So I decided to make my own hiking stick after visiting the local sports stores and seeing wood hiking / walking sticks selling for $50-70. I knew that I could make one for far less, so I decided to carve one for myself.
There are a lot of small spruce trees growing out around our yard, and one in particular seemed to be shaded and stunted underneath another larger tree, so it seemed like the perfect candidate to make a hiking stick.
I cut down the tree, and chose a suitable length of its trunk that placed the handle at about the diameter that felt comfortable to grasp. I trimmed off the branches, and was left with a stick that resembled rough walking stick.
I made the final cut, and then began trimming the bark off of the tree using a large knife. I noticed that parts of the inner bark remained stuck to the wood, and created a stripe-like pattern going lengthwise down the trunk. The outer layer was very soft and sticky, while the inner wood was hard and dry.
If you carve off the sticky outer layer, you get down to the whitish inner wood. I chose to leave the outer layers on in a stripe pattern. This feature turned out to be a very fortunate decision.
I moved on to a smaller knife and did a finer cut of the branch to smooth out the knots and to round out the edges.
This was as far as I could go with the wood in a wet state, since the wood could not be sanded. I let the stick overwinter in the greenhouse from August to May.
When I came back to it, the wood had dried adequately for sanding with 15o grit sandpaper for the rough sanding, and finally 300 grit for the final sanding.
Next, I traced a spiral around the stick using a pencil, and I used the cutting wheel of a die grinder to make a trough all around the perimeter in a spiral from top to bottom. I then filled in the trough using a permanent marker to color it. I also put my initials into the handle the same way.
Now it came time to add the stain. This is when I discovered how important it was to leave on the outer wet wood layer in a striped fashion. Over the winter, that wet layer had dried and hardened, but was still full of sap and oils. I applied Minwax stain, which seeped into the inner wood layers that were poking through, but the outer layer remained mostly unaffected. When I wiped off the excess, I was pleasantly surprised with a stripe pattern of dark and light wood where the stain was alternately soaking in and repelled.
My clear coat was two coats of tung oil, which I chose to avoid the plastic-wrapped look of polyurethane coatings. The final result was a very aesthetically pleasing and usable spruce hiking stick.
As a final thought, it would be useful for longevity’s sake to put a stainless steel screw into the tip of the stick to provide wear resistance at the tip.
- Find a suitable spruce sapling, preferably one that is crowded out by larger trees.
- Cut the trunk to the desired length and make sure the area where the hand grips is the right diameter.
- Trim off the branches with a saw or hatchet, taking care to swing away from your body.
- Remove the bark with a knife by cutting it in a motion from the base toward the tip. It helps to brace the trunk against the ground and swing the knife downward while doing this.
- Remove all the rough areas of bark, and take care not to remove too much of the inner layer of bark. This is what will help create the striped pattern when staining since the inner bark will repel the stain while the inner wood will absorb it.
- Season the wood until all moisture leaves it.
- Sand the wood starting with rough sandpaper and finishing with fine (about 300 grit is fine).
- Carve any desired designs into the surface, and use a fine paintbrush and oil based paint or permanent marker to color the design.
- Use an oil based stain of the desired color, wipe off the excess and allow the stain to dry.
- Apply a coat of tung oil with a cloth and allow it to dry. Repeat as desired, or apply about 3 coats.