How to Make Natural Curled “Twisty” Walking Sticks
What are curled or “twisty” walking sticks? Curled walking sticks are walking/hiking sticks or canes made from saplings or small trees that are naturally curled by wild vines. As small trees grow, wild vines will sometimes wrap around them and “choke” them causing the saplings to grow in a twisted or curled manner. As you look at the twisty stick they usually twist from lower right to upper left but I have found a very few that were curved backwards or “left-handed”. Natural curled walking sticks are easy to make and with some care can be beautiful display pieces.
Twisty sticks must always be harvested in the winter months when the sap is not flowing. The reason for this is that they will not crack or split during the drying process as much and will be much less messy to work with. They are also much easier to find in thick underbrush during the winter months. Twisty sticks will grow in heavily wooded areas with a fair amount of underbrush that must have vines such as wild grape vines present. Brushy fence rows are also great places to find twisty sticks. Usually finding twisted sticks can be done while hiking or hunting and once you find one you will often find many others in that same area.
Once you have located some sticks that are the right size and have the desired twists you are looking for, simply cut it down and strip it of all excess limbs. I always cut the stick longer than I want the finished stick to be so I can custom fit it to the person I am making it for.
After you harvest the sticks they must be dried. I have, in the past , not given the sticks enough time to dry and I had a problem with them cracking and splitting. Store the sticks off the ground on a rack in a dry area and make sure not to lean the sticks against anything so they will not warp or bend. I usually let my sticks dry for five to six months to make sure they have completely cured. I have heard of people only letting them dry for three months and they had little problems, but, I wait longer just to make sure.
Stripping the Bark
After the sticks have cured it is time to start stripping the bark. I use a pocket knife and just remove small strips of the bark at a time. Most sticks, depending on the type of wood, will have a dark under-bark and a lighter colored wood under the under-bark. Being careful to not go too deep in some areas and deeper in others will allow you to use the contrast in these different shades to add to the beauty of the finished product. At this time you will also remove any pieces of the vine that has grown into the tree. I do this with a pocket knife and have used a screwdriver and hammer on some more stubborn pieces.
The next step after stripping the bark is to sand the stick. I use an electric hand sander like a Black & Decker Mouse to sand the stick in the beginning. Using coarse sandpaper, sand down and smooth and round all flat edges and knife marks from the stripping process. After it is smooth switch to finer sandpaper for a smoother finish. Finally hand sand the stick to make sure it is smooth and round. The more care taken in the sanding process the better the stick will look at the end.
At this point take the stick and blow off the excess dust with an air hose. The stick can now be stained if you want but I rarely stain the sticks because I like the natural color. After the dust is gone and the stain, if desired, is applied and has dried I always add a light coat of boiled linseed oil. I wipe on a light coat and wait about fifteen minutes and wipe it off. I then let the stick set for about a week and then shoot it with a few coats of polyurethane. After the polyurethane dries use steel wool to smooth rough places in the finish and then shoot it again with a final coat of polyurethane. After the final coat has dried the stick is ready to use or be displayed.
Tamarajo on December 27, 2014:
Thank you! Just the info I was looking for.