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Author Topic: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks  (Read 1957 times)

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Offline Downstream

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Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« on: December 31, 2022, 12:09:15 AM »
I am curious as to what would be considered good options for walking sticks if you wanted to strike a good balance between lighter weight, but still maintaining good strength.  I am interested in both domestic and import/exotic options.  natural grain or figure would also be a positive feature.  Does anyone know of a chart scale that would rate various domestic/import in the three categories I am targeting: weight/strength/grain?
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Offline beenthere

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2022, 01:11:41 AM »
Young hickory tree saplings about 3/4 to 1" diam. 
south central Wisconsin
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Offline Don P

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2022, 06:36:35 AM »
It would be an interesting wander through the first chapter of the Wood Handbook  :)
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Offline Downstream

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2022, 10:38:52 AM »
Excellent suggestion on the book.   Chapters 2 and 5 are exactly what I'm looking for.  This entire book will make a great read this weekend.  thanks again for pointing me in the right direction.
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Offline bluthum

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2023, 04:33:17 PM »
Generalized characteristic charts will only tell you part of the story. Every piece of wood has it's own strength to weight ratio governed by rate of growth, grain straightness and so on.

Ash can be nice, hickory a bit dense usually but my favorites have always been made of red oak. A lot of that reason is because out of cabinet scraps which I once had in abundance. you can select the ideal pieces.

My current personal favorite stick for many years now is red oak shaved to a taper with a power plane, fitted with a little turned hickory for the handle. Last year I added a steel tip from a large wood screw [#10] surrounded by a copper ferrule. The tip sticks out 3/4" and is the bomb for climbing or descending steep slopes. You cram it hard into the bank and push off hard. Also helpful on ice.

Back in the day I made some for sale out of hard maple but that was mostly because I had some curly stock culled out from fiddle head blank stock from a commercial fiddle manufacturer.  More hat than cattle though.

About any type wood is strong enough for a basic stick to keep you upright but if you need something for serious work it pays to be detail oriented. I became that way after breaking one over the head of a coyote my dog had just mauled but not finished off. Long story short it got my attention. 

I've also made a few laminated ones over the years, spruce laminated with ash or oak seemed to have great promise but might be overkill compared to a nice perfect piece of red oak. No doubt many other woods will work.

Offline Don P

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2023, 05:18:45 PM »
That laminating comment got Larry's Christmas ornaments rolling in my head  :).
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Offline Otis1

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2023, 08:16:19 PM »
I've always heard diamond willow is prized for walking sticks.  After a little googling it looks like the "diamond" is more of a wood characteristic sorta like bird's eye, caused by something else. Apparently several different willows can have the pattern.

Offline Gearbox

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2023, 09:03:05 PM »
We have Diamond Willow all over Northern MN I have made a few sticks . Most are light and strong as long as the diamonds dont go to deep . It peels easy in the spring . I just use a clear cote or oil them
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Offline wesdor

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2023, 08:34:16 AM »
Definitely not light weight, but my mother used an Osage branch from the time she was 80 until she died at 98. It was very strong

Offline Jeff

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2023, 08:46:42 AM »
Tag alder is what I use, but my tag alders are slowly disappearing. I've not found a good one for a cane in a couple years.
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Offline Texas Ranger

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2023, 09:17:00 AM »
My best is dogwood
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Offline jb616

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2023, 11:28:03 AM »
I have a couple made from a dead Saguaro cactus. There are rods internally about 1 inch diameter after the outside rots away. They are strong and light but not sure how they would carve if that is what you want to do. 

Online WV Sawmiller

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2023, 10:11:07 AM »
   Bamboo is going to be hard to beat. Be sure to dry it under shade so it does not crack. 
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Offline samandothers

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2023, 12:02:57 AM »
My best is dogwood

I made one from dogwood when backpacking.  It worked well to steady my walking and helped to carry water container hung off of it when we were camping away from water.  I was not a huge water container but served the purpose.  I have it to use in the future for walks, though my back packing days are in the past.

Offline JimStC

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2023, 11:51:58 AM »
I have two Irish Blackthorn walking sticks. Not very light but very durable

Offline maineshops

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2023, 08:34:26 AM »
My cane is made from a tree that a vine grows around to form a spiral pattern, does anyone know what creates that? I call him tonto my faithful companion. Dan
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Offline petefrom bearswamp

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2023, 09:23:50 AM »
Hop Hornbeam aka ironwood is good
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Offline csobel

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2023, 03:30:07 AM »
I used to do a lot of material property testing on soundboards and guitar backs and necks before my shop was flooded I collected close to 250 samples of various woods and used resonance testing to determine the speed of sound through the sample as well as stiffness and density.

In softwoods, so long as there is no grain runout or growth abnormalities, the density of the wood is fairly proportional to the stiffness of the wood, usually within 10-15%. Within species there can be a large range of stiffness even when factors like runout, grain orientation, and age are accounted for. Ive tested spruce that was as light as cedar and cedar that was as heavy as spruce, but generally the above rule held trueheavier softwood is stiffer softwood and lighter softwood is more flexible. This is not the case in hardwoods, which have more variance.

There are a few ways of quantifying strength in wood stiffness, which corresponds to the bending strength or Youngs modulus, is one measure but toughness (ability to be stressed to the limit many times, or not) is another important one which is relevant to a waking stick. Hickory may be fairy stiff but it also has incredible toughness, like you can keep hitting it again and again and it holds up well. I usually find that wood thats hard to split is also pretty tough I dont have a technical term for that property. Laminating woods will generally increase the toughness and split resistance but tends to have no effect on bending resistance or strength vs solid wood (factory made lams are an exception but Im talking about home made laminations with common glues).

I would look into a nice straight grained piece of Sitka spruce or fir youd be surprised at how strong they are so long as you dont go crazy reducing the diameter. Mahogany and Spanish cedar, related woods, are also very strong for their weight and theyre the preferred woods for guitar necks which see incredible stress over time. As a plus they are great to carve and smell good! Spanish cedar is generally a little lighter and weaker than genuine mahogany but they are very similar and intra species variance could render that general difference null. 

The other variable here is that since in a cylinder the strength of the stick is proportional to the cube of its thickness, a small difference in thickness could render any gains from even the stiffest wood null and void, and leaving the stick just a little thicker could compensate for any flexibility. This works to even out intra species variation but youll never get a stick made out of western red cedar to be as light and stiff as one made of Adirondack spruce because naturally cedar is half the stiffness of spruce but almost 75-80% its weight, the numbers just dont pan out. 

Just some food for thought it can be a deep rabbit hole chasing the ultimate s/w ratio in wood.

Some of the best though that I tested many samples of, from lightest to heaviest are 
European, Sitka and Adirondack spruce 
Mahogany 
Brazilian and Honduran rosewood
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Offline tmbrcruiser

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2023, 04:35:54 AM »
I met a fella that would dig devils cane it's light and seems strong. The root turns just below the surface and make a nice handle.
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Offline ID4ster

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Re: Lightweight but strong wood for walking sticks
« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2023, 05:33:28 PM »
Go to the hardware store and purchase a 5' push broom handle. You can find one with a wood bottom that you can taper to make it easier to stick in the ground or with a metal ferrule that would hold a strong metal screw that could be put in through the end. I've used them for years as a plot pole and when they break they're easy and cheap to replace. 
Bob Hassoldt
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Want to improve your woodlot the fastest way? Start thinning, believe me it needs it.


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