Introduction: Make a Handsome Wooden Walking Stick for Almost Nothing

Make a walking stick for between £7 and free. I took 4 days. Mostly waiting for the varnish to dry. The construction can be done in an afternoon.
I have been making walking sticks for a couple of years now and enjoy this simple craft. I have sold and given away dozens in this time. Each one is individual and a joy to own.

Here is a simple Hazel walker with a modified crook handle made of sapele wood. I have simplified construction of this project for people who have never made a stick. I dont suppose it will win any competitions but it looks lovely, is sturdy and unique.

You have the option of making a shepherds crook. The crook is a great stick for hill walking as its length makes it easier to climb down steeps hils better. The crook is great to pull down fruit tree branches, catch sheep, geese etc. and for carrying your 'doggie bag' when taking Rover on his walks too!

I hope I have addressed everything in this instructable. Read through it first before asking me any questions.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Materials needed:

1 quite straight, seasoned wood shank at least 1 metre long

1 precut crook handle or block of wood 28 -30mm thick and approximately 15cm square

1 60mm length of 8mm stud (mine is from a skip although a bolt with the head cut off would do)

small slice buffalo horn / bone (optional)

metal and/or rubber ferrule the diameter of the metal one is critical as it must be flush with the end of the shank

epoxy glue or resin

clear yacht varnish

tube glue

sellotape or masking tape

tools needed:


clean hanky/cloth

selection of wood rasps - mine were from £1 shop!


engineers file (£1 shop)

various grits sandpaper (Aldi) 60grit to 240grit at least

heat gun (if shank needs straightening) or a big pan with lid and a stove

drill and 8mm wood bit

electric jigsaw (if you are cutting you own handle) or fretsaw if you are adventurous

trusty swiss army knife or any sharp knife

Any wood will do for the shaft or the handle. These are just two that I had. It's nice to make a stick with a contrasting handle. I chose sapele wood for its dark red colouring and this piece of hazel is a silvery gold colour. I use a small slice of buffalo horn as an interface between the two in order to straighten any unevenness between the shank and the handle. Of course you can get a ready made pole such as a yard brush handle. I recommend you file it down its length into a taper and use the sandpaper to finish it off.

perhaps some of the materials used are usually not available in the average workshop but as they appear in the instructable i shall give a link to suppliers IN THE UK. You ought to be able to find suppliers in your country. has a forum where stickmakers all over the world swop tips and recommend suppliers in their territory.

The pictures:

Pic 01 my hazel shank dried for at least a year. Pick them in october to december, they will be ready to use a year later. If you cut the stick while the leaves are on the tree you can add at least 4 more months to the drying time.
or buy one - se below.

My shank is almost straight but could bend in use. This can be straightened, more of this later. shanks with 'doglegs' in can't be straightened. If you have a shank with branches on, nip the branches off and file them flush to the shank. This will add plenty of character to the shank. I like to leave them slightly proud of the surface but rounded off smooth. Giving it a pleasingly knobbly appearance. You can buy a pre seasoned shank from, he has a good selection of ash, hazel, birch, sycamore, blackthorn and others from about £3 for hazel and more for the others. He does precut handles too. as well as the metal and rubber ferrules, 8mm stud and buffalo horn discs (spacers)

Pic 02 is a life size scan of a precut crook handle. I buy precut handles in lots of woods from for £3 from 'sarasoddsandends' she charges £2 postage for any quantitiy. If you print the image out to 17.5cm width, the handle is lifesize. Use the photo as a template to cut the handle. Preferably use a bandsaw but I find a normal electric jigsaw, used slowly, is just as good. The blackline on the photo is where i cut the crook handle for use as a walker. the red line is where i cut it for a full turned crook handle If you are adventurous, the oddly shaped end is designed to have a thistle shape carved out of it. If you are making a shepherds crook then use a much longer shank - 1.5 metres.

