Updated on December 31, 2005 and on October 1, 2010
Sources for Parts and Supplies
I've enjoyed making canes and walking sticks for the last few years.
I took some pictures of my collection, current as of the end of April, 2000 and posted them.
Most of mine are made from maple saplings that grow around my house. The root often has a good shape for a handle, or can be carved into a good one. Straight maple saplings also make nice staffs without the knobby root for a handle.
Old brass doorknobs make interesting handles, too. I got a few from a local demolition company. The 1/4 inch square hole in them makes them a little tricky to attach to the cane, though.
So far, I do not carve my canes. Mostly I like the natural look, and usually leave the bark on if it stays tight. I do hope to do some stick carving one day.
Here are some books I've read and recommend:
I've carved "wood spirit" faces into a few after reading some of Tom Wolfe's books about making canes. I have:
Tom Wolfe Carves Woodspirits and Walking Sticks
Carving Canes & Walking Sticks with Tom Wolfe
Creative Canes & Walking Sticks: Carving with Tom Wolfe
And two British books:
Walking and Working Sticks - by Theo Fossel
My most recent cane book acquisition is Stick Making - A Complete Course by A. Jones and C. George
These books are in the catalog from Wood Carver's Supply, Inc.; 1-800-284-6229; www.woodcarverssupply.com (and other catalogs, too)
Back in May, 1994 a friend gave me a copy of "Walking and Working Sticks" by
Theo Fossel, ISBN 1 869988 01 0 (paperback), published by The Apostle Press in Buckinghamshire, England. This one is the 3rd reprint, August 1992. It is probably out of print now. Going to Amazon's main page and typing 'fossel' in the search box brought back this:
Walking & working sticks
by Theo Fossel
Out of Print--![try this link:]
There's another rather interesting but strange book about cane making that I really like too. It's The Fantastic Book of Canes Pipes and Walking Sticks by Harry Ameredes. Really interesting ideas!
I've read two wonderful books by cane collectors. I found out about the books from catalogs and an article in "Woodcarving Illustrated" with an article about the book
"American Folk Art Canes" by George H. Meyer. The article is a full 7 pages long and has 16 good-sized, clear color pictures from the book. Right after the article is a 1/2 page ad for the book, from Sandringham Press, 100 W. Long Lake Road, Suite 100, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304, phone (248)647-5111. the book costs $65 plus $4 shipping and handling. I've seen it, and it's wonderful. Lots of ideas for carving and painting canes. but it's just too expensive for me! More info on the book, from AMAZON.COM, in case anyone wants to check libraries:
American Folk Art Canes: Personal Sculpture
by George H. Meyer
List Price: $65.00
From Book News, Inc. , May 1, 1993
An introduction and eight contributed essays augment some 300 detailed, comparative, and historical photographs that display Meyer's extensive collection of exquisite carved canes. The vivid color photos show a diversity of styles, techniques, and themes; the accompanying text treats methods of dating canes, their sculptural and symbolic qualities, and the aesthetic character and history of Native American, African-American, Civil War, fraternal, and contemporary canes. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.
It might be worthwhile to order the Spring, 2000 issue, Issue #10, of Woodcarving Illustrated just to see the article, and all the others in that issue. The magazine's web site is www.carvingworld.com.
Another extremely interesting book is called "Cane Curiosa" by Catherine Dike. It has 1,650 illustrations (90 in color), 170 drawings. Over 1600 canes, and some are pretty strange. A few years ago (1994) this book was in a catalog for $68, from Dutch Guard, PO Box 411687, Kansas City, MO 64141 phone 1-800-821-5157. They have a lot of canes, novelties and toys.
Catherine Dike also has a book called "Canes in America" but it's a 'Reference' book at the library and can't be checked out, so I haven't seen it.
I'm particularly interested in sword canes. I've made several using old, broken blades from fencing foils and epees. I used to wonder and worry a lot about making a joint with a latch. But I found out that the blade can be snug enough in the lower part to hold the two sections together. It's a bit like a spring. The blades are never quite straight, so they grip the sides of their wooden scabbard quite well. That way they're much easier to take apart, too. No twisting, turning, unlatching or other manipulations. Just pull and you're armed! I've even made one out of a beat up old baseball bat!
