Prototype Walking Stick


We have planned our annual family reunion [aka get away] for this year to be Rumbling Bald at Lake Lure.  From what I understand this is where parts of the original Dirty Dancing movie were shot. Anyway since there are several hiking trails and lots of scenic spots to walk, I thought it would be a good project to make everyone a walking or hiking stick.  This meant mass producing 38 walking sticks!!  These would break down into two sections and fit into a carry bag which my wife would sew together from canvas.  Well the reunion is fast approaching and I just finished the prototype.  So maybe next year!! They might still work if we have a beach get away!

After some investigation, I found that the ideal length of a stick suitable for hiking and walking should be a length determined by holding your arm at your side at a right angle and measure the distance from your out-stretched hand to the floor. I made a cartoon illustrating this measurement and sent it out to all the families. Fortunately for this year, very few people responded.  I picked one of the kids that did respond who also loves hiking and camping, and used his measurement for the prototype…. 41 inches.

The design was comprised of a decorative topper with a lanyard and compass, a wood upper section 1 1/8 inches in diameter with a standardized length of 24 inches, a wood bottom section with a length customized to the user, a brass coupling to connect and unconnect the two sections, and a brass fitting on the bottom section to accommodate an interchangeable tip, a stainless steel point and a rubber point.

hiking stick jenny skip
Finished hiking stick

The topper was padauk cut to a 6 inch length, a hole drilled for the lanyard and then turned on the lathe to a pleasing shape.  This topper tapered down to 1 1/8 inch diameter to mate with the upper section of the walking stick.  The topper was sanded up to 320grit and then friction polish applied. For a finishing touch, I laser engraved the user’s name on the topper.

cane topper jenny skip
laser engraved topper with leather lanyard

A 2 foot length of 6/4 mahogany was ripped to a square cross section and then turned on the lathe to 1 1/8 inch diameter using a spindle roughing gouge.  The spindle was then off set from center slightly and grooves cut at the upper end to enhance the grip on the stick.  The spindle was sanded up to 320 grit, given two coats of dark walnut stain followed up by friction polish. This resulted in a beautiful finish. However for a walking stick with a lot of outdoor use, maybe a wiping polyurethane finish may have been better.  We will see as my son is going to give this prototype a good working out as a test.

hand grooves jenny skip
Grooves cut into the walking stick where the hand grips it

The topper was attached to the upper section of the walking stick with a dowel. The bottom of the stick was drilled with a 3/8-inch bit to a depth of 1 inch so that one end of the brass coupling could be inserted with epoxy.

The bottom section of the walking stick was produced much like the top section, only cut to length to provide the overall 41 inch length.  Two distinct differences, however, in its construction. On one end of the spindle a 1 inch long 12.8 degree taper was turned using a bedan.  The other end of the spindle was countersunk with a 7/8 inch Forstner bit and then a 3/8 inch hole drilled in the center. This allowed me to insert the other part of the brass coupling in the recess so when the two parts were screwed together, you would not see the brass coupling and the joint would be difficult to discern.  I could have done this drilling on the lathe but the bottom section of the walking stick was too long for me to mount a drill chuck on the lathe with a bit with the lathe bed I was using.

Here’s the You tube video that shows some of the process details.

I installed the coupling, the brass fitting for the walking stick tip, the leather lanyard with a nice silver bead on the end [compliments of my wife’s bead stash] and glued a small compass on the top of the topper.  DONE!!  And maybe done for a year.  It will be mailed off to one of my sons for testing.  I am also concerned that the coupling between the two sections of the walking stick may be a weak link. We’ll see if it holds up or if my son ends up careening down an abyss later this summer.

compass on top jenny skip
compass on top

One thought on “Prototype Walking Stick”

  1. No careening down abyssi please. Feeling a little bit jealous but I will have to get one of those metal constructions made for folk with wonky arthritic hands. Such dedication you have.

Please comment, if you feel so inclined!