it would help retain heat and prevent the wood from warping or cracking
The reinforced side has a brass fitting in the middle that hooks up to the steamer hose.
I screwed a series of 1x4s on each side of a 2x4 as a jig to hold the sticks in place.
2x4s were clamped down onto the sticks to straighten them.
With this set-up, I can straighten only two sticks at a time. However, my steam box will hold between 4 to 6 sticks, depending on their size and shape.
How I Started Making Walking Sticks
Oct 8, 2017 - This was the third stick I ever made and I gave to a customer at my workplace (Napa Auto Parts).
Nov 21, 2017 - I call this the "Club Stick", because it is pretty solid and strong, like a club (but surprisingly lightweight).
Nov 13, 2017 - Used a blow torch on this one to lighly burn it before sanding and finishing.
Nov 13, 2017 - This stick was too dry for steam-straightening, so I made it into a kid's bow.
Oct 23, 2017 - At six feet long, this stick is good for a tall person or a wizard.
Oct 23, 2017 - This stick has a series of cracks that I filled with yellow, red and blue glow-in-the-dark paint, which is best viewed under a blacklight.
Dec 4, 2017 - Same apple-wood stick with 3 coats of cherry stain and polyurethane. I later drilled a hole in the top and added a rawhide leather lanyard.
Nov 26, 2017 - This cane is made of apple wood. I took this picture before staining and finishing.
Nov 21, 2017 - Made a parent-child pair of hiking sticks with camouflage paracord.
Nov 30, 2017 - This stick was so tightly wrapped and tied with black leather lace, that no glue was needed to secure the leather to the stick. A retired hunting guide bought it a few days after I made it.
Dec 15, 2017 - After a lot of hard work, wood filler and glue, as well as 3 coats of walnut stain and polyurethane, it turned out to be my favorite stick. For a cane, it's quite long at 45".
Nov 30, 2017 - When I found this right-angled dead branch on the ground, I wasn't sure if it would work as a cane, due to some cracking and rotting at the bend, but I took it home anyway. Glad I did !!!
Dec 15, 2017 - Another parent-child pair of sticks with green paracord wrap/lanyard and walnut stain/poly.
Dec 15, 2017 - This mulberry wood knob cane has 3 coats of walnut stain and polyurethane. I made it for a gentleman who gave it to his dad for Christmas.
Dec 1, 2017 - This 5' long "Blue Stick" is a very solid (ash, I think) hiking stick that could double as a club.
Oct 23, 2017 - When I saw this stick on the ground, I was amazed at the mottled bark pattern. What a find!
Dec 17, 2017 - Two kid's walking sticks with red paracord wrap/lanyard.
August 15, 2017 - These are the first two hiking sticks I ever made (for me and my son). We have since used these a few times on hikes through the woods. After this picture was taken, I added a lanyard to both.
Oct 23, 2017 - Here's a closer view that shows part of the pattern better.
Oct 9, 2017 - My son with the walking stick I made for a a Napa customer.
I cut/sanded material around the handle to create a recess, so after wrapping the camouflage paracord around it, the handle would not be thicker than the rest of the stick.
I drilled a hole in the top of the steambox for a thermometer. The steamer takes about a half hour to heat up to 212 degrees (boiling point of water).
Like Father, Like Son
In January 2018, while corresponding with my step-mother via email, I mentioned my walking sticks, among other things. She replied that my dad used to make walking sticks too and sent me a picture of seven sticks he made. That was the first time I learned he made walking sticks too.
If you ask me, it's either a case of the fruit not falling far from the tree, coincidence, or else my dad may have inspired me (from Heaven) to make them.
January 2018 photo of the walking sticks my late father made at his winter home in Apache Junction, Arizona.
Walking Stick Future
Later in the fall of 2017, the weather in South Dakota became considerably colder and I gradually stopped going to the workshop to freeze my fingers.
In the meantime, I spent a lot of hours indoors working on improving my website. I also watched a lot of woodworking-related videos on YouTube. It's amazing how much you can learn that way.
In February 2018, I went to the doctor, due to some pain and considerable weakness in my left arm and hand. The doctor told me I have arthritis in many of the joints of my upper extremeties and carpal tunnel in both hands.
When it got too cold to work outside, I figured I would just put the walking stick project on hold until it warms up in the spring of 2018. However, because of the arthritis and carpal tunnel, I'm not sure how many more walking sticks, if any, I will make.