How to Make a Twisted Walking Stick

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Walking sticks have been used throughout history.
Walking sticks have been used throughout history. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Walking sticks are useful not only for people in need of everyday walking assistance but for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts; they provide extra support, especially when traveling downhill, which reduces strain on knees. Twisted wood walking sticks turn a helpful tool into a work of art. These walking sticks are stylish and every one is completely unique. In addition, a well-crafted and cared for twisted walking stick can last for decades.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper
  • Linseed or tung oil
  • Rubber tip or copper pipe cap

Finding the Perfect Stick

Search your property or nearby woodlands for your stick. If you are searching on your own property, any stick is free game. If you are searching in nearby woodlands, research the laws and ownership of the woodlands before you begin your search; property owned by the government or private landowners may have laws against cutting. Ask permission before you cut.

Look for a sapling between two and three years of age, which would stand less than 6 feet tall. Oak is strong and durable. Cherry has great color but is prone to cracking. Gum is easily carved but fragile. Hawthorne is extremely durable but resistant to vine-induced twisting. Evergreen trees should be avoided.

Look for a sapling encased in an invasive, woody vine. The vines that twist a sapling most effectively are honeysuckle and wisteria. Other vines may work; look at the thickness of the vine, the strength of the vine and how well it adheres to the sapling. The stronger the vine, the better your twists will look.

Growing the Perfect Stick

Plant an oak sapling. The younger the sapling, the more intricate your twists will be. Follow the instructions that come with the sapling, or hit up your local library or nursery for information as to sunlight, soil, fertilizer and water requirements.

Plant a vine next to the sapling when the sapling is 1 to 2 feet tall, about a year old. Give the vine the required fertilizer, soil and water requirements.

Use grafting tape to tape the vine to the trunk of the sapling in a spiral pattern. The vine will do most of the work, but if you are seeking a certain pattern or wanting to hasten the adherence of the vine to the trunk of the sapling, grafting tape is the way to go.

Wait two to four years for the sapling to grow around the vine, and vice versa. This process takes time but produces the best results.

Creating the Walking Stick

Cut the sapling. Don't worry; the sapling will either resprout or provide nutrients for nearby plants.

Cut the fallen sapling into a length slightly longer than the length of the walking stick you desire. For example, if you desire a walking stick 4 1/2 feet long, cut the sapling to a length of 5 feet. Measure from the base up; use the thickest part of the sapling.

Store your cut sapling in a cool, dark and dry location for one to six months. The longer you allow your sapling to dry, the more durable your final product will be. You can choose to remove the vine before storing for a carved appearance or leave the vine on for a more natural appearance.

Soak your sapling and any attached vines in water for one to three days to loosen the bark. Use a craft knife or box cutter to slice the bark and peel it away.

Sand the entire length of the stick with coarse-grained sandpaper to remove knots and other imperfections. You can sand the stick by hand or use a power sander.

Sand the stick a second time using medium-grained sandpaper. Do not use a power sander for this step.

Sand the stick a third time using fine-grained sandpaper.

Seal the stick with linseed or tung oil. Apply at least four coats of oil, allowing the oil to dry between each coat. For best results, give your stick a light sanding with fine-grained sandpaper between oil coats.

The Finishing Touches

Sand and polish the head of the walking stick. The head is the top of the walking stick and should be the thick end of the stick. Seal the polished head with linseed or tung oil.

Trim any excess length from the bottom of the walking stick so that you can hold the stick at a level that is comfortable for you.

Attach a tip to the bottom of the walking stick. Use epoxy to attach a rubber tip or, alternatively, use a copper pipe cap secured with a screw. Rubber tips and copper pipe caps are available at hardware stores.

Tips & Warnings

  • Although not necessary, you can add a handle to your walking stick if desired.
  • It may take some time to find, or grow, that perfect twisted stick, but do not give up. Your finished product will be worth the effort.
  • Ask before you cut if you do not own the property. There may be laws against cutting.
  • Use caution when cutting the stick and using power equipment. Always follow proper safety procedures.

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