Introduction: Carving a Spine Hiking Pole

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This spine shaped hiking pole is carved in a rough shape of a spine.  It helps protect and support your real spine when hiking/walking. I  carved it from willow using simple wood carving tools, which isn't the best wood to use but it turned out pretty strong, it only flexes a little under my whole weight, I'd recommend using a harder wood for this, but willow happened to be the best stick I could find locally.

I used some simple wood carving gouges and a Dremel to carve this stick, it took about two days to carve. The gouges I used are a 3mm veiner, #6 1/2" fish tail and a homemade gouge which is about a 1" #5.

Step 1: Selecting Your Pole and Preparation

The first thing to do is select a branch with a slight bend in it in the approximate shape of a spine. Ideally you want a nice hardwood but almost any branch will work, you can use freshly cut branch or old deadwood. Make sure that it doesn't have too many small branches or knots. If you use fresh (green) wood you do run the risk that it might split/crack, especially if it is dried too quickly

Once you have your branch selected, you can strip the bark off. With some types of wood you will be able to peel the bark off easily other may need a little more force with a knife.

Step 2: Carve the Handle Shape

The first thing I did after preparing the branch was to carve the rough handle shape. It can be whatever shape you find comfortable. I chose to carve a simple "oval" shaped handle. I simply made two stop cuts at either end of where the handle is to be and then used my knife to put a gentle curve towards these.

Step 3: The Curved Part of the Vertebrae

For the curved parts of each vertebra I firstly marked sections at roughly 1.25" increments. Where I had made these marks I cut a "V" shaped groove around to begin the shape of the vertebra. To make the curves between these I simply used a gouge to cur around the stick. The gouge I used is around #5 sweep, I don't know the exact size because it's a home made gouge. These curves should be around 2/3'rds of the way around the stick, leaving space for the bones that stick out of the spine.

It'll probably take a few brews before you carve them all!

Step 4: Rough Out the Protruding Bones

Next I roughed out the shape of the bones that stick out from the main part of the spine. Because it's a walking/hiking stick, these are just a rough representation of the actual bones. I used a 3mm veiner to rough out the shape. I also made a stop cut at the base of the middle bone using an #6 fishtail gouge, this is for later when I shaped the middle bone..

Step 5: Shape the Two Outer Protruding Bones

Next I used my #6 fishtail again to shape the outer protruding bones. Firstly I made a stop cut around the outside of the bone and then cut into this from the inward curved main part of the spine. Then I used the corner of the fishtail to shape the curve of these bones.

After I had carved all of those, I used my homemade gouge to continue the inward curves on the vertebra smoothly into these protruding bone parts.

Step 6: Carve the Centre Protruding Bone

The centre bone is simply shaped using my #6 fishtail upside down, push it along all the way to the stop cut that you made earlier.  The bone is tapered towards the stop cut so you'll want to start lifting the gouge towards the end of the cut. This should lave a smooth curved bone, but you might need to touch up the sides around this cut with a veiner.

Step 7: Finishing

Now you can make the finishing cuts and reshape any misshapen parts. Make sure you tools are razor sharp!

I used a Dremel with a drum sander attachment to sand the curves of each vertebra and a small burr bit to clean up any rough parts around the protruding bones.

For the finishing I used several coats linseed oil just rubbed into the wood with a soft cloth, this gives a natural protection for the wood.

Humana Health by Design Contest

Finalist in the
Humana Health by Design Contest