Making a Walking Stick Handle From Natural Materials
How to Make Walking Stick Handles
While you wait months for your perfect walking stick blanks to finish curing, you can craft away your time making handles so you can begin the next stage of crafting your walking sticks.
Handles for walking sticks or poles can be made from wood, horn, alabaster, or metal. Metal (brass, silver, or even gold) can offer a really luxurious finish to your walking stick handle.
Horn or Antler Handles
A good supply of horn handles is a local zoo or pet sanctuary. Clipping horns for animals is a routine care procedure, so if you build up a good relationship with the right member of staff, you’ll have a limitless supply of horn. The best horns for walking sticks come from cow, ram, or buffalo. Asian water buffalo makes a fine interesting colour and pattern variant. Also antlers make fantastic handles. Cutting the antler into a desired handle shape is easy.
To make a horn into a handle, one can bend it into shape by applying heat or steam. Normally this is done by soaking the horn in water, applying a wet towel to the horn, covering it with tinfoil, and heating the area with a paint stripper gun. Then you can bend the heated horn into the desired shape.The steam formed from the wet towel is trapped by the tinfoil. The foil also protects the horn from excessive heat damage.
Wooden handles are traditionally bulbous in shape and made from a different type of wood than the blank. Preferred choices include ash, oak, walnut, yew, and birch.
You can use naturally-occurring roots or root bases as handles, collecting them as you collect your blanks. They won't be discussed further in this article.
To get the correct shape from a block of purchased wood, it’s necessary to put the piece of wood in a lathe and work accordingly (see the video below). Lathing your walking stick handle makes it possible to obtain a perfectly smooth finish. Use high-grade sandpaper to soothe your wooden handle on the lathe.
To preserve the natural colours and grain of the wood in your handle, it's necessary to protect the raw wood while highlighting those colours and swirls. To treat your wood handle, you should use two good applications of boiled linseed oil. Follow this with one coating of polyurethane. After the coat has dried gently rub with wire-wool (steel wool) until the surface becomes dull. Wipe clean, and then apply another coat of polyurethane. Once dry, buff to a nice shine.
Alabaster handles can be custom designed. Alabaster, a soft stone, can be lathed, carved, smoothed and polished for an exciting finish. It remains tough as well as durable while looking perfect for most types of walking sticks and poles.
Connecting the Handle to the Walking Stick
Connecting your handle to your walking stick pole or blank requires a fairly simple process. You will need to place a threaded boll connecting the handle and the pole. It’s advisable to use a double-headed screw approximately 4” in length. Small pilot drill holes in your handle as well as the finished blank will allow an easy connection. When you’re ready to connect the handle, ensure that the screw is coated in a strong wood adhesive to provide extra strength combined with stability.
You may also want to add a collar to hide the join between the handle and the walking stick. Many sizes and types can easily be purchased. John Marsh's Stickmaking Shop sells collars and other hardware along with blocks of wood for lathing into handles.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.