DIY Homemade Walking Sticks:
Product: DIY Walking Stick
Cheapest Place to Buy: The Forest Floor
Tools Needed: Axe or machete if cutting branch down, knife to peel bark, sand paper and finishing oil.
My rating: 7.5 out of 10
DIY Walking Stick – what and why?
Great question my friend! A DIY walking stick is a walking stick that you make and design yourself. I love this approach as it is both affordable and inventive!
1. Affordable – especially if you already have the tools needed to make it! Which, as listed above, is thankfully not an extensive list!
2. Inventive – there is so much room to imagine, create and be original. The design, style and outcome is totally up to you. The freedom is as large as your imagination and innovative spirit.
Choosing a Stick
Length: If the plan is to have a casual walking stick, then you want a stick that goes from the floor to just above where the elbow hangs. If you are looking for a hiking stick for going up and down hills I would recommend a stick that is shoulder height.
That way you have tons of room to adjust your grip with the curve of the hills you ascend and descend.
Weight: I am a huge fan of drift wood as it is super light. But usually that isn’t around and I end up finding a tree branch of sorts. And honestly, the weight is just your call. Of course, try not to find a great big bulky sucker. Just pick it up and imagine walking with it for a few kilometers (Canadian eh?).
Girth: This is pretty important as the stick needs to be strong enough to support your body – especially in the incidence of a fall. Select a stick that is large enough to support your weight but not so large that it is overly bulky and heavy. I don’t know that there is any science behind this (duh!) but I go for a girth where my fingers don’t quite touch when wrapped around it, but are pretty darn close to touching. If that makes any sense!
Strength: I am usually pretty rough with the stick when first picking it as I want to be 0 confident in its ability to support my body weight. I give it a light bend and some hard taps and try it out for a ways before taking it home.
Trim: Just like it sounds – trim off any small branches that are coming out of you larger branch. I use a small knife for this and have always found it to be adequate. Mind you I am biased, as my wife got me a gorgeous buck knife for Christmas. It is sharp.
Remove Bark: Once you have everything trimmed off you are going to want to remove the bark. Typically, there are three different types of bark: outer bark, what I call green bark, and an orange inner bark. You want to remove all.
The outer bark is the bark you can see right away. Green bark is the middle bark and has a, you called it, green color to it. Orange bark is the inner layer of bark and can not be seen until the wood is dry. No need to overthink whether or not you get the orange layer.
The first thing I do is to sharpen my knife, or check if it is sharp. Then, I prefer to start in the middle of the stick and go out. Place the knife against the stick with a very slight downwards slope, use some pressure and slide the knife along the bark. The bark will just peel right off. If you see the green bark, go over it lightly again. Then I flip the wood over and do the other side.
Rounding: After I peel the bark I always round the edges of the pole slightly. This helps give the handle more comfort as well as makes the bottom sturdier and less likely to split.
Dry: When the bark is all peeled, you want to dry the wood. All you need to do is bring it inside and let it sit. Typically, just 24 hours is enough. This is when you can tell if the orange bark is still there. If so there is nothing to worry off. The layer is so thin that you can simply sand it off.
Sanding: This is perhaps one of the most important processes. It is time-consuming and can be tedious, but so vital. It gets any nicks out, smoothes the entire stick and takes aware the chances of any splinters out. Sand with the grain of the wood. I do 3 layers when sanding. First with 100 grit paper, then 200 grit paper, and then 400 grit paper.
Wipe: Simply wipe down the stick with a dry cloth to get off any dust from sanding. This is a good time to closely look the stick over, feel it everywhere with your hand and make sure it is smooth and to your liking.
Personality: Now this is by far my favorite step. You get to bust out all your creativity and customize your staff. You can paint your staff, tie yarn or ribbon on it, burn an image into it, leave it rustic, stain it, or carve images or notches into it. Literally anything you can dream up.
Finish: This step varies based on how you personalized your staff. But typically when I finish I like to put a finish on my DIY Walking Stick. Just as it keeps everything nice and fresh longer. I do not have a specific form of oil I prefer. But some options are tung oil, linseed oil or you can do a spray such as varathane. I recommend putting the oil on generously, letting it dry fully and then sanding it again with 400 grit paper. Then just repeat this 2-3 times.
The personality and finish steps may need to be reversed based on what you try.
All in all I love the homemade stick. There are of course cons – the sturdiness isn’t always guaranteed, you have one staff opposed to two, they can splinter and the hand rests aren’t always perfect. But, and this is a big but, I say that all namely for the sake of honesty and wanting you to fully know what you are getting into. I genuinely enjoy having a homemade walking stick and would recommend it to people. The individuality goes a long way. And if you are patient in getting one, you really can search for the perfect canvas and create a beautiful and sturdy staff.
What are your thoughts? Would you consider the more DIY way and craft your own staff instead of purchasing one?