Deep in the woods, a vine grows around a young tree. As the tree grows, it attempts to grow around the vine. It's at this point it can become a beautiful walking stick (Or staff or stave as some people like to call them). Add a nice grip and some other cool knots and stuff and you have a backpacker's / hiker's third leg. Before long its sentimental value grows and you have a best friend, loyal companion, and usefull tool.
Step 1: What We'll Need
* A bow saw or hatchet
* A pocket knife
- A drawknife and various other carving knives are helpful but not necessary.
* A course file or rasp
* Coarse, medium, and fine sandpaper
* A 1 inch wood screw or hook
* Any kind of cheap string or twine
* Denatured alcohol
* 3 rags (2 of them will be perminately ruined)
* A small can of Minwax wood stain
* A can of Minwax spray polyurethane
* Super fine steel wool
* Paracord or hemp to your heart's desire
* Super glue
Step 2: Select and Harvest Your Stick
As you begin to wonder around in the woods looking for a stick with twists in it, you will notice that they are actually very common. It is very important that you are patient and very carefully make your selection. Pay close attention to the size, depth, and number of twists. How tall do you want it? Where will you put your grip? Do you like the way it fits in your hand? Remember, you will lose thickness when you shave the bark off but gain it back in your paracord or hemp grip.
When you make your selection, it is usually smart to cut the stick a little longer than you think it needs to be. Leave a little extra on both ends if possible.
If your stick weighs about 10 times more than anything you would ever want to carry on a tough hike, don't panic! Once it dries out, it will be lite as a feather. Your hardwoods that remain heavy, even after they're dried out, grow so slow it is rare to find one with good twists in it anyway.
Immediately clean off any little sucker limbs or leaves and skin all the bark off. You will want to get every last bit of bark off like you are skinning a potatoe. The more material you remove now the easier it will be on you later. Also dig out the old vines that provoked this beautiful piece of nature to take shape.
Now find a nice dry spot to leave your stick for a couple of weeks and forget about it.
Step 3: Do SOMETHING to the Top. ANYTHING!
Just don't leave it cut off square. Make it round, carve it to a point, carve some sort of spiral, you could even get creative and attach something foreign (ie: skull, tiki top, compass, flashlight, bobble head, camera or cell phone mount). Just do anything other than leave it chopped off.
If you would like to carve something into the wood, now would be the time to do that as well.
Also, it is at this point you want to drill a hole in your stick if you would like to hang a lanyard of some sort from it later. A 3/16 or 1/4 inch hole somwhere near the top or grip is always a good idea and will surely come in handy.
Step 4: Make Her Smooth
Starting at one end and working your way to the other, use your wood rasp or course file to "knock down the high spots". All of the knots in the wood should be filed down until they can be seen but not felt when you run your fingers accross them. Skinning the bark off with your pocket knife or draw knife left ridges between the flat spots. File these down until everything is nice and uniform. Any dents, dips, divots, and gouges should be addressed by filing down the areas around them until the area is nice and uniform. Also remove any visible evidence that bark was once present.
Granted, each piece is different, but you can sometimes expect to spend as much as 12 hours filing away material. If you're lucky and you have a naturally smooth piece, this procedure could be finished in 30 minutes.
Time to break out the sandpaper. Thoroughly sand the entire piece twice with the course sandpaper, twice with the medium sandpaper, and twice with the fine sandpaper. I cut each sheet of paper into quarters and then cut each quarter into quarters. Typically I will use up about five or six of these little squares on one sanding. Lastly, just for good measure, I will give it a good once over with steel wool.
**From this point on we will wear latex gloves for the entire rest of the project. Any fingerprints on the wood will be permanently visible in one way or another. For the rest of this instructable, we will be obsessively keeping our project clean.
Wipe down thoroughly with a rag soaked in denatured alcohol.
Step 5: Hang the Wood and Finish It
Run a wood screw or hook into the bottom. Tie a string to the screw or hook and find something to hang it from. Be careful not to let it touch the ground. It should be in a well ventilated area. If you don't have a good area indoors, (I don't) outside is fine, but if its too windy, pick another day. Even outdoors, however, the project should hang somewhere that is covered (Specifically, the stick doesn't need to be moved if it rains and will not get wet. It will spend many hours just hanging their drying and curing).
Clean your stick again with the alcohol. It must stay completely clean and free of any foreign debris from this point on.
Open up your can of wood stain and dip the other rag in it. Let the excess stain drip off and immediately rub it into the wood. Be very generous with the stain. Have a clean towel close by to immediately wipe off any stain that is sitting above the surface. You will want to complete this process as fast as possible and immediately repeat and then one more time. Allow to dry for about 8 hours and then examine your work and decide if you want to do it again to make it darker or even if you want to sand it down to start over and do it better. Do not be afraid to take plenty of extra time to strive for perfection. If you do not have a sentimental attachment to this thing when you're finished, something is wrong.
After your final coat of stain has dried for 24 hours, give it a light once over with the steel wool and then wipe it down with the denatured alcohol again.
Now you are ready to spray it down with the polyurethane. I like to spin the stick in one direction of about 100 times and then let go of it very carefully. As it spins in the opposite direction, I spray up and down, up and down, and up and down the entire length of the stick. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast. Just make sure you get good coverage but only a light coat. Repeat after an hour. And then again as many times as you would like. Be sure to wait an hour between each spray. Once the polyurethane has been allowed to dry for 4 hours or more it must sit for 2 days to completely cure. I like to hit it lightly with the fine steel wool, then the denatured alcohol, and then repeat this step at least once for good measure or as many times as needed to make it look absolutely beautiful. It's okay if you use the entire can of poly but it should not take any more than that. Really half a can is more than enough.
- After the first coat of poly, the surface may be kind of rough. This is supposed to happen. After an hour, just give it a light/semi-firm once over with the steel wool, then wipe it clean with alcohol and proceed with your next coat. This time when it dries it will be smooth as glass.
- Even after wiping it clean with alcohol, the steel wool will make the surface look cloudy. Polyurethane will absorb and blend with itself automagically. Each time you spray it, the product already on the surface will reliquefy and just get thicker and thicker each time.
- Pertaining to keeping your piece clean and free of particulates, your approach should be borderline obsessive.
- Be sure to hit every crack and crevice from every angle. And don't forget the top and bottom. Remember this is your stick's protective shell.
- It bears repeating, We still have on our gloves at all times. An oily fingerprint at this point will stay visible perminately.
Step 6: Decorate
At this point you have a beautiful walking stick that is completely cured and all you can do is admire how absolutely gorgeous the wood is. You have probably even bragged about it to everyone you come across and have the opportunity to show it to.
While hiking, you see a lot of people with a lot of walking sticks that have all different sorts of decorations on them.
When I was in Boy Scouts we found lots of little metal plaques that you could tack to your walking stick using the little bitty nails that came with them. They come in different designs resembling different acclomplishments and destinations (ie: Eagle Scout,mile swim, 50 mile hike, and Philmont Scout Ranch).
Some people like to add souvineers they found during an outing such as large bird feathers or shedded deer antlers affixed in some sort of creative fashion.
I'll do all of the above. I start out with a lot of knot work. Then I always keep my eyes and mind open for some sort of little knick knack or doo dad here and there that would make a good addition to my stick. It is neat when the trinkets and decorations on your walking stick all have a story behind them or serve as a reminder of a nice outing or a significant event or accomplishment.
The point is, make it yours. This stick is already the only one like it in the world. You should decorate it as unique as your own personality.
In the future, I plan to follow this instructable up with many other Instructables. Basically, I want to write a series. Each one explaining in depth a different decoration technique, style, or idea, all pertaining to walking sticks.