I make some sword canes. I've worked on the blade retention problem quite a bit, too. And if you want the sword cane to be really useable, it must be extremely quick and easy to release.
What I wound up doing is using broken fencing blades, both foil and epee. The fencing blades break after a period of hard use, and then get thrown away. I split the stick and cut or carve a groove that the blade fits in, and then glue the halves together. The blades have enough curvature and spring so that they keep themselves in the wood very firmly. But they only need a brisk pull to come out, with no unlatching or twisting required.
And that's the only source of blades that I have, too. Except of course you can also use new fencing blades. They just cost more.
There is a picture of part of the construction of my sword canes on my web site, link ..\Photos\crafts\sticks\sword_canes_1.JPG
There are five sword canes in the picture (Group 4) at ..\WebjumpSiteRoot\crafts\photos\sticks_4.jpg
The sixth one is in an old baseball bat.
Two of the canes are just plastic pipe, painted black or brown. All the rest are wood, made by sawing in half lengthwise, making a groove down the middle to fit the blade, and gluing back together.
If you're comfortable with the legalities of sword canes and concealed weapons and you really want to make one, you'll need to find a blade.
Now, "blade" is a pretty broad term. It seems like a lot of the people who visit my web site about making swords think of a sword blade as being like the giant iron club that Conan the Barbarian used.
For me a nice sword blade is about 1 inch wide, 3/16 inch thick and about 36 inches long. Even that is a bit large for a cane.
Places you can get some blades:
The best commercial source for sword cane blades is probably www.triplette.com if you look for a "diamond schlager" in their SCA Blades section. The oval schlager blades cost about $60 each and I think the diamond-profile ones may cost more. They are about 5/8 or 3/4 of an inch wide at the big end and taper very slowly toward the tip, which is maybe 3/8 or 1/2 inch wide and not sharp (not pointed). The tang of the blade, to go through the handle, is 6 or 8 inches long, and threaded for an inch or two. Normally threaded 6x1 mm metric, but you can have them use 1/4-20 American threads if you ask. These blades weigh about 10 ounces each. You can cut them shorter than their standard 35 inches but you have to use an abrasive wheel or grinder. They are a bit too hard to cut with a hack saw. The blades are made in France and Germany. I think the best ones are the WKC brand, made in Germany. If you order any, ask for the stiffest ones they have. The same blades have been available from American Fencer's Supply in San Francisco, at www.amfence.com I believe. There are other schlager blade sources in a page dedicated to just that on my web site, but by now I think many of the links will be bad.
A very similar but somewhat heavier blade is available, too. It's made by Del Tin in Italy, and I think it costs around $100. The last I knew, Triplette also carried them, but not many other fencing dealers did. Just ask them for the "Del Tin" blade. It will be at least 40 inches long overall (including tang).
Last summer I bought an oval WKC schlager blade to put into a sword cane but have not yet started the project. If I ever get around to it, I guess I should take pictures as I go and make another web page. Maybe by next spring! I want to put this one into a tree limb or sapling, instead of a stick made from lumber like the others are, but it's very hard to find one straight enough.
Schlager blades are hand crafted, and of very good steel. In fact, nearly all fencing blades are.
More information on making sword canes can be found at 'Building a Sword Cane' http://home.eol.ca/~props/sword.html
That brings up an important point. Sword canes are considered concealed weapons! Don't be caught carrying one in public. Mine are for hobby or collection purposes only, just for the fun of making and having them. I don't really need defense weapons anyway. This is a warning for anyone else who may make one. Watch out!
NOTE: If you're looking for a sword cane to buy, they seem to be usually available on eBay.
