How to Care for Your Wooden Walking Stick
Wednesday, 15 November 2017 | Olivia
Walking sticks are beautiful pieces of natural craftsmanship, carved by hand and made from trees that have taken decades to grow. Whether yours is a collectors' item or a mobility aid, it deserves to be kept in the best condition. The care of your walking stick also gives you an opportunity for personalisation, to make it truly unique to you.
This guide is a compilation of tips from industry experts, and lovers of natural artistry. If you are considering the construction of your own walking stick one day, following these maintenance tips is a good way to start learning. Working with natural materials requires real care and attention.
What Wood is My Stick Made From?
The details of caring for your walking stick will depend on what type of wood it is made from. For instance, unvarnished woods like ash should not be polished, whereas polish might be beneficial for hazel and blackthorn.
How Do I Clean My Walking Stick?
When rambling, mud and dirt can adhere to your stick. Over time this will damage the varnish, bore its way into the wood and tear at the grain fibres. A quick rub-down with a damp cloth will do the trick, ideally with a lint-free, non-abrasive cloth.
Is It Important to Keep My Stick Dry?
Wood is porous and is liable to expand as it gets wet and contract as it dries, reducing the wood's overall tensile strength. Crook handle sticks will spring open if they are left in damp conditions, and any varnish is likely to flake.
Although rain and wetness will not harm your stick in the short term, it is important to dry your stick. Again it is advisable to use a lint free non-abrasive cloth to avoid scratches.
Where Should I Store My Stick?
Many people store their sticks in places where they might incur damage. Damp can cause damage, but so can direct heat or sunlight. Drastic temperature changes can lead to cracks or general instability within the structure of the wooden stick.
Some places you should avoid storing your stick are as follows:
Can I Polish My Stick?
If your stick is varnished, for instance hazel or blackthorn sticks, then a light polish with good wood furniture polish can be beneficial. A little beeswax, if used sparingly, can give a nice shine to the wood.
Another alternative is shoe polish, although remember it doesn't take a lot to get the job done. If your stick has a light varnish finish, a neutral-coloured shoe polish can keep it looking its best. For darker wooden sticks, a similar colour of dark shoe polish will work a treat.
Bare in mind that unvarnished sticks, for instance ash, should not be polished. They should instead just be wiped down with a damp cloth if they become dirty.
How Do I Deal with Nicks and Scratches?
As you build up a healthy number of excursions with your stick, regular wear and tear may result in a few nicks and scratches along the way. Try to pay attention to any loose pieces of wood that develop, as it's better to remove these bits than let them get any worse. Alternatively, you can try to glue these bits back on, as a little shoe polish over the injured area can leave it looking good as new.
What Can I Do to Protect My Walking Stick from More Serious Damage?
One of the most common ways in which people damage their walking sticks is by dropping or losing them. The easiest way to combat this is to use either a wrist loop or a tabletop holder to ensure that your cane won't clatter to the ground, causing potential injury. These are also handy tools to prevent the loss of your walking stick.
How Can Ferrules Help Maintain My Walking Stick?
Ferrules are crucial to protect the bottom of your stick, which makes it especially important for wooden sticks that are prone to splitting or impact damage. If your ferrule starts to wear down, replace it immediately, as it is perhaps the most important tool you can have in your arsenal to care for your stick. They need to be replaced more or less frequently depending on wear, like horseshoes on a horse.
A type D ferrule, like this Black Walking Stick Rubber Ferrule, is suitable for very heavy duty usage. If you find that your ferrule wears down on one side more than the other you might try a Type J ferrule, for instance the Bendy Bottom Flexible Rubber Walking Stick Ferrule. The flexible neck ensures full contact with the ground on each step, ensuring it doesn't wear down unevenly.
Can I Stain My Walking Stick Myself?
Staining your walking stick is a tremendously skilled job and different woods will react in different ways to the stain. Only very knowledgeable craftsmen should attempt this.
Do I Have to Maintain My Walking Stick?
Walking sticks will still look fantastic even left untreated, thanks to their original quality and workmanship. Yet treating your own stick will add a touch of something special, and help to make it truly yours.