Design & Use
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Artisans prides ourselves in providing detailed educational material on all our products and services. One of the driving forces behind creating our spin-off websites is to expand our footprint to the search engines drawing in more traffic from those seeking knowledge. This section will soon feature an extensive illustrated and photographic documentary on walking sticks, canes, and staffs. We'll cover design features and terminology, as well as the proper use of these unique and useful creations.
Master Craftsmen Stanley D. Saperstein has been a whittler since his days as a farm boy in Hudson, NY. His fascination with hiking sticks, walking sticks, and canes has thrived for almost a generation; his understanding of these tools stems from not only his upstate exploration, but his historic research into the lives of revolutionary and civil war era soldiers, trades, farms, and life.
There are three basic concepts to explain: Walking sticks, Hiking Staffs, and Canes. A can is most easily discerned as a short length, from the floor to the web of your thumb when your arm is held strait out and level with the ground. A cane can be strait, or feature a “T” handle to increase the gripping surface and support. For our purposes wood is the primary material. Modern medical renditions extend into extruded aluminum, expanded multi-prong footprints and other enhancements when employed in serious medical situations.
Walking sticks and hiking staffs are designed for more active use. The main difference between a walking tick and a hiking staff is size and balance. There is also a difference in historic definition of walking sticks of the 18th and 19th century and today.
A walking stick of the 18th and 19th century was really a straight cane between 31 and 38 inches, used for dress purposes and protection. It was not a device to assist in walking. Handled walking sticks were referred to as cans, as they are today. They could be used for dress or to support a person as well as assist in walking.
A walking stick used by today's avid walkers use a walking stick between 40 and 48 inches, depending on one's size. A hiking staff of yesteryear and today is the same. They are always 60 inches or larger depending on a person's size and are used to assist in walking.
Hiking staffs, or staves, as they were called, were used ever since man stood up right. All people in mountainous areas carried five-foot staves to assist themselves going up and down hills. In Europe, the famous Alpine staff is the favorite. It is an oak staff with a ball on the top and a steel spike at the bottom; the ball balances the staff.
In the US, the Appalachian hill staff is popular among the hikers of the Appalachian Trail. This five to seven foot staff originated in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountain area of the Appalachians. They were either carved branches or sometimes made from milled lumber. The head of the staff most often was a carved head, ball-in-cage designs and animals were also popular, and there were two to four carved balls below the head to creature a sure grip when traversing down hills.
The extra length of a trail staff allows the hiker to reach out ahead of them, planting the staff like an extra long third foot. When you step off a rock outcropping longer than an average step, the staff increases balance to create a staff downward step. Most hiking injuries occur while going down hill; a good staff with the skill to implement it properly can drastically reduce the risk of falling.
Walking sticks and staffs make nice gifts and are coveted by walking and hiking aficionados of today. They can be made from any straight-grained wood such as fir or spruce to cherry, walnut, oak, ash or even exotic materials. Heads can be carved directly into a shaft, or a mounted feature carved separately from matching or contrasting material.
This website features photographs of dozens of sticks, staffs, and canes offering ideas for your personalized version. Stanley is always open to new challenges, and has recently created likenesses of Colonel Rebel, Gerry Garcia, famous ground hook Pasatoney Phil, animal likenesses, so many we've lost track.