Friday, July 10, 2015

Walking Stick

A client approached me recently about making a walking stick from a piece of wood she and her husband picked up on a hike. I thought, how difficult could it be to take a large piece of wood and make it into a smaller piece of wood?

When I saw the wood at first, I didn’t recognize the species. I thought it could be anything from ash to oak to cherry to walnut. I got out my new hatchet and started removing the bark. When I got down to the heartwood, I realized the species was hickory. It felt like I was trying to cut marble.

I fretted about how I was going to remove enough wood to make this stick functional and attractive, considering using a chainsaw or a grinder. But I realized it was kind of fun hacking away at it with the hatchet, so I kept going. I’m new to using a hatchet, so this was the perfect way for me to learn about its capabilities and how to use it. I found that the hatchet was great for doing a kind of hewing. I would chop perpendicular to the grain in a long row, then go back through with glancing chops to remove the wood. It worked really well and removed material much faster than I imagined.

After taking the piece down to a thickness of 2” or so, I used a drawknife to refine the shape a bit more. I don’t have a shaving horse, so it was a challenge to secure the wood. I managed to lean it against the house or hold it down with my foot at an angle against a chair. It wasn’t pretty, but I made progress.

With the wood down to the approximate thickness I was going for and basically round, I used a spokeshave to do more refining. I love using a spokeshave. It’s an incredibly versatile tool that I am incorporating more and more into my work.

The stick is quite rustic on purpose. There are some knots here and there, some worm channels and even holes that go straight through. I chopped off the bottom and the top, drilled a hole for a strap and sanded it. The hickory is amazingly strong. This stick will outlast anyone who owns it. Once I apply a few coats of finish -- I’m using boiled linseed oil, polyurethane and some mineral spirits. I’ll post a photo once the finish is on, but for now, here it is.