A Cane I Gave Away

Trying to evaluate the values in life is often tricky. In a Western culture where most things seem to be valued by its final cost, we seem to ever fall into the pit of evaluating worth by the cost of materials, the manufacturing costs, sales margins and then the ultimate value in the final sales. I have made thousands of canes, given many a dozen away, and enjoyed the reality that I designed canes and sticks that still sell throughout the USA by the hundreds of thousands every year. I passed that business along. I hated the thought of owning a mass-making business. 

A few years ago we made the video series on making a walking cane. In some ways that was one of my success stories. Designing a cane and making a living from selling them throughout the USA, to provide for my family. Yesterday any elderly man walking through the supermarket trying to locate his lost cane. I’ve known him as Doug for about two years, since I moved to Abingdon. I said I have just the thing, Doug, a cane! So today he came in and I sized the cane to his 6’2″ frame right there in the car park. He was thrilled and it was a double blessing for me seeing him walk away with the delight on his face. Being a craftsman, an artisan, is always about improvement. It;’s about improving life for others but then improving your own life by giving and selling what you make to enhance the life of another. This may be a boast, I’m not altogether sure, but I was delighted by the delight of another.


  1. Once again Paul you inspire people to go the extra mile. Having move to TX a few months ago, then hearing that you were down here for a number years kind of depressed me as I missed the chance to meet and maybe be able to take some of your classes. I am watching your video’s and reading you blogs posts. I admire your attitude towards life, keep is simple, yet never stop learning. Approaching my retirement age, or should I say approaching the next fork in the road in life. Always being handy with my hands, not sure if this gets passed down through from our past family members, but I have always been able to pick up a tool and with the help of book, video, or mentor work through the issue. So I am hoping now to be able to channel my resources to something that I have always loved and appreciated, woodworking. My goal is to sign up for your Master Classes and follow along. I have said it before and will say it again, thank you for all you do for the wood working community. My your Higher Power always smile on you, and guide you through the darkness into the light.

  2. The chip carving is so nice. It really adds a beautiful accent. I want to go back and look, but I remember watching at least some of the walking cane episodes you did in masterclasses, and what I remember was single tenon. How in the world do you manage those very small mortise holes on this cane? I’m afraid I would be grabbing for the brace and bit (sort of like the rocking chair back) and maybe that’s how it’s done. Would you care to share the secret?

  3. I can relate very well to this story Paul. Woodworking is my passion not a living. I do the odd commission but only at cost. I get double the pleasure / satisfaction from the pieces I make. One in the making of the project and the peace of mind and enjoyment of molding the wood. and the second when I see the smile and thank you in the family and friends who I give them to.

  4. Hi Mr. Sellers, I have been making rocking horses for about 30 years now. I carve the head and use bent lamination to make the rockers and also the legs/uprights. The seats are a saddle shape with contrasting wood. I have sold maybe a dozen or so and given the rest away.
    Yes it is the best feeling in the world, I really enjoy it!

  5. Giving something you’ve made yourself and which you put effort in to make it as good as you can, and then to see that that thing is genuinely appreciated by the receiver, is priceless.

    I recently made a brass branding iron for an elderly friend of my mother. He enjoys woodworking (lathework mostly) but his eyesight is progressively getting worse.

    When he visited my shed he saw my homemade branding iron (nothing fancy, just a bit of 20mm diameter round brass stock, ~20 mm long, with my initials in it, M8 threaded hole on the other end and the steel rod and handle of an old paintscraper to mount it on) and he was flabbergasted that I had made it with only handtools. It seemed impossible to him to make those small embossed letters with only a hacksaw, drill and a few files. And I was surprized by his surprize: to me it seemed like such a trivial thing to make. I had in fact cobbled mine together quickly without putting too much thought into it.

    As his birthday was due in a month I made up my mind to make him one. The carving of the three letters in the brass took no more than 2 hours. The wooden box to present it in, however, took over 10 hours to make…. (reminds me of my first job as a freshly-graduated economist: the most expensive item on the bill of materials of the incandescent bulbs we produced was the cardboard box it came in!)

    Last I heard of it he was as happy as a child with his new toy and showing it off to his fellow woodworking friends. He seemed to be touched as he heard from my mother it took me 12 hours to make and that someone cared enough to spend that much time and effort on making something for him.

    Nothing nicer than to see someone who is genuinely grateful and appreciates the craftsmanship and effort that went into making something.

    I’m sure the recipient of your cane is reminded of the care with which it was made every time he uses it.

  6. The other day I had a guy over to help me repair a wall where the plaster was coming away. We needed to sand behind a radiator so I popped out to the workshop and threw together a simple tool out of wood to do the job.
    He left me with one of his scrapers and I gave him the sanding tool ?

    The wall looks great and I was lovely working with him.

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