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Stickmaking materials
and Accessories
(Finished sticks further down).

Alpine Spikes
Aluminium crook
Animal head Blanks
Badger blank
Bird head blanks
Blackthorn shanks
Brass collars
Brass ferrules
Buffalo horn
Cane holder
Carving blanks
Carving glove
Carving tools
Carving wood
Cock pheasant blank
Crook blank (wood)
DIY Materials
Dog blanks
Duck blanks
Engraved collars
Epoxy resin
Epoxy putty
Fish blanks
Fox blanks
Glass eyes
Grouse blanks
Hazel shanks
Heron blanks
Hen pheas't blanks
Hiking stick blank
Horn spacers
Horn Polishing kit
Horse blanks
Kevlar glove
Leather lace
Lyre blank (wood)
Magnetic Ferrules
Partridge blank
Polishing Kit
Rams horns
Roe buck antlers
Rubber ferrules
Salmon blank
Shrink tube
Stag horn
Stick press
Swan blank
Thumbstick blanks
Trout blanks
Wading staff kit
Walker blank
Woodcock blanks
Wrist loop straps

Sticks & Crooks
normally made
to order see waiting times on each page.

These are Not normally
available outside
the UK -
email for details!


Animal sticks
Antler thumbsticks
Antler walkingsticks
Beating sticks
Bird head sticks
Buffalo horn crooks
Buffalo horn thumbsticks
Carved sticks
Derby sticks
DIY Materials
DIY Stickmaking
Dog sticks
Engraved collars
Gen purpose
Hiking stick
Horn crooks
Horn sticks
Knob sticks
Lyre thumb stick
Nanny McPhee stick
Rams horn sticks
Regency stick
Resin head sticks
Wading convert kit
Wading Staffs
Wading Sticks

Gift Vouchers
Cane History
Stickmaking class
Cane holder
Straightening sticks
Why use a Stick?


Far from being a dying art, as I'm often told, the craft of stickmaking is, in fact, one of the fastest growing pastimes in the country! In sheds, garages and purpose -built workshops, men and women, young and old, can be found working on sticks for themselves, for friends and relatives or to sell in shops or at Craft Fairs and Country Shows.

Many people ar a bit reluctant to admit to being a "Stickie", because the general reaction from the uninformed public can be a bit derogatory: "You make sticks - why would you want to do that?". I'll tell you why - it's a fascinating, absorbing hobby that almost anyone can try. It can be gentle and relaxing - it can also be quite energetic at times (try rasping down a hefty piece of wood or horn). However you do it you can get great satisfaction from making something that is both useful and attractive.The variety of subjects, patterns and materials is endless and you never stop learning.

Stickmaking is the sort of thing you can do when you have a whole day to spend at it, or just few minutes when you have spare moments. Expensive tools are not necessary - though you can always spend money on them if you want to! If you are able to get out and cut your own sticks then it can take you into scenic countryside, often into hidden places not seen by the 'normal' visitors. You don't need to be artistic to make sticks either - the only things I can draw are curtains - and my wife says I do that badly!

So if you fancy having a go at it, why not get a book on the subject, enrol for a stickmaking class or just get some bits and pieces and have a go - half the fun is in learning for yourself.

 The following are all real questions I have been asked - either in person or by using the email link at the bottom of the page. You can ask what you like and I will reply to you in person - if I think it (and the answer) will be of use to others I may put it up here! You can also now join in with the New Forum - ask questions or post answers yourself!


Q.What is the best time to cut a stick?
A. The old answer is "when you see it", and it still holds true. If you find a really good stick growing somewhere and you have permission to cut it, it's probably best to cut it then and there, before someone else finds it or you forget where it is! The best time of year for cutting is undoubtedly during the winter, but it is possible to cut sticks all year round. The problem with cutting in summer is that the sticks will be full of sap. As the liquid evaporates after cutting, the sticks shrink over a period of months/years. The more they shrink, the more likely the wood is to crack or split and the more likely the bark is to wrinkle and come loose. Having said that, you can often get away with it!
In winter the sticks are dormant and have low sap levels, so less shrinkage occurrs as they dry. In the UK, November through to February are probably the better months for cutting - though I often start in October and do most of my cutting in March, when the days are longer and the weather is often better.

Q. How long should sticks be left to dry out?
A. I find that between one and two years is best - earlier than that and the sticks may still have too much moisture in them. If you use them for stick shanks with separate handles attached the sticks can shrink a bit and make the joints open up. I don't like leaving sticks over three years to dry as I find that woodworm are likely to be present inside after that time - though they may not emerge for another year or two.

