This project was a tricky one. I designed this cane for a family member who has a close personal friend that is terminally ill and has an extremely hard time walking. As such, I considered not publishing, but after talking to this family member, he made me realize that it would be wrong not to post an ible on it. His exact words were; "You made this to help someone right? So why wouldn't you want to teach others to do the same?" With that, I won't be entering it in any contests, or looking for any prizes. This instructable is strictly valued for its information in the hopes that others will find it useful for the same reasons.
First and foremost, I designed this cane with three distinct premise in mind; It had to be strong enough to support a large man, It had to be light so as not to be a burden, and it had to be comfortable to hold. The first two were simple. My choice of wood was maple and because of its renown for being a profoundly strong material, it also meant I could make the cane thinner, and by its own conclusion light as well.
The handle was a different story. I still needed a hardwood, but it had to be extremely smooth on the hand and more easily sculpted. For this piece I opted to use cherry, which is a personal favorite due to the sweet smell it gives off when cutting it. For the style, I investigated the Derby cane heads, but ended up falling in love with the curves of an Anatomical cane. My final form was an amalgamation of both.
The cane, itself, is 34" long so that it can be cut down to suit the persons preference and is constructed in 4 parts, (3 for the shaft and 1 for the head). I decided to use the lathe, due to time constraints, however normally I would have crafted the shaft on my shaving horse using a drawknife. Again, due to time, I roughed out the head on my scroll saw and dressed it on the belt sander, but the traditionalist in me would have preferred using a coping saw and a hand carving knife. I only mention this because I realize that not everyone has access to a lathe, and to point out that you don't really need power tools to make this cane.
The only thing that's lacking is the no-slip rubber tip. The gentleman that it's created for actually has a special 'extra wide' tip that he will be installing, however, if you want to include a tip, they can easily be purchased from any drug store for a couple dollars.
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Step 1: Tools and Supplies
- Wood Lathe - (optional. You can use a shaving horse with a drawknife or simply carve it by hand)
- Scroll Saw - (again optional since a coping saw will work just as well)
- Bench Sander - (A carving knife and some hand sanding may take longer, but will do the job just fine)
- Table Saw - (To cut the wood into 1" strips. Highly recommended but not necessary)
- 5/8" spade or forstner bit
- 3/4" spade or forstner bit
- 1/2" spade or Forstner bit
- 1" thick Maple (you can use other hardwood but, trust me, maple is the best)
- 1" thick Cherry (other hardwood will work fine)
- Sandpaper - 100, 150, 220 grit
- Wood Stain - Your choice of color. Leather dye works great as well but you'll have to condition after.
- 5 minute epoxy
- Wood Glue
Step 2: Cutting Your Strips
Maple is hard. When I say its hard I mean that if your blades aren't sharp, the wood will burn before it cuts, so make sure your tools are tip top. I measured and cut three 1" strips from my maple plank, each measuring 12" long. These would be the three sections of the shaft. You can do this project with one long piece, which would be better, however the board I had was pretty exceptionally grained and I wanted to work with it.
Step 3: Creating the Shaft and Sockets
To prep my pieces, I spun them on the lathe to round them up nicely. I wanted a gradual taper to the cane's shaft, so the topmost piece started at 1" then gradually reduced to .85" at its end. The middle section started at .85" then gradually reduced to .8" and finally the bottom section started at .8" and reduced to it's smallest size of .75"
Next, I had to create the 'posts' for my socket. I marked out the top 1" on all three pieces that I would turn into the first half of the socket. The top I reduced to 3/4", the middle became 5/8" and the bottom I turned to 1/2". The bottom would be the weakest joint, but it would also have the least amount of 'flexing' done to it. For design, I wanted to keep it simple and used the parting tool to carve 4 lines just below where it sets into the handle.
**Note** As I wanted to be sure my sockets were strong, I actually decided to test it before giving it to the person. I set it horizontally between two shelves and had my 110lb wife hang from it. My thought was that if it failed, I would start over with a solid length of wood. Surprisingly, it held perfectly. It bowed a bit, but there wasn't even a hint of cracking so I'd say it passed.
When I was done carving the posts, I cut the ends flush and sanded them slightly beveled.
Step 4: Drilling the Sockets and Joining the Sections
I first started by drilling the socket in the cherry handle piece using a 3/4" spade bit to a depth of 1". You can do this before you cut it out, as I did, or you can wait till it's shaped. I found it easier to stabilize it in the clamp pre-shaping as I was drilling by hand rather than using the drill press.
