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1. Select a stick. This is the fun part! Head to the nearest forest and search the ground for long branches that have broken off. You can also saw off one of the small limbs of a tree, but keep in mind that it will have to dry for quite a long time. The length of the stick you choose depends on what you will be using it for. If this will be primarily a tool for hiking, then you will want it to be shoulder height or even taller. That way you can place it ahead of you to support you in crossing streams, climbing uneven ground, etc. Remember that the taller the stick, the heavier it will be. If you are used to hiking and are strong enough, this may not be a concern. But with certain physical conditions and varying abilities, it is something important to keep in mind. The diameter, or girth of the stick that will depend on your own weight and how you want to use the walking stick. A heavier person should have a larger diameter stick in order to support him or her. For long hikes, a heavier stick will become tiring. However, the stick needs to be think enough to withstand the rough abuse of heavy hiking. Make sure the stick you choose is not rotting. To do this, put one end of the stick against a tree or the seat of a picnic table. Hold the other end and push as hard as you can. The stick should not bend very much. If the stick has insect infestation, this may be just fine. Many people like the designs that a small amount of insect infestation creates. But make sure you the stick is wide enough for you to remove the sapwood and get down to a layer that is strong enough. Do not worry about extra twigs or knots extending from your chosen stick. These will be taken care of in the following steps.
2. Trimming it down. Use proper safety techniques with all wood equipment! Wear thick work gloves and clear glasses to protect yourself. If there are small branches protruding from your stick, detach them with a hand saw. Cut as close to the stick as possible, slightly into the stick but directly parallel to it.
3. Removing the bark. A standard, heavy duty box cutter works well to remove the bark. This should be done after the stick has dried properly. Which may take up to a year if you cut the stick from a living tree. Begin by taking the outer bark away, and continue with each new layer until you can see the red layer. If this red layer is easily removed, then go ahead and peel it off. Otherwise it can be left as is. Gently scrape the cutter at a very low angle if you do not catch any wood fibers, the stick is ready for the next step!
4. Sanding. Always wear a sanding mask for this part. First of all, sand the knots flush with the stick using 100 grit sandpaper that is held onto a piece of 2x4 or other block. (Tear a piece of sandpaper so that it wraps around the block. It helps for flush sanding). If you would prefer to make the job quicker with power tools, a belt sander or combination sander will do the trick. After the knots are sanded down, sand the rest of the stick from end to end. Always go with the grain! Afterwards, sand the whole thing again with 200 grit and then 400 grit sandpaper (no power tools this time!)
5. Final adjustments before applying the finish. Examine the stick carefully for any other imperfections that need attention. Look over the end grain and the knots to make sure everything is as smooth as possible. You will not be able to go back and fix these things once you apply the finish. After you are satisfied with the condition of your stick, wipe all its surfaces down with a tack rag to remove any sawdust particles that remain.
6. Finishing the stick. There are a few ways to do this, but the most popular seem to be boiled linseed oil or tung oil. For either one, you will need to soak a lint free cotton cloth with the oil and liberally apply it to the surfaces, working from top to bottom of your stick. Follow the instructions of the oil manufacturer, including the drying time. After the stick is dried from its first layer of oil, lightly sand it again with 400 grit sandpaper. Use the tack cloth again to remove sawdust. Reapply the finish. Dry and sand again. Apply the finish for a third time. Once the stick has dried again, use paste wax. Rub it on and once it dulls, buff it with a cotton cloth. Now you can be creative with ornaments or decorations!
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