pic 02a precut crook handle

pic 03 modified crook handle. The wood underneath is a blank of English lime

Step 2: Shaping the Handle

pic04 is the handle in the vice ready to be shaped. next to it are l-r a shinto saw rasp (internet for about £12), a flat woodrasp (£1shop)
 and a half round woodrasp (£1shop)
I quicky filed the corners off the handle using the shinto saw rasp (although the ordinary woodrasps will do the job the shinto is faster - much faster)

pic 04 10 seconds with the shinto and the first corners have been cut down. Go round the outside shaping the handle.

pic 05, 06 The shank needs to be circular in section bearing in mind the diameter of the shank. I tapered mine slightly so it could be cut exactly to the width.

pic 07 taper the end of the handle to a point.

pic 08 shape the inside with the half round rasp.

pic 09 rasped to shape.

Step 3: Finishing the Handle

pic 10 file the rasp cuts down. I dont use the vice to hold the handle now as it will mark the handle and could mis-shape it.

pic 11 the handle now the right shape and all gouges and cuts filed out. Ready to sandpaper.

pic 12 a selection of sandpaper in grits from 60 to 240.

pic 13 hold the handle with a hanky or cloth at this stage because oils from your skin can discolour the wood. Use all grits and sand in cirular motions until no deep scratches are left. The harder the wood the better the finish.

pic 14 the sanded handle. I have wet half of it to show the lovely colour waiting to come out.

now lets pay attention to the shank.

If your shank is nice and straight then skip this bit. If it is curved slightly then here's how to straighten it.

Step 4: Straightening Out the Stick (shank)

I lay my shank out on the floor, there I could see where the main kinks were. The last thing you need is a shank that's slightly 'bowed', it will bend in use. Any shank that is gnarly or bent in more than one plane is ok to use but make sure the ends line up. This is how to correct a slightly bowed stick

pic 15 Check where the curve is, and heat the stick in that area with the heat gun. Not too close, not too hot, move the gun in the area rotating the shank as you do it. I suggest a minute will be plenty time. heating softens the fibres in the wood.

pic 16 Bend the stick against the curve over your knee. I suggest using a towel over your knee to avoid burning yourself. The stick needs to be held for about 20 seconds and will be considerably straighter. The stickman sells a wooden straightener for a few quid. I have one but find the knee method faster. If you need to bend more of the stick, let it cool down first. If you dont have a heatgun heat the stick over a pan of boiling water using the lid to concentrate the heat.

be careful whichever method you use it gets VERY hot

pic 17 almost straight stick, do more if you wish.

Step 5: Smoothing the Shank

pic 18 With hazel smooth the shank removing any flakes of bark and smoothing down any knots. Don't overdo it with the sandpaper as you will take off too much bark. I use a sheet of 120 grit ,  Ash is a good wood to use but the bark is green/grey and wrinkly. I suggest with ash, sand the bark a little smoother. It brings out a nicer brown shade. Wash ash down after sanding. Just use a damp cloth to take off any bits with hazel.

Other woods may not have such a good bark and so you may want to take it off altogether. When I do this the wood can be rather pale underneath I cheat. Brew a nice cup of coffee, no milk no sugar, and paint the solution down the stick it dyes it wonderfully. Try different strengths on a scrap piece first. When it's dry you can varnish over it! You could use a woodstain or use a coloured varnish. Outdoor type is best.

Step 6: Joining Them All Together

Don't forget, the buffalo horn is a nice addition but not absolutely necessary. You may use a flat piece of contrasting wood, plywood (for the striped effect) or bone if you want a spacer. feel free to modify that stage!

Make sure your handle and shank are the same width and adjust the handle if necessary. The horn spacer will even out the differences in shape.

pic 19  drill the centre of the handle with the 8mm drill. Go about the distance as half the  length of the 8mm stud.

pic 20 a slice of buffalo horn (bone will do also but if the handle and shank have the same profile you can leave the horn out of it.)

pic 21 tack the slice of horn onto the top of the shank with glue. let it dry

pic 22 drill into the centre of the shank deep enough to allow the rest of the stud to fit

pic 23 the pieces married up. Take off the horn slice now and clean the joints of any glue.

