Make Your Own Carved Hiking Sticks
Pay $50 for a walking stick? Why not do it yourself?
By Steve Gillman
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 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