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Old 03-28-2010, 04:46 PM
Colin-Partridge's Avatar
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Default Preparing a stick for carving

As most of you know I carve a pile of sticks over the year usually in the winter. I get numerous emails asking me questions on carving sticks. So I thought that I would do a thread on stick carving. Firstly collecting sticks can be as enjoyable as carving them. I just love to go for a walk in the woods and look for sticks. Not is it exciting when you find one but the whole woods experience is a very stress relieving thing anyway. Once you have returned home with your sticks you must then strip the bark from the stick. I find that the best way to do this is to use a linoleum or carpet knife, you know the one with the hook blade. (I have included a picture at the bottom of this thread) Firstly let the blade do the peeling, dont force it, hold it on about a 20 degree angle and slowly peel off the out layer of bark. If it is a fresh sapling it should come off really easy. Now you will notice another layer between the bark and the sap wood (Usually the white wood is the sap wood) This looks like skin and is called the cambium layer. To take this off turn your curved knife over, holding it on about a 45 degree angle run it up and down the stick to remove this layer. The back of the blade is flat and will act like a scraper. Dont worry about the spots where branches have grown out or inperfections in the stick, you can go back when you have it stripped and clean these up in seconds. Now leave the stick to partially dry before carving. Before doing so though dip each end of the stick in varathane or spar varnish. This will seal both ends and prevent the stick from checking. I always dip the stick twice this gives it a nice seal on both ends. I usually dont wait until the stick is completly dry before I carve it in fact some times I carve it right away. Once I have the carving pretty well done I then leave the stick to dry. Once it is dry only take a few days normally I then take about 100 grit sandpaper and go over the entire stick. I then finish the carving part usually the detail. Now when I am convinced the stick is completly dry I then cut off both the ends I coated in the spar varnish. The stick is then ready for you to do what ever you want to do for finishing it. Some people like shoe polish some like varnish some like to paint them. I do it all but usually I like to leave the stick natural. I almost forgot dont forget to seal the stick before applying the final finish. As far as finishing I like to use 00 or 000 steel wool gives it a really nice finish.
Well hope this has helped if you have any questions or better still idea's you can share with the members here it is all well appreciated.
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Old 03-29-2010, 06:00 PM
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Default Re: Preparing a stick for carving

Tony, if you dig up dogwood and sassafras it will often have a primary root that will make a great natural handle. Both varieties have a shallow root structure and no taproot. Even if the shaft is not usable the roots might give you a handle for a mfuture stick. Sassafras roots have been used for tea for many generations.

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Old 03-29-2010, 09:17 PM
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Default Re: Preparing a stick for carving

Thanks Colin! That's not quite the way I do it but it's nice to have another perspective on the process. I also agree that collecting them is just as much fun as the carving them!

Same with Yellow (Tulip) Poplar Marvin! It usually grows out of the ground with a natural angled stump that if you dig out around you'll end up with a nice handle. Occasionally you'll find one that's grown off the side of an embankment which has a natural hook in it.
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Old 05-03-2010, 06:04 PM
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Default Re: Preparing a stick for carving

Sassafras root is used to flavor sodas too. Hence, "Root beer".
I use the same method you described and it works great for me. It's partially because once I find a great stick I can't wait to have at it!
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