There are also some for sale at http://www.houseofcanes.com/rmswords.htm
I currently (Dec '02) have a few swordcane blades available atS_Blades
Sources for Parts and Supplies
Cane parts like brass handles, threaded coupler joints, tips and caps and blank sticks for carving (and stickmaking books) are available from
The Woodturner's Catalog; 1-800-551-8876; www.woodturnerscatalog.com
Treeline has the most stuff for stickmakers; 1-800-598-2743; www.treelineusa.com
www.rockler.com (has one style of ferrule)
Lee Valley Tools & Hardware
but tapered ferrules are quite difficult to find. I've been looking in to making some myself, but first I have to find an economical source of brass tubing, and also figure out just what size the ferrules need to be and how thick the brass should be.
I have found a source of steel tips to put onto the ends of canes. They would be good for wear protection for hiking staffs and such but they wouldn't give much traction. There's a picture on the SticksParts page, and also a source for threaded joint couplings for canes. To fasten these tips onto canes, you'll need to glue or epoxy them, or drill a couple of small holes in the sides and put pins or small, headless nails thru the holes and into the stick.
Other possible ferrule sources are copper pipe caps and couplings, electrical conduit fittings, EMPTY brass rifle or pistol cartridges, lipstick tubes, and empty CO2 charger cylinders (for paintball and pellet guns).
The two most useful tools for gathering sticks are
a 21" bow saw and a mattock.
The mattock I use is big and heavy, like an extra-long hoe blade, like a 'grub hoe' on a pickaxe handle. On the other side of the head is a small blade a little like a hatchet, and parallel to the handle. Ones made by Union are available from www.benmeadows.com, where they're called a 'cutter mattock' and cost $21.
It's great for digging up the roots which so often make excellent handles. A 'Pulaski mattock' should work pretty well, too. I've only seen it in a catalog, but it has the heavy hoe-type blade on one side and an actual axe blade on the other. There is also a 'pick mattock' that I've seen in hardware stores, with the 'grub hoe' mattock blade and a pickaxe pick on the other end. But in my part of the country a pick isn't very useful and doesn't cut roots.
Other handy tools to have (that I do have) are:
Corona Professional folding pruning saw #RS7041, with a 7-1/2" sharktooth blade.
Gerber Sport Saw folding saw, with a 6-1/2" sharktooth blade.
Takagi Shark Saw folding pruning saw #10-5427, 9" sharktooth blade.
Coleman Deluxe 9" folding saw #836-811T with sharktooth blade.
Fiskars 10" folding pruning saw #7947 with a very different type of tooth, which you can sharpen with a chainsaw file.
Oregon ProZig 10" folding pruning saw with the same type of tooth, which you can sharpen with a chainsaw file.
Most of the saws have a hole thru the handle. I like to put a loop of orange marker tape thru it so that when I lay the saw down on the ground in the woods I can find it again. As you can probably tell, I really like the pruning saws. It's one of the kind of tools that really appeal to me, for some reason. Anyway, they're available at the garden departments of places like WalMart & K-Mart, and home improvement stores like Lowe's, Home Depot and so on. But the selection at any of those is usually pretty limited. For a BIG selection, go to www. oescoinc.com and request their catalog or view it on line. They have two pages of pruning saws, pages 12 and 13. The folding saws are on page 13.
Additional things handy to take along:
Heavy gloves are very important. Goggles might be a good idea too. It's easy to get poked in the eye with a twig while you burrow into that willow clump.
Pruning shears (saws aren't good for trimming all those little branches that get caught in the underbrush while you're carrying your sticks back out of the woods or swamp.
Orange plastic marking tape. I don't know where I found it, but I got some. It's called "survey marking tape" at Lowe's, and costs $1.68 for a 200 foot roll there. They have it in Glow Orange and Glow Pink. It's a little like the "Police Zone" marker tape that keeps people out of accident scenes but mine's only about one inch wide. It's nice to tie around a tree or branch that you want to come back for later. And to mark your tools, to prevent losing them.
Marking pen to mark date and species on the gatherings. Unless you've already got some organized way of keeping track of when they're dry enough to use. Store them in marked bins, maybe? Or buy a moisture meter?
Strap or rope to bundle the sticks together for carrying. I only just started doing that and it really helps a lot!
My favorite sticks are maple saplings. Here in southwest Michigan they grow nice and straight and have a good taper. Plus they're strong, stiff and pretty. Best is that just under the ground they're larger and have a relatively large root growing out horizontally which makes a very good handle.
