It’s been several years since I’ve had a dedicated walking stick for my increasingly rare rambles in the woods. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I used to have one, but gave it away. After too many years of working a job where I sat all the time, I’m many pounds too heavy and, even worse, in frighteningly poor wind. Just looking at a flight of stairs these days makes me pant for air. So recently, when weather permits, I’ve been taking a daily constitutional to get my blood flowing to parts it may have forgotten. Considering that I live in the country, I’ve been wishing that I still had my old walking stick.
A couple years ago, I spotted a small maple that had succumbed to crowded conditions and thought that it would make a good walking stick. So, I grubbed it out, root-ball and all, and whacked it off about six feet long. I later cut off the individual roots leaving the knob where they joined, then cut the stick so I had to raise my chin just a tad to rest it on the end of the staff. For me, that turned out to be 63 inches. That’s a good height to rest my hands on when I want to lean on the pole a bit, plus it’s a good level for steadying a camera or a pair of binoculars. Apparently, the little maple had spent at least one season standing dead, for the bark at what could be called the root collar (ground level) was a little loose and the sapwood beneath it was a tiny bit punky on the surface. After taking off the loose bark and punky wood with my penknife, I stuck the piece in the basement and forgot about it.
Yesterday, having decided to write about my old walking stick, I also decided that it was time that I had a new one. Remembering and searching out the stick I’d put in the basement, I took some sandpaper to the knob to smooth up the edges where I’d cut the roots off with a bow-saw. I also smoothed the rest of the staff a bit, but not too much, so it wouldn’t be slick in my aging hands. Like me, it’s still a bit rough around the edges. I figured leaving the bark on would not only be quicker, but would be more in keeping with my “crusty” character. When I worked at a muzzle-loader shop years ago, they used a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and boiled linseed oil to put some moisture in wood they didn’t want a shine on. I did the same with my stick. I also hoped it might kill any powder-post beetles that made the half-dozen little holes in the root collar area if they were still alive. Afterwards, I put a one inch, black cane tip on the bottom of the stick, since I’m more likely to run into pavement on my walks than I used to be be.
The finished product should last my remaining years and is shown in the photo below. (The linseed hadn’t all soaked in yet when I snapped the picture.) © 2013