Distinctive Walking Staffs
Years ago, while helping my sons with a Cub Scout project, I discovered a new calling: that of crafting decorative walking staffs. Since then I have made quite a number of staffs from many of the tree species native to northern Vermont. Each staff is individually numbered, attesting to its distinctiveness. My aim is to enhance the natural features of the tree – the twists and turns of the shaft, the bark, the grain, and the knots. After the saplings are cut, they are “de-barked”, (often leaving on bark “collars”), and then strapped to steel rods allowing the wood to dry without warping. The annular grooves on many of the staffs define the grip area, and provide comfortable resting points for the hiker’s hand as it moves up and down the grip. (I have found that grasping the staff in the lower area of the grip is helpful when hiking up hill, while moving the hand to the upper area of the grip eases steep descents). Simple, decorative embellishments are then made, each staff carefully sanded, and finally a preservative coat of varnish is applied.