Q. What types of sticks should I cut?
A. Basically anything you like - but in the UK we tend to use mostly Hazel, Ash, Blackthorn and Holly. This is partly due to fashion and partly because the woods are particularly suited to making strong, straight stick shanks. Other woods I use are Elder (corky bark must be removed), Hawthorn, Sycamore, Apple, Cherry, Chestnut, and a few others if they are really interesting.

Q. Should I take the bark off my sticks or leave it on?
A. That is a difficult one to answer! In the UK we normally leave the bark on - but that's because we tend to use wood types that have attractive, hard and durable bark. If you are unable to get the kinds of sticks I mentioned above you may find the bark is soft, or wrinkled or simply flakes off after drying. In these cases you are probably better to remove the bark anyway. Some people advise stripping it while still fresh - it is certainly a lot easier at that stage. The trouble with stripping bark from "green" wood (the term means freshly cut and does not necessarily refer to the colour) is that by removing it you take away the layer that controlls water loss. A peeled stick will loose water much faster than one with bark left on and the stick may crack or split. It may be better to allow the sticks to dry for several months then shave and sand off the bark. I've heard that in America some stick carvers soak their seasoned sticks and use a pressure washer to blast off the softened bark. I've not tried it but it sounds worth a go!

Q. Can I use dead wood that I find?
A. I wouldn't advise it. I have tried using dead (or "found") wood and it has invariably let me down. It may appear to be strong, solid wood but it will often have woodworm or fungi alive inside it. These can seriously weaken the wood over several months or years and I would hate to give or sell a stick, only for the new owner to complain sometime later that the stick had snapped for no good reason or that it was now full of little holes!

Q. How do I straighten my sticks?
A. Now that is a good question - one which could get 20 different answers from 20 different stickmakers! The most common way is to heat up the stick - either the whole thing at once or just individual sections - and put enough pressure on each bend to 'reverse' them, so making them 'straight'. This only works well with seasoned sticks - those that have been dried for a year or two. If you try this too early you will find that if you have left the bark on it will become soft with the heat and will probably come off in patches where you apply pressure. The other big problem with using sticks that are too fresh is that after you have straightened them they tend to 'creep' back to their original shapes - they rarely go all the way but will almost always creep back to some extent. You can re-straighten them at a later date, but if you have varnished or oiled the sticks by then you may have problems heating them up again.

Q. How do I heat up the sticks?
A. The two most common ways are to use 'dry heat' from an electric paint stripper (often called a "heat gun") or 'wet heat' in the form of boiling water or steam. I use both methods and they both have advantages and disadvantages. Dry heat is easier to use and you can use your sticks as soon as they cool down after straightening. Unfortunately it is very easy to scorch a stick with dry heat and that can cause the bark to crack and lift away from the underlying wood. If you use steam you need to buy or make something that will produce your steam and feed it into a container that will hold it and your stick(s) for about 30 to 60 minutes to heat them up. Once hot, you only have a few minutes to work on them before they cool down and once straightened they must be left for several days to dry out and become stable - use them too soon and they can creep back to their old shapes.

Q. How do I apply the pressure?
A. The simple way is to bend the stick over your knee - but bend it so you reverse the bend. It takes practice and patience to learn how much pressure to apply. There are many types of jig or press that have been designed to do this job more efficiently and my own is to be found on the Shanks DIY page. My
stick press is fixed in a vice and when the vice is wound up the jaws force the heated stick into a reverse bend. This need only be done for a few seconds on each separate bend but it still takes me around 15 to 20 minutes on average to straighten a 54" shank.

Q. Can I use fresh wood for carving?
A. Yes - but just be aware of the shrinkage problems outlined above, regarding freshly cut sticks. If you must carve 'green' wood it is advisable to slow down the moisture loss - either by finishing your carving in one day and then painting or sealing it or by wrapping your carving in polythene to reduce evaporation. Rapid evaporation can cause severe splitting of your wood and the problem is always worse in hot, try conditions.

Q. Where can I get carving tools?
A. There are many outlets for knives, chisels, power-carvers and so on. I get most of my tools in the UK from
Axminster Power Tools and find their service excellent (I am not on commission for promoting them - I just think they deserve a mention).

