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Saplings vs branches, heartwood


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#1 KenVA

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Posted 30 October 2018 - 03:12 PM

Hi all!

        Being new to this hobby I have a question about wood types. I live on 7 acres here in VA and have lots to choose from. I'm trying to stick (pardon the pun) to hickory, maple and other hard woods. My question is this, is it ok to use 1 1/2 in- 1 3/4 in saplings since they are the perfect diameter to begin with and could yield 2-3 sticks? Or is it better to use thicker branches or even logs cut down to the heart wood?



#2 Rodney

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Posted 30 October 2018 - 04:21 PM

It depends.  Hickory is a great wood but tends to be heavy.  A 1 1/2" hickory stick will be about as strong as a stick can be but it will be heavy to use.  You can use thinner sticks and they will be plenty strong enough. The British think most of our sticks are way to thick. Maple also makes a great stick and is lighter than hickory.  I tend to prefer hardwoods and don't mess with pines, etc much.

For a hiking stick I would aim for around what you said at the top of the stick with the taper down to the bottom. My canes are generally around 1 to 1 1/4" at the top and taper down to around 7/8" at the bottom.

I've used saplings and branches and like both.  Most of my sticks are made from alder saplings.  There are a lot of them around here and they grow straight.  They also have a smooth attractive bark.  No need to peel them.  I use other woods too when I find them.

Branches are great for rustic sticks. They can have great character.  I like oak in particular.

This is a great time of year to find sticks.  Winter tends to be best but you can pick them any time.  Start laying in a good supply now.  Gather more than you think you want for the next year and pick them longer than you want the final length to be.  If there's any splitting as they dry it will generally be at the ends. They need time to dry.  Put them somewhere where they'll stay dry with good air flow and leave them alone for about a year.  For hiking sticks it may not matter as much but generally the longer the better.  The hardest part is waiting for the wood to dry.  I've ruined a few good sticks by being impatient.  Found dead wood tends to be dryer faster but will probably be too wet to use right away when you find it.    Make sure it's sound.

I haven't found it to be necessary to split the wood down to heart wood. I like the variation in color between the heart and sap wood.

Probably more info than you wanted.

Rodney



#3 KenVA

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Posted 30 October 2018 - 04:43 PM

Thanks Rodney, like I said I live on 7 acres here in VA so i have a lot to choose from. We also took down some trees about 4 yrs ago with a backhoe and the stumps with the roots and all are just down the hill...another good source! On the subject of drying I have another question. We built an addition onto the house which has an 800 square Ft basement that I use as a shop. Because we had to add another heat pump with AC for the addition, that basement has central air. It keeps the basement at a constant 68-74 degrees with very little humidity. Using the 1 yr to 1 inch thickness drying formula, will drying the sticks in that basement speed up the process? I also intend to hang them from screw in hooks in the ends to minimize warping and to save space.

 

By the way...information is something you can never have too much of and I welcome detailed explanations. When I answer a question it's never just a yes or no, I want the person to know why it's yes or no LOL


Edited by KenVA, 30 October 2018 - 04:48 PM.


#4 Rodney

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Posted 30 October 2018 - 05:59 PM

You sound like me.  Most people I know prefer yes or no, not why the real answer might be maybe. I drive my wife nuts.

 

I dry mine in an unheated shop.  Your basement sounds good.  I might be a little concerned about too quick drying.  Keep an eye on them.  If it looks like you're getting too many splits in the ends move them to a dry unheated space.  Coating the ends will also help slow drying and help keep checking under control. Cheap latex paint works ok.  Bowl turners swear by Anchorseal but it's on the pricey side.

If you're impatient like me and want to get started right away you can try to find some sound dead sticks.  There are also a couple guys who sell blanks online. 

https://www.etsy.com...h_shop_redirect

https://www.etsy.com...shopheader-name

Tom and Randy are both members here though they don't post often.  I'm sure there are other vendors as well.

 

Dead sticks are generally dryer to start with and are less likely to check. Any checking that was likely to happen most likely already has.  It varies.  If you're making one piece sticks or hiking sticks it becomes a little less critical that the sticks are completely dry.  I would recommend starting with a stick you don't particularly care about if you want to work with green wood.  That way if it does split you're not out as much. 

I wouldn't worry about hanging them unless it's a good way to keep them out of the way too. I make enough that I built racks to lay my sticks on but then that's because I make around 40 or so a year.  If you're only making a few just prop them in an out of the way corner.

I can't say I've ever had a stick warp from improper storage.

You can steam mild bends out.  Sharp bends are there to stay.



#5 dww2

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Posted 31 October 2018 - 12:01 AM

Last year I came across a nice straight yellow birch which had grown as a sucker from a bigger tree which had been knocked over a bit by a skidder. I cut 5 shanks from it each just over a yard long. The one closest to the trunk of the original tree was just shy of 2" in diameter, too big to leave as is, but could be cut down or maybe carved.

Definitely check those roots for usable handle material. You never know what you can make from a root with a nice shape.

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Edited by dww2, 31 October 2018 - 12:03 AM.

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#6 KenVA

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Posted 31 October 2018 - 03:58 PM

Beautiful cane handle! Did you use a harvested stick for the body or a cane blank? I know at least one stump and root ball is oak the others are probably poplar. I also trimmed a choke cherry tree and have some 3-4 inch thick logs. The heartwood is a dark brown and may make some nice cane handles depending on the grain. 



#7 dww2

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Posted 01 November 2018 - 05:54 AM

The shank is a piece of cherry I found standing dead as I recall. Bit of buffalo horn for the spacer. More about it here if the link works. https://walkingstick...-on/#entry58514 The oak root ball may be worth a look; I find poplar too soft though I have seen some use it. I think some of the wood I have used and called cherry may have been choke cherry. Great stuff.

#8 Rodney

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Posted 01 November 2018 - 05:37 PM

Poplar is soft.  It does make good hiking sticks though.  It's strong enough and light.  Just count on it accumulating dents and dings fairly quickly in use.



#9 KenVA

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Posted 02 November 2018 - 03:05 PM

True Rodney, the poplar is soft. I'm trying to avoid soft woods for my sticks since any I may sell around here would be used by serious hikers that might want to beat down briers and kudzu vines. 

 

DWW2, the reason I asked is because the shank looks lathe turned rather than natural. I eventually want to get a lathe for canes or use pre-turned blanks if I can find a good cheap source,  but my walking sticks and staffs will pretty much stay "primitive" style.


Edited by KenVA, 02 November 2018 - 03:11 PM.


#10 dww2

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 08:01 PM

The shank was about 2" in diameter when I found it. I shaved it down with a spoke shave, then sanded it. I have a lathe but have never incorporated any turnings into a cane. I think Rodney has done some turned shanks though.




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