My Dad picked out a cherry branch from a pile made by a tree we had to cut down a few years ago and asked it to be made into a walking staff. I hadn't made one before but this felt like a sturdy enough branch so I took my knife and spokeshave to it to see what I could do. I also carved some Anglo Saxon Runes, also known as Elder Futhark, into the handle which spells his name; Denzil.
As always I have a video up on my YouTube channel documenting the build and more detailed instructions below.
I hope you enjoy it!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Pencil and Rule
- Carving knife
- Chisel and Mallet
- Tree branch at your desired length
- 120 and 240 grit sandpaper
- Leather cord/paracord/string
- Exterior wood varnish
Step 2: Scraping Off the Bark and Shaping the Branch
This step is fairly self explanatory but also one that will vary from person to person. I used a spokeshave to take off the bulk of the bark, it's perfect for long, sweeping strokes but not so good for the little nooks and crannies. A lot of people will want to keep a lot of the knots and bits of branch on to add features, I wanted the top of the branch to be quite smooth (as per Dad's instruction!). The main thing you have to make sure of is to take the bark off down to the wood and not leave on the cambium layer which is the kind of fuzzy part just below the bark.
I also made sure to get the branch as smooth as I could using a knife, spokeshave and chisel before moving on to sandpaper.
Step 3: Cutting to Length and Sanding
I clamped the staff into my vice at the angle I thought would be the best to cut the bottom at and then placed a piece of wood on my floor at the base of the staff. Then all I needed to do was hold a pencil to the piece of wood and draw a line all the way around the branch. I then cut that piece off and chamfered and smoothed the end with a chisel. After that I went over the whole branch with 120 grit sandpaper and then 240 grit sandpaper.
Step 4: Carving the Runes Into the Staff
Clamping the staff down can be a little awkward at first depending on how your particular branch curves. I wanted to make a kind of flat panel on the staff to carve the runes onto. The size of the flat piece is entirely up to you, mine was around 10cm. I had already figured out the runes for a pencil holder I made for my dad previously, you can translate English to Elder Futhark runes on the following site:
Now I think this site does a direct translation of the letters, whether that's how the name would have actually been represented in Anglo Saxon runes I do not know.
After I had made the flat piece I then just drew the runes on roughly in the centre with a pencil. I didn't need to carve in too deeply so a couple of strikes against the chisel for each line was fine. This style of rune is particularly easy to carve as it's all straight lines.
When I was finished with the carving I decided to angle the ends inwards with a chisel to give a smoother look, then I sanded over with 240 grit sandpaper.
Step 5: Varnishing the Staff and Winding the Grip
I used an outdoor wood varnish and applied three coats as stated on the tin, when it was dry I proceeded to wrap the handle. Taking some thin leather cord I started by wrapping it around itself as seen on the picture above. It was then a very long process of around an hour to get the desired length of the handle and not twist the line in the process. Its hard to explain the last step of securing the cord and impossible to take photos of as I was doing it as it was too fiddly. If you check out the process on my YouTube video you will have a better understanding of how I did it. When finished some people would add a bit of superglue and others even varnish over the cord, I left this as is just to test how long it would last on its own.
Step 6: Take It for a Walk!
I've seen people attach a piece of rubber or leather or some other kind of gripping material to the bottom of their staff. I didn't really have anything to add and also I'm curious as to how the wood will hold up. All in all I'm quite pleased with it and my Dad seems to like it. Its really a satisfying project because its very simple and yet you can still work hard and develop skills whilst trying to bring out the beauty of the wood. I enjoyed it very much and I would recommend it to anyone, particularly those new to woodworking who are looking for a project to get their woodworking passion flowing!
I hope you enjoyed checking out this Instructable, if you did then please feel free to give the Timber Anew Facebook Page a like, I post photos and videos and updates regularly on the projects I have going on. I also post regularly to my YouTube Channel, you can subscribe there to check out my past projects and my future projects.
Hope to catch you soon!