It begins with a walk...
As an artist interested deeply in wildlife and the outdoors I carve hiking sticks in designs inspired by the flora and fauna I see on country walks.
Wren design grip on thumbstick
I hand carve my sticks using traditional tools and methods. I employ techniques and work up designs to fit the texture and shape of the wood in hand using craftsman's wood stains for colour. I complete my carvings with fine lacquer for durability and beeswax polish for a natural tactile finish. I aim always to work with the wood's natural beauty and retain elements of its character.
The wooden shafts I use are gathered in November through February, the UK's traditional coppicing season. After harvesting, the wood is stored carefully and allowed to dry. It takes between 6 months and two years before the sticks are ready to be worked.
I include my artist mark on all sticks either on the shaft, or if it can be done so without detracting from the design, in the detail of the carving.
Artist mark on the shaft of some of my sticks
While most of the materials I use are seasonal coppice products, for some designs I use timber cut from my own copse in the Peak District or FSC approved timber from UK suppliers.
Sketch of wren used for thumbstick design
Some of my sticks are free carved without reference to sketches or drawings. These pieces are usually carved in wood with bold figure and shape that strongly suggests the subject and form. Examples include my harvest mouse and wolf designs. In other cases while still paying attention to the inherent qualities of the wood I employ drawing and painting to arrive at a design. My studies combine memories of walks and things seen; sketches made in the field and photographic records.
Design sketch for wren thumbstick
A guide to stick weight
The weight of a stick is dependent on the variety of wood, the density of its cell structure and the thickness of the shaft. I mostly use hazel shafts to make my sticks as this species offers a good amount of strength for a given thickness. Sometimes I use ash, sycamore, holy, hawthorn or blackthorn.
If you are of average weight and strength for your height then a regular weight stick will be right for you. If you are heavier you will be better off with a stick having a thicker shaft. If you are not especially strong and/or of less than average weight then a lighter stick should prove most suitable. Of course we are all individuals and this guide is intended to give you a basic starting point upon which to base your choice.
Each stick or staff in the shop will include in its description the uncut weight, along with the top and bottom diameter. You should take note of these when choosing a stick. You should also read the guide below on finding the appropriate stick length to be sure of requesting the correct length stick.
How tall a stick?
Hiking staffs, thumbsticks, wading staffs and traditional farmers crooks are all distinct from 'walking sticks' being longer by several inches. While a walking stick is usually of a length that places its handle around hip height, staffs, crooks and thumb sticks usually stand with their grip around chest height. The traditional height is found as follows: Stand in your walking shoes, boots, or your wading gear on a flat floor, measure from the floor to bottom of the sternum (see illustration below) - A thumbstick would be finished so the cleft is positioned at this height, while a staff would have the top of its grip at this height.
If you think a traditional length stick will not suit you, try out a broom handle, bean pole, even a garden hoe held as if a hiking staff. Hold this stick 'substitute' and adjust your grip until you find it most comfortable. Measure from floor to top of your grip - this is the measurement to provide in place of the measurement described earlier (floor to sternum).
A wading staff might need to be longer depending on the river or lake bed. If you are buying a thumbstick or other design and wish to rest binoculars on it then the very top of the stick needs to end close to eye level - please contact me with that measurement and clear indication you intend to use the stick that way. (My bird design thumbsticks are not suited to this application unless supplied with a replacement grip for the purpose.)