Oak saplings also tend to have a nice knob just under the ground, sometimes with a good side root handle, and they are also strong and stiff. But heavier than maple.
Sumac grows locally in plentiful supply but is rather weak and brittle to be a dependable stick capable of supporting substantial weight. I have avoided it.
Ash should work very well, but I haven't found any saplings to use. I would really, really like to find hickory saplings but haven't located any in my local area.
There are a few hop hornbeam (blue beech, or ironwood) trees in the area. I've gathered a couple and left them to dry, but haven't tried one yet.
One source I just tried is the aerial root from a banyan tree. I cut one off while visiting relatives in Florida. It had been stored to dry for a long time and I finally shaped and smoothed a handle on it, and peeled its bark, which had loosened. It's wonderfully light and stiff and makes an excellent stick or cane. Mine doesn't have much of a bend or knob for a handle, but there is just enough. I like this one very much. Now I have to look and see if I have any more stored away.
Bending Cane Handles
People have asked for information or instructions on how to bend handles for canes. I haven't done it and don't really plan on trying it. The British books about walking sticks have information on the traditional methods. It requires heat, and moisture may help. The easiest way is probably to immerse the end of the cane in boiling water until it's soft enough to bend.
Books about furniture making, snowshoe making and books for bowyers who want to make re-curved bows recommend using a steam box and usually describe building one. Check those sources for further information.
There is a lot of websites for and/or by stickmakers. Even some specializing in diamond willow, which really surprised me! I hadn't heard much about diamond willow until the other night while searching the net for stickmaking info. I added over 30 links to my favorites! I found lots of pictures, a couple of tutorials, patterns for carving canes and cane toppers, even a download video showing the making of a stick! Links go bad so fast and so often that it's not worth including them here and they're so easy to find. Use AltaVista and search for stickmaking and staff and cane and "walking stick". By including several terms with 'ands' you avoid a lot of unwanted, useless 'hits.'
And there is a mailing list discussion group. You can sign up for it at A HREF="http://stickmakers.listbot.com/">ListBot - American Stickmakers Assoc. Home Page</A>
Woodworking magazines sometimes have articles about canes or staffs, too. Try Woodcarving Illustrated for example, at www.carvingworld.com.
CANE CORNER - Hershal Borders-Canes With A Theme - Page 1: http://www.carvingworld.com/articles/canecornerWS98pg1.htm
Other interesting Web Sites
http://www.canemasters.com/ for folks who are interested in learning to use the cane for self-defense and exercise
Search for the book FIGHTING WITH STICKS by Nick Evangelista at http://www.loompanics.com/
The Beginner's Guide to Using the Cane (for defense!) at http://www.donrearic.com/cane1.html
There are also a few books and booklets old enough to have their copyright expired which you can find on Google Books or stick combat websites. Here are some web page titles I have found and saved:
Self-defence with a Walking-stick_barton-wright.htm
Goju-Shorei Weapons System Newsletter.htm
The Manly Art of Quarter-Staff Origins of a Victorian Combat Sport.htm
Self Defence with a Cane.htm
A Singlestick Match in Victorian England.htm
Practical Fencing with the Cane (Pt 1).htm
JNC, Barton-Wright, Self Defence with a cane part 1.htm
The Bata, An Overview version 2.0.htm
A Brief History of the Quarterstaff.htm
JManly Quarterstaff McCarthy.htm
JManly The Quarterstaff Phillipps-Wolley.htm
JManly Singlestick Phillipps-Wolley.htm
Books in PDF format (also search for these - I don't have a record of where they are) -
Old Swordplay by Alfred Hutton (5.54mb)
The Walking Stick Method of Self Defense, 1923 (in 12 separate chapters)
And an article in Microsoft Word (.doc) format -
Vigny on cane for defense
NOTE: I found these in 2002. They may no longer available. Search with Google for them if you want to see them. I can't help you find them.
---home ------- Click to e-mail me. --- created November 22, 2000; updated October 1, 2010