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Make Your Own Carved Hiking Sticks

Pay $50 for a walking stick? Why not do it yourself?


To make your own hiking sticks you need a pocket knife and a walk in the woods. Just make sure your knife is strong enough that it won't snap on you when you hit a knot in the wood. Also, a locking blade is a good idea if you value your fingers.

What type of wood should you use for your walking stick? Any type you want - just be aware of the differences in woods. Some like hardwood hiking sticks because they can be very beautiful once polished up. Of course there is extra work in carving hardwood sticks. They are also heavy, better suited for decorating the cabin than for using on long hikes.

Poplar trees are one of my favorite trees for making carved hiking sticks. Poplar is light, and one of the easiest woods to work with. Poplars often grow in over-crowded stands, so cutting a few young ones won't hurt the forest. Cut them in the spring or early summer, and you can almost peel the bark off by hand.

Northern White Cedar is tougher to carve, but it is beautiful, straight, and one of the lightest woods out there. I've made walking sticks of cedar that were under nine ounces. That's as light as many trekking poles. Cedar swamps usually have many dead young cedars that are already dry. They'll stand there without rotting for years, another characteristic of cedar that makes it great for a hiking stick.

Making a Hand Carved Hiking Stick

If you don't know your trees, just find a straight young tree in any area that could use thinning. A short saw is the easiest way to cut your stick, but you can use your knife by cutting deeper and deeper in a circle around the tree until you can snap it off. It's best to cut the piece a bit longer than you want your finished hiking stick to be.

The hiking stick should come up to just below your armpit. This is a personal thing too though. If you want a fancy seven-foot staff, go for it.

Remove all the bark, always cut away from yourself. Carve the bottom end to a blunt point. The top, you can leave flat, rounded off, or even carve a spiral design into it. Use you imagination. Any piece of sandpaper can be used to smooth it. Apply stain or a poly-acrylic finish if you want, or just leave it natural.

It is best to let green wood dry for a few weeks before making it into a hiking stick. Carving it green can be easier, but it may twist or bend as it dries. Prevent this by tying it to something straight to dry. Since each wood is a little different in how it cuts and dries, you'll have to experiment.

Wrap the bottom end with leather or cloth, with a small nail to hold it, to keep the stick from splitting. This also looks good. You can put a handgrip on it, maybe a piece of cloth or leather. To make it last, glue and staple or nail it. Drill a hole through the stick near the top, to add a wrist strap, if you like.

You may want to use a wood burner to add designs to your hiking stick, or drill a hole in the top and glue a glass ball in it. If you mark inches on it, you can measure things along the trail, like the depth of the water or snow. I've made and sold hundreds of hand carved hiking sticks. My best sellers had pewter animals nailed to and embedded in them. Experimenting is one of the best parts about making your own carved hiking stick.

Related page: Hiking Staffs and Walking Sticks


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Carved Hiking Sticks - DIY