Q. Where can I cut my own sticks?
A. All woodland in the UK is owned by someone - so you shouldn't just go and cut sticks without permission. One of my customers phoned me to say he had been caught cutting sticks in a municipal park in a town. The park keeper had been really abusive at first, but when it was explained to him what the sticks were for, he became quite interested and said that it would be OK to cut a few more as long as he asked what he could and could not cut!
An approach to landowners, farmers, gamekeepers and others involved with the upkeep of woodland and hedges may prove fruitfull if you go about it in the right way - always be polite, explain what you are doing and possibly promise to make the person a stick in return for permission to cut. You may have to pay real money - but avoid it if you can!
In the USA I believe it is possible to buy a permit to cut 'firewood' in some of the forest parks. As far as I am aware these permits are not expensive and Park Rangers may be very flexible if you expalin that you do not actually want wagon loads of the stuff for burning - just a few sticks for carving. Fruit orchards are also likely to produce a few useful branches when pruning takes place.

Q. I want to make a two-part stick, with the handle and shank made from separate pieces of wood - how do I join them together?
A. The traditional way - which I use - is to drill a 'socket' in the handle, about 5/8ths of an inch (15 mm) in diameter and 2 to 3 inches (50 to 75mm) deep and to carve or rasp the top of the stick into a 'peg' that fits tightly into the socket and is firmly attached using an epoxy glue. Many people use threaded rod (studding) but I believe it to be a weaker joint than the peg and socket. Unless the studding is aligned perfectly down the centre of the shank it must, by definition, be off-center - which causes a weak spot in the shank that is likely to break sooner or later.

Q. What sort of glue would you recommend?
A. Epoxy resin - I don't use anything else! It fills any small gaps, can be sanded, smoothed, painted etc. You can mix wood dust with it to make a paste and then use that for filling bigger gaps or holes. Don't use any kind of glue that sets 'soft' - it needs to go really hard.

Q. Is it possible to purchase a tool that is designed to give a completely flat joint between shank and handle? It can be time consuming to say the least to try squaring off the ends of the shank and handle with a rasp/file.
A. Not that I know of! "Practice makes perfect", as they say and the more you practice the better you will get. You can practice on your stick off-cuts in between making real joints. Sorry I can't be more helpful on this one!

Q. I was looking at your stick press. Can you tell me how long you need to leave the stick in to straighten it, say 25mm blackthorn?
A. That's all covered in the instruction leaflet that comes with it. Each bend is only left for a few seconds (after heating) but a 48" shank with take anything from 10 to 60 minutes to straighten depending on how straight you want it and how crooked it is to begin with. It normally takes me an average of 15 minutes per stick.

Q. I want to try and make a plaited wrist strap for a stick I'm making for my sister using the leather supplied by you, but it seems a bit stiff. Is there any way you know of to soften it up?
A. The way I soften it is to hold the end of one piece in the vice, wrap some fine abrasive cloth/tape (sandpaper will do) round the leather and pull it right through, gripping quite tightly as you go. Do this half a dozen times and the leather becomes much more pliable - it stretches a bit and the sharp edges are rubbed smooth. Do it with three strands and they should plait much more easily if you've got it right. The only problem is that you loose the nice shiny brown surface - but you can work it much better when it's softer.

Q. I'm going up to my local woods on Tuesday, having obtained farmers permission to cut some sticks. I hope to get about twenty. After trimming off the foliage, should I simply lash them all together in a sort of bundle, store them in my dry shed and forget them for a year or so? Your kind advice and guidance is appreciated.
A. Basically - yes! I fasten mine together with large rubber bands while I'm in the woods then, when I have ten together, use brown sticky packing tape to fasten them tightly, top, middle and bottom. Make sure they are as straight as possible within the bundle because they will set in whatever position you leave them - if they are twisted round each other they may come out much worse than when you cut them! Bundles of ten are easier to carry - four tens are much easier than one bundle of forty - and you can quickly count them. I cut anything between 40 and 200 in a day, so counting and carrying them to the car are important!

If you don't want to tape them (the stickyness will have gone after a year or two and doesn't pull off the bark) then use soft string or cloth tapes. Baler twine will do but don't use anything hard that will spoil the bark while it's soft.

Q. I purchased a stick from you early 2006 with a screw joint which is now failing to tighten. Is it possible to replace the offending item. If so is it a DIY job and can I get the necessary parts?
A. It sounds as though you've had the threads crossed at some point. Being brass, it's possible to force the threads together but you will wear out one or both halves of the joint. You could undertake a replacement yourself if you are quite 'handy' - the joints are for sale on my DIY page but you'd first have to remove the old ones - not an easy job! If you would rather let me do it then the charge is £20 plus postage.



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