This year we went to a brilliant open day at one of our stick suppliers’ in the West Country. The open day was the perfect mix of company history, enlightening woodland tour, meeting everyone, beautiful food and drink and walking stick bargains, all set in beautiful countryside.
We learnt a great deal on the day about looking after customers, managing a company successfully as well as a woodland and of course selling!
If I’d had a couple more glasses of that delicious West Country Cider then my walking stick order would have been much larger! Instead, we got some interesting new sticks to fill in some gaps, like different colour flip sticks etc and we bought some nice one-off canes.
So a huge thank you to them! We had a lovely time and we learnt heaps!
It was interesting to find out about coppicing, drying, seasoning and straightening the wood in preparation for turning it into sticks. Likewise, how the different handle types are formed was also interesting. A knobstick is formed using the shoot and roots or by a ‘v’ cut down. One of the arms or shoots it cut down and shaped into the knob handle while the other is left long to form the shaft of the stick.
Once coppiced, the sticks are left to dry in a dry store for two to three years. Then they are steam-straightened. The process for this is putting the sticks into a long box
with a hole in the floor of it which allows the steam in. The sticks are then straightened while they are hot and pliable. This is also how the crook handles are bent around to shape. That is by steaming the stick first then, bending then over a jig while the wood is hot.
Lots of things can go wrong though. If the wood is not steamed for long enough then cracking or splitting can occur. If the wood is dried to quickly, i.e with artificial heat from a kiln or something, then again cracking and splitting can occur.
The finishing process was the part that I found most appealing. Varnishing or polishing with oil, painting and attaching the finishing touches like brass collars and steel ferrules. I took some nice photos which wasn’t difficult as the place was so beautiful and the day so lovely.