Introduction: Carved Snake Cedar Walking Stick

This is my first instructable so bare with me guys!

In this instructable I will show/describe how I made a copperhead walking stick out of a single piece of western cedar. I will also provide the tools I used to make it. The cost will depend on what you already have at your disposal (i.e. wood/tools/paints).

Step 1: Tools I Used.

  1. Grinder
  2. Dremel (Optional)
  3. Carving Chisels
  4. Router (Optional)
  5. Air Brush (Optional - Would need compressor to use it)
  6. Woodburner tool
  7. Vise or other setup for securing the wood while carving
  8. Disc Sander
  9. Orbital Sander

Step 2: Choose Your Wood

My first big decision was to decide what type of wood I was going to use. I decided to go with Western Cedar because its light, its an easy wood to work with, and I had an old reclaimed 6ft piece of it in my wood pile from an old swingset. On a side note, I think Eastern Cedar would work great for this project as well since it has similar characteristics. Although 4x4" would be perfect for this project, my piece of wood was 3.5 x 3.5" wide, but still worked out. Any wood will work, but I wanted something that was light for a walking stick, plus easy to work with. I suppose many types of Pine or Douglas Fir would work just fine also.

Next up, the outline and rough cut.

Step 3: Outline and Rough Cut

Before I made any cuts, I decided to draw a rough outline of the snake with a sharpie (pencil was too light and hard to see) marker, so I would know where to avoid cutting. My plan was to rough cut the stick first, then come back and start rough detailing the snake second. In the first pic you can see the snake outline, and the wood secured in my 120 yr old Emmert Pattern Makers Vise. I used my favorite grinding wheel for the majority of the rough cut, a $10 carbide cup wheel from harbor freight. If you've never used one, you're welcome, you can thank me later. Once, the stick was roughed out (pic 2), I took that same grinding wheel and started rounding off the snake body(pic 3).

Step 4: Rounding the Stick

Once I was happy with the rough body shape of the snake, I thought I
would start rounding out the stick. I came to the quick realization that this would be a tough job getting the stick perfect/straight just by eyeball grinding so I decided to whip up a router sled setup for this instead. I added 1/2" dowels on either end of the stick, then attached them to my saw horses. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of this process so I drew a crappy diagram to give you an idea. A few google image searches of "router sled turning" will give you the same basic concept. In the last rough cut pic, you can see where the routing has been done on all but the handle of the stick.

Step 5: Snake Detailing Part 1: Carving

Once I had a satisfactory body roughly shaped out, I proceeded to carving out the detailed shape of the head and face. to do this, I used various carving bits with my dremel. I studied several images of copperheads to try and get a good feel for the shape I was attempting to carve. It helped me to image a heart shape, the point being his nose, while the round parts being the back of his jaws/head. I took my time, and slowly carved away until I was happy with it. Once the head was shaped, I penciled in the eyes, mouth, nose holes and the turtleshell-like design on the top of his head. I used a rifle shell casing to shape the eyes, then carved lightly around them to give them a slight indention. Lastly, I carved some light indentions into the bottom of the snake to give it the scaly belly appearance you see on a snake's underside.

Step 6: Snake Detailing Part 2: Sanding

Next, I pulled out "the beast", my dewalt disc sander. I love this sander for its ability to sand so aggressively. I used it to sand the body of the snake, as well as help define the separation between the snake and stick (as if it were a real snake, separate of the stick). I finished sanding with an orbital sander and a small sanding drum on my dremel for some of the hard to reach places.

Step 7: Snake Detailing Part 3: Woodburning

I was finally ready for adding the scales. On a scrap piece of wood, I tried carving scales first, but was not pleased with the results. So, I pulled out my cheap woodburning kit, and examined the tips to see if I had anything that resembled a snake scale. Since I didn't have anything that would work, I decided to try grinding a custom tip from some of the tips I never used. I've added a pic of the scrap wood I used to test out the custom tip I made. It was far from perfect, but gave the snake a realistic texture that I was really pleased with so I proceeded to scaling the entire snake. Although this was a slow, tedious process, I enjoyed it because it was one of the few parts of the build that I could do in my recliner while hanging with the fam. It took me a new nights to finish the scales but it was worth it, the texture really gives it a realistic feel and look. I also outlined some of the facial details with a fine burning point to help further define the facial features.

The last thing I burned on was a checkered design around the handle. I just stenciled the design on with pencil, then followed it with a line-making burning tip.

Step 8: Snake Detailing Part 4: Painting

I had already saved a bunch of images of copperheads to an album for studying, so I printed a few of them, and headed to hobby lobby to pick up some paints that matched my pics. I chose acrylic paint to work with simply because it's cheap, tons of local color selections, and is easy to apply. I will admit, I repainted this snake a few times because I was never quite satisfied with the finished product. I eventually figured out through trial and error, what looked best to me was brushing on a base layer, adding a base layer for the hourglass shape on snakes back, then airbrushing very light gradient over the top of the base layers. I suppose this can be accomplished just as easily with a brush for those of you with artistic painting talents, but airbrush worked best for me. After several days of repainting and touch-ups, my wife and I made up our minds that we were happy with it. I finished it off by adding a few coats of spray-on clear lacquer.

Step 9: Thanks

I want to thank Mike Stinnett of Stinnett Sticks, who inspired me to attempt this project, you are the master Mike! I also wanted to thank my wife for being doubtful I could finish this project, just the fuel I needed. Just kidding Erin, I'm sure I just misread that eye roll you gave me, ha! Thanks to my buddy Edwin for wanting pictures of the process, otherwise there would be no instructable! Finally thanks to you, the reader, for reading my first instructable. And an even bigger thanks if you vote for it!!

Wood Contest 2016

Runner Up in the
Wood Contest 2016