In the topmost section of handle, I drilled a 5/8" hole, in its base to a depth of 1", ensuring it was centered properly. Don't worry if you're a MM or two off as we will be correcting imperfections later. It can be a bit tricky to set a rod of this length in the drill press, so freehanding it may be necessary. Fortunately, my drill comes equipped with two bubble levels on it, so it was a matter of setting the rod perfectly level in the vise, then keeping an eye on the levels to ensure I wasn't drilling off course.
For the middle section, I drilled its base using a 1/2" forstner bit to a depth of 1", again ensuring my hole was well centered.
**Note** There is a trick to drilling straight holes through long pieces of wood. It relies on knowing how thick your drill is and dividing that by two to find the center of your bit. You then lay your rod horizontally on a surface set at this height, then clamp a 'guide' board along the side to mark the width of your drill. Then, as you freehand drill through, this should keep your bit from wandering in odd angles. Very useful if you're drilling things like flutes etc.
Finally, You'll want to glue your sections together (excluding the handle) using a strong wood glue or epoxy. When you push your pieces together, roll it on a flat surface to ensure all the sections line up perfectly and that there is no wobble. You can clamp it down to a table, using a straight edge down its length to ensure nothing shifts out of position.
Step 5: Shaping the Handle
Marking the position of the socket, I created my handle based on it. The total height is 1.75" tall with a total length of 5". The horn on the front extends 1.75", and rises above the handle .75".
First I roughed out the shape using my scroll saw, then used my bench sander to refine the edges. Continuing to work this way I kept refining the shape until I had a roughed out version of the handle, testing it regularly on the shaft of the cane for angle and comfort. It's important to pay attention to symmetry as you shape your handle.
Finally, when the handle was roughed out, to its approximate final shape, I glued it onto the cane shaft and let it set.
Step 6: Finalizing the Shape and Sanding
I used the dremel with the sanding drum to sculpt the final shape, making note to test the comfort and feel regularly. I shaped down the socket so that it fit flush with the shaft of the cane, however you can leave it square if you prefer a more distinct separation between the handle and shaft.
Finally, when I was satisfied with the final shape of the handle, It was time to sand. Let me tell you, sanding maple is like trying to carve the statue of David with a spoon...a dull one at that. Maple is a very unforgiving wood as its virtue when it comes to strength is a burden when you're trying to work with it, which is likely why many craftsmen avoid using it in their work. I highly recommend using a mechanical sander, if you have one, or if you don't prepare to use a lot of elbow grease. The cherry handle was quite a bit easier.
Step 7: Staining and Protecting
The stain I used was a Varathane Red Cabernet which I applied in two coats, wiped off, with a 30 minute set time in between. I really wanted to see that nice wood grain so wiping it was the obvious choice. Since the maple and cherry are two different wood types, the cherry ended up, somewhat, darker, which for me turned out to be a fantastic outcome.
To protect the cane, I opted for an old trick I used when creating knife handles. Instead of using a paint on sealant, I used a 5 minute epoxy resin. The trick is to use the heat from your hands to smooth the resin over the piece, then allowing the ridges from your finger prints to be smoothed out by gravity. Allow it to cure for a minimum of 4 hours, then sand lightly with 400 grit, wet paper and repeat the process. The sanding will remove any bumps that may have been left behind and the second coat will revive the gloss shine from sanding, while offering an extra layer of protection.
It's important to work quickly when using epoxy resin as, even though it sets in 5 minutes, it'll start getting tacky in 3 and begin to clump if you keep working with it. I recommend, for your first coat, doing it in thin sections then using the second coat to blend them all together. That should leave a nice, smooth, crystal finish.
**Note** Getting the epoxy off your hands isn't difficult and doesn't require any toxic thinners. Just use pure dish soap, without water, and use a pad to lightly scrub the majority of the glue. When you rinse your hands, the glue should all be gone. Just be certain you don't put water on it first, or it'll actually make the process harder. Don't ask me why as I really don't know.
Step 8: Finished
That's it. Your cane is complete. There are a lot of different ways you can dress it up, such as using brass accents, or leather grips, or you can keep it simple and elegant. It's your choice.
As usual, I hope you enjoyed the instructable, and thanks for following.