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Making Paul’s walking cane with a twist

The handle is shaped – now for the shaft

DSC_0061The significance of making this walking cane may not be obvious but it’s the diversion we take into the beginning shaping phase we started a few weeks ago with spoon making; a phase I think is critically important for all woodworkers to develop their skills in. It’s very different than the keyboard and flat screen world that’s now so dominating, which also has its place but not in the creative spheres of hand shaping wood. This woodworking shaves and files the wood to shape with chisels, planes, spokeshaves and rasps to remove the excess material. More than that though, the processes surrounding carving begins shaping your mind as soon as you cut the first surface fibres with a chisel and spokeshave. It’s very different than routing with a hand held power machine because of course you energise your tools and impact the wood with your own physical power and direction. The risks are different and your senses engage differently with higher levels of engagement and less government by the limit of the machine’s rotary cut. Depth and direction are governed by you, your sensitivity, your developing skill levels and much more.
Now we begin this passage into shaping and into the internal fibres of the wood itself. Curves transform the square and blocky handle from clunky to classic shapes gracefully developed to fit comfortably inside the hand. Each stroke becomes measured, knowing that two or three careless strokes too many can indeed ruin the intended shape. Transferring from square and angular joints into shape involves transitioning mentally into realms preludial to a new realm of woodworking that conditions the way we think about and work wood. The difference for woodworkers is a remarkable step from squared edges along straight faces and corners to shaped forms that have all straightness transformed into rounds, hollows, points and twists.
The handle has had its basic outline and form shaped to the joint surrounding the connection and now we must begin rounding and shaping the corners down from the now mitred internal corner to along the length of the stem. Most of this work is best done with the flat rasp, the plane or the spokeshave.
Forming the twist
DSC_003523: You can use a guide such as a protractor to guide the angle of the raps hat creates the cove in the twist or you use a piece of string as is shown in the video (starts tomorrow – three part series).
DSC_003924: Working uniformly from the top of the stem, place the rasp at an angle across the stem and with forward movements press the rasp into the wood. Take controlled and measured strokes until you feel you are confident of the depth of the hollow you are creating. I find it best to take the whole twist down to the bottom – about 6-9″ from the end of the cane. Using the rasp with fine, light strokes will take out any hard, angular corners and make it easier for the scraper to follow.
DSC_006525: Use a thin scraper, one that readily bends on application. Flex, bend and pull the scraper along the length of the shaft of the stem working around the stem to take out any and all scratch marks left from the rasp work.
26: Sandpaper, starting with 180-grit, will even out the surface. Work the handle and the stem together. Follow with 250-grit until smooth.
DSC_009627: If you want to colour the wood then use the stain of your choice.
28: Apply three coats of a proprietary water-based finish or varnish.


  1. Caleb Pendleton on 30 October 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Looks like fun. Going to try my hand at making this one. I have some spare 1 1/2″x 3′ oak.

  2. jmpurser on 31 October 2013 at 2:40 pm

    As a staff user in every day life I find that staff with the handle to be rather intriguing. It looks odd but I can see several advantages right away.

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