Published by Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd, East Sussex UK
As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 83
Often it is the simple objects made from wood which we admire, because the care and skill that has gone into making them is so much more striking in contrast. And what could be more basic and practical than a walking stick?
Stick Making, a book by Andrew Jones and Clive George, demonstrates how this utilitarian object can become a delightful work of art in the hands of a patient person. There is little need for anything more than secateurs and a knife to make quite a few of the projects in this book, and yet the end results will be useful and even cherished. While the timbers described in the text are not readily available here, alternatives with suitable appearance and form can be selected from timbers found in the bush. Fallen branches, already dry and conditioned, may prove a suitable starting point.
It should be made clear that this Welshman takes his stickmaking quite seriously. Co-author Andrew Jones - who has won the Champion Stickmakers' Shield at the Welsh Game and Country Pursuits Fair is following in the footsteps of his uncle Jim Jones, who won the first shield when it was awarded in 1989.
The practical requirements for a stick are wide ranging and different designs have evolved to suit. Today, most of us would only use a stick for walking, as opposed to some of the utilitarian purposes that the Welsh shepherd had for them. The designs in the book cover a range of traditional purposes and can still be clearly distinguished in their design as 'everyday' sticks or 'show' sticks (even the shepherd had occasion to look 'swish').
The authors' selection of projects is designed to guide the reader from simple to more advanced designs, so that the skills required for the most complex have been accumulated from previous exercises.
With a natural crook at the end to support the thumb, the first design is naturally a Thumbstick. The instructions tell how to remove the bark, alter the vee, straighten the stick, fit a ferrule to the end and apply a finish. The operations are simple and straight forward, and are intended to encourage the reader to carry on.
The next stick is a natural one-piece walking stick with a handle. There are several varieties, such as the Cross-head Stick, which makes use of a shank growing from the root or branch of a tree. Included in this genre are the Knob Stick and the Round-handled Stick, where the end of the stick is bent to form a curled handle. This introductory section ends with a carved stick, one with a duck's head. The authors provide a well selected arrangement of photos and drawings to display the progress of the carved portion.
The Cardigan Stick follows, and is by all evidence one of the more admired forms of the stick. The author goes into detail on selecting suitable stock, which provides great insight into the physical qualities of wood and suitable parts of a tree, from the unique perspective of a stickmaker.
The single piece Crook and Market Sticks are followed by the Market Stick, which takes the reader into the next progression in stickmaking, that of the two-piece stick. From here on, the methods for attaching handles to sticks and reinforcing them are explored.
Once the handle becomes a separate element from the original stick, a wide variety of creative expression and refinement becomes evident. Handles are often made from horn - ram's horn, buffalo or even deer antler, to name a few. The methods for cutting this material to size, shaping and fixing to the shank before finishing, are provided in detail. The author makes use of special jigs to shape the horn, and these are illustrated so that readers can prepare their own.
The book closes with a description of three popular carved heads for handles - a dog, leaping trout and a pheasant - followed by a great gallery of different stick designs from master stickmakers. Certain distinct embellishments are described in this section, including fabricating a whistle directly into a wooden handle, and a technique for making a barley twist stick. This book will convince the reader that nothing could be better than allowing one's imagination to influence the practical pursuit of making a walking stick.
Units of Measurement: Imperial & Metric
Finding, Cutting and Seasoning Sticks
One-piece Walking Sticks
Crooks and Market Sticks
Horn and Antler Walking Sticks
Stick and Crook in Buffalo Horn
Sticks in Wood and Horn