There’s nothing like a trusty hardwood walking stick when you’re hiking through America’s state and national parks. They are a functional accessory to any hiker’s gear. But they don’t have to be plain wood; you can burn or carve many different designs into them to make a useful and beautiful item. But first, you need to know the what and how of walking sticks.
Choosing your wood, of course, is an integral part of making a walking stick. You need a wood that is hard enough to take a beating, but malleable enough to carve (unless you just plan on wood-burning it, in which case that doesn’t really matter). You don’t want a stick that’s too soft, or it will break under pressure. Conifer woods, like pine and spruce are out of the question. While they may be easier to carve, they will not stand up to the strain of hiking. Extra hardwoods like cherry are also out of the question, for obvious reasons.
From my experience, maple is probably the best wood for this purpose. Norway maple is extremely common in many areas, and it carves well. Sugar maple is also great for carving, though, because of its economic value may not be as easy to come by. Red maple is excellent, but it is scarce. If you’re lucky enough to know a landowner who has a stand, leap at it. It’s great stuff. Some of the best of all is apple wood, but again, because of its economic value, can be difficult to get a hold of. I’ve had some success with poplar and birch wood, but I don’t think it’s quite to the same caliber as maple when it comes to how the carve looks.
Next, you want to find the right tree. You want to avoid trees that are diseased, for obvious reasons. If you can find a sapling that is straight up and down, that’s ideal. You can also cut a branch off of an older tree and use that. As a general rule, it should be at least two inches thick at the top, but you can get away with less. If you decide to remove the stick from a living tree, make sure you harvest responsibly, and use a pruning sealer to protect the tree from infection.
**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.