Friday, February 24, 2012

Painted Walking Stick

I suppose "Painted" isn't really a correct description - I was thinking of what to call this, and somehow "painted turtles" came to mind - they aren't really painted, are they? So Painted Walking Stick it is.

This Stick was made for a friend who has been very kind to me. I used to do woodwork like this long ago and this is the first real physical piece of work I have done in quite some time. My friend loves to walk in the woods & we have walked together, selecting walking sticks for our journey. She confessed to me that she has a love of proper walking sticks so I have made her one as a gift.

Selecting such a stick is a difficult process. I like to work with weathered and fallen wood which shows the beautiful traces of life & time - barkworm tracks, frost cracking, grain weathering, watermarks, etc. The problem with this is that I will begin working on a piece only to discover some deep flaw - like core rot, deep worm action or fungal stress - that makes the wood unpractical or too fragile to use. Many pieces are tested in the woods for hardiness and brought home only to discover they are unfit for working.

Another consideration in the case of a walking-stick or staff is that the wood must balance so that the stick or staff may be carried horizontally while walking without dragging or dipping. Some pieces have dense knots at places that throw the balance off and are discarded. This particular walking-stick was one of a batch of 9 that I retrieved from the woods (on my next trip, I will return all the unused pieces).

I begin by stripping any leftover bark that has survived the weathering process, then sanding with various grades of paper to bring out the grain and hidden marks; the stories of the wood. I like to use Winsor & Newton drawing inks for their transparency & jewel-like properties; they do not cover or clog the natural markings & grain in the wood. I stain and sand, stain and sand, blending colors with both wet-sanding & hand-rubbing in light washes to bring out & emphasize the markings. In some cases I will add small carvings; runes, symbols, lettering or whatever; for this particular stick (and person) I decided on using only the markings already in the wood. When the coloring is done, I finish with either a matte or glossy urethane sealant to protect the paint & wood from moisture & dirt. This particular stick has a matte finish.

There are three large frost/weathering cracks in this piece of ash which are very beautiful and do not affect the integrity or weight-bearing properties of the stick. I've been fooling with inlaying them with all kinds of wires, metals & so on but have decided the cracks are better as they are - mysterious passages into the interior of the wood - so I have only stained them. I did like the copper bindings on the exterior so I decided to go with them; they add a little class & flash to the stick and make the subtleties of the colors more apparent.

I fooled with adding all sorts of tops to this stick (wood & metal finials, inlaid metalwork, wrapped leather) but did not like any of them; some of them impressed on the hand and wouldn't be comfortable for actual walking-use (this stick is made to be used) so I have settled for finely sanding & rounding the top for smoothness. There's also some interesting core marks to look at.

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I'm very happy with the way this walking-stick turned out, especially in that it is my first such piece in a long time. I hope my friend will be as pleased with it as I am.

You can see larger pictures/closeups of this piece in this Flickr set.

With ink-stained fingers
I trace the paths that Life wrote
through this old gnarled wood

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Anonymous said...

They look wonderful! You are so talented - in all world <3

Is it possible to carve a score in the stick for each Meeroo struck down?

sororNishi said...


Anonymous said...

They're lovely!

P.S. anonymous Leanna is anonymous 8-)

Miso Susanowa said...

@Mera - perhaps if I did a rabbit-stick model (I suppose that would be a "meeroo-stick" then)

Emma Geraln said...

Cool! :)

Scottius said...

Just wonderful miso! Thanks for sharing with us!