The Thirty Stages of Production of a Beech Wood Derby Walking Cane

Yes you’d better believe it, there are about thirty different stages in the production of a traditional Derby handled walking stick. You know the expression “you make it look so easy” well its the same with walking sticks. They look so simple and everyday but many ours of skilled work go into making them.

Sticks can be made from all sorts of materials these days; carbon fibre, aluminium, resin and acrylic but the wooden ones are still the prefered option. Wooden walking sticks improve with age, like people do (customers are always telling us this over the phone).

Below is a detailed description from one of our suppliers on how they make their beech wood walking cane.

The 30 stages of production:

First a tree is coppiced (stage 1). Sawn timber for beech Derbys is supplied by European beech trees of approximately 150 years of age. The felled tree (2) has to be transported to the roadside and then on to a speciality sawmill (3, 4), where it is planked (5), steamed for 10 to 15 days (6) and kiln dried (7). Beech wood has short fibres, which are not elastic once the wood is dried. Steaming improves the usefulness of the wood, changes its colour and makes it stronger, softer and easier to work on machines.

Having been transported to the factory (8), the craftsmen cut the wood into small pieces to make walking stick handles and into square batons to make shafts (9). The batons are machined into tapered shafts (10), and re-straightened if necessary (11). They are then sanded two to three times (12). The handle size blocks are planed (13) to bring them to the correct size for the handle being made, and then cut into approximate shapes using a band saw (14). They are put through a milling machine (15) to cut out the handle shape and are then hand sanded (16) before a hole is drilled in the handle (17) so that it can later be fitted to the shaft.

The top end of the shaft is machined so that it will fit into the handle (18). Strong glue is applied (19) and the handle is compressed onto the shaft (20). The join between shaft and handle is then polished until it is smooth (21).

The blank stick may then have a decoration such as a spiral carving applied (22). Carving the spiral itself involves six processes: three carvings of the inter-related spirals and then three polishings of the carved areas. The spiral is then scorched by hand (23); an extremely skilled job that required many years of practice and a very steady hand.
The stick is then taken to the varnishing room, where three coats of varnish are applied: the filler coat, to smooth out any imperfections, which takes 3 hours to dry (24), the second coat (25) and the top coat (26). The top coats will take one to two nights to dry, depending on the weather, especially temperature and humidity levels.

The stick is then cut to the appropriate length (27), and the end is machined (28) ready to receive the metal or rubber ferrule (29). It is stamped with the company logo (30), packed and despatched.

The finished stick, perhaps deceptively simple, has passed through many pairs of hands during its production. That it can retail for under £30 means an exceptionally high quality accessory is available for a surprisingly small amount of money.