pic 24 Resin. I have a tin of fibreglass resin lying about this is great to use but is a pink colour, no good if it is visible. Alternately use a good quality epoxy such as this. This is from the £1 shop. There is enough to make 3 sticks if used carefully

pic 25 mix the resin and coat half the stud with it. I am going to do the shank first. I held the shank lightly in the vice to keep it upright. Using a wooden stick i spooned some resin down the hole in the shank and a little on the top of it, then i put the horn spacer on it and dropped the stud into the hole. Sorry no pics of this process as it takes minutes to set and I didn't fancy getting my £300 camera glued up! Before this has all set; coat the inside of the handle with resin and again coat the threads.

pic 26 carefully press the whole thing together rotating the handle to line up the sides. wipe any glue with a cloth and carefully remove any residue on the shank with a damp cloth. Hold the stick now with a downward pressure. I usually sit down and wait til the resin has set but you may be able to improvise a rig that will keep them together. It take about 5 minutes.

Step 7: Finishing the Joint

sorry i didnt take a picture of this, so heres the one of the finished stick and a description

wrap sellotape or masking tape round the shank just below the horn spacer. This will protect the shank from being hurt with the file.

Using the file. smooth the horn to shape flush with both the shank and handle. Use sandpaper to smooth the horn. Use all grits again. When you get to the final couple of grades take off the protective tape and finish off from the shank up to the handle. Hopefully you will have a smooth join. Mine had a slight step on the inside. too much messing to smooth this off will result in damaged bark. I suggest you try pinfiles if you have them.

wipe it all down with a damp cloth and let it dry.

pic 27 Use yacht varnish to finish the stick. This varnish is good in the wet, will not discolour and being oil based will not wash off with time.I got mine from the £1 shop. Its quite thin but soaks onto the wood nicely. A couple of coats will do. Sand down any lumps with 800 grit sandpaper. To get a real good shine I use a ladies nail polisher stick. The high gloss one. It gives an amazingly smooth finish and if rubbed on your horn or bone brings it up a treat. (oo er!)

Step 8: Fitting the Ferrule

Determine the length of the stick required and cut to length. Allow about 15 degree angle of the elbow. Wearing shoes, stand upright and hold the shank of the stick below the handle until you get that angle and it feels comfortable. measure the distance between the top of the hand and the top of the handle and cut the length by that amount. Alternatively if you have an existing stick or a cheap adjustable one copy the length of that. If you are making a crook you need a much longer stick. hold the stick next to you and slide your hand up it until your hand is level with your heart. The handle should start just above your thumb. measure the distance between the top of your thumb and the bottom of the handle. Then cut the stick to length by that amount.

pic 28 A brass ferrule and a rubber ferrule. Use either or both. i got the rubber one from a hardware stall in my local market for 50p, the mobility shop sells grey ones. Both items are available from the The stickman sells different colours of metal ones, i used antique brass they are about a pound. I prefer to finish off my stick with a brass ferrule even if it's being covered with a rubber one

pic 29 Measure the depth of the metal ferrule and score the bark of the shank with a sharp knife at this depth. carefully cut the bark off all the way round and use a file to round off the sides, do this until it fits snug into the ferrule. I prefer a tight fit.

pic 30 Paint a little epoxy onto the end of the shank and press it into the ferrule. Tapping the tip slightly if its a tight fit. When it's dry drill a tiny hole thru the brass and secure it with a short brass pin. Leave it as it is or put the rubber over the top. This is actually a different stick as I didnt have the 19mm ferrule for this instructable

Step 9: You've Finished

I hope you have made a lovely walking stick They are great presents for fathers day.
Here are pictures of more wooden handled sticks I've made.

One is a cross handled walking stick, a regular crook, a pine handled stick similar to the one in this project and Snake. Made from one fiece of wood with a great shape just painted to resemble a snake

The penknife. My trusty Victorinox Rucksack. It has a saw just perfect for cutting a shank if I see one and really handy on the workbench.

Please let me know how you get on with this instructable - it is my first! and perhaps show pics of your own sticks.

Best wishes