A walking stick serves a number of uses. It is often used in hiking, to help navigate uneven terrain. It can also be used by those injured and the elderly for support and balance. If you have a lot of miles ahead of you, using a walking stick will help you cover more ground and will lessen the burden on your shoulders, knees, and feet. In a post SHTF scenario, it will also serve you well to have a walking stick as there may be a lot of walking involved to get to safety. You may also have to go through the woods, in which a walking stick would come in very handy.
In this article, I will be covering the steps on how to DIY a walking stick. Some of the sections are optional and may not be applicable if you are pressed for time and don’t have a lot of supplies available. Selecting a stick may be simple enough but there are also things to consider if you want a sturdy stick that will last longer. This article will also discuss the other merits of a walking stick that can lead to a longer and healthier life. Read on to get started.
Selecting the stick
It all starts with finding the right kind of wood. Hardwoods usually make the best walking sticks as they are the sturdiest. Examples of hardwoods are maple, alder, cherry, aspen, and sassafras. Look for a straight piece of wood that reaches at least to your armpit and is about one or two inches diameter.
Your stick should not be too short and not too thick. Examine it for any signs of damage or decay due to insect infestation. Once you find a stick, test its strength by lodging one end of the stick inside a gap like in a tree and press it as hard as you can to see if it snaps. Be careful though as it may injure you if it breaks.
As much as possible, do not take your stick from a living tree so as not cause further damage to nature. In addition, dead trees also provide more rigid branches. You’re bound to find one lying somewhere on the ground.
Trimming the stick
To trim it the desired length, hold the stick upright with one end firmly touching the ground. If the stick is for your own use, hold the stick in a manner similar to when you are walking, with your arm bent at the elbow at approximately a 90-degree angle. Mark the stick at least two inches above your hand. Cut it at a higher length if you are planning to decorate your stick. If you are making one for someone else, let him or follow the same procedure and mark it at least two inches above his hand. When uncertain of the recipient’s height, a length of about 55-65 inches makes a good walking stick. Cut the stick using a hand saw or a large knife.
Removing the twigs and the bark
For this step, you can use a pocket knife or any larger knife. Strip the stick first of any twigs before working on the bark. Whittling off the bark is not required but it is recommended if you want a smooth finish. Shave off the bark away from your body. Do it in quick, shallow strokes to avoid digging into the wood. It will take some time so be patient. Continue whittling until you see the bright wood underneath. You can try practicing in other branches first until you get the hang of it.
Drying the stick
The time it takes for your stick to dry depends on a several factors such as type of wood and environmental conditions. While fresh wood is easier to trim and whittle, dry wood is more rigid and durable. Drying also depends on sunlight and humidity. It can take several days, weeks, or even as long as one month. Let it dry until it becomes rigid. Don’t leave it out for too long though because it can become brittle. Check your stick once in a while to see if it’s dry.
If you can spare the time and have sandpaper available, try sanding your stick for a smoother texture. If you want to go all the way, use a 100 grit sandpaper first, sanding the knots first before moving on to the rest of stick. Then, redo all the standing using a 200 grit sandpaper and later, a 400 grit. Once you are satisfied with your work, wipe the stick down with a lint-free cotton and Tung oil to remove any sawdust. You can also wipe it with a rag dipped in paint thinner. It is recommended that you use a mask and an n95 respirator while in a ventilated area in doing it. This step is not required but can be done if you have the time.
You can personalize your own stick for identification and for your enjoyment. Using your pocket knife, you can put drawings, symbols, wood burnings, emblems, and initials on the stick. Decorating is usually done on the top portion but it’s up to you. It is also recommended to carve a grip into your stick to make it more comfortable to hold.
Staining and sealing the stick
If you want to improve the look of your stick and to preserve the carvings and initials you have decorated it with, you can seal it with a wood stain. Read the instructions on the package to know how many coats to apply, but it usually takes three coatings to achieve a darker finish. Let each coat dry overnight before applying the next one. Lightly sand the stick and wipe it in between applications. Then finish it off with three coats of clear urethane varnish. Similar to the wood stain coating, lightly sand the stick and wipe it in between coatings. The varnish will seal the wood and also prevent it from rotting.
Adding a grip
If you have not yet carved a grip in your walking stick, you can add one using leather, twine, nylon, o braided rope and fasten it with pins or nails. You can also secure it using adhesives such as the gripping wrap used in tennis rackets or golf clubs. Grip tape used in hockey sticks works just as well. This will be particularly useful if you have sweaty hands or if you want to have a firmer grip on your stick.
Protecting the base
The base of your stick is most susceptible to cracking, splinting, splintering, or rotting. You can place rubber caps used for canes and walkers over the end to help. They are available at your local drugstores or any store that sells medical supplies. You can also use rubber stoppers by drilling a hole both in the stopper and the stick and glue them together. If you want to take it to the next level, you can use a copper pipe to add more style to your base protector. Just cut an inch of copper pipe that’s about the same diameter with your stick. Whittle the base of your stick until it is able to fit inside the pipe. Apply a quick drying epoxy glue to keep the pipe in place.
Uses For Your Walking Stick
Now that you know how to make a stick, these are just some of the uses of a walking stick you may not have considered before.
As a weapon
In times of danger, especially in a post collapse world, you can use your stick to defend yourself. There may not be enough time to grab a stone or weapon to protect yourself, but with a stick, you already have a defensive tool in your grasp. If you intend to use it for defensive purposes, make sure you practice.
A third leg
If there is an obstruction ahead such as a fallen tree and you need a boost, you can prop yourself up using your stick. The stick will help you maintain your balance as you step over this obstacle.
When crossing a stream, your stick will serve as your guide to assess the depth of the water. It will also save you from slipping or falling into a deep hole ahead.
Marking the trail
When charting through the woods, you may end up getting lost and walking around in circles. But by marking the trees with your stick, you can prevent yourself from experiencing this mishap.
Clearing the path
In walking through a thicket, you can use your stick to keep twigs or leaves off your face. The stick is also good for clearing spider webs that may span the trail as you move forward.
A walking stick, as simple as it may seem, can be a valuable tool you are eventually going to use for your survival. Even in the absence of a SHTF scenario, it is still wise to know how to make a walking stick, especially if you are fond of hiking or camping in the woods. It will make traveling easier, safer, and not to mention less tiring. Even if you don’t need one at the moment, you can try your hand in making one so that when the time comes, you will be more than capable to make your own. In the end, all you need is a good eye to find yourself a good stick and a way with knives and you’re all set.
Have you ever tried making a walking stick yourself? Can you think of other uses for it? Tell us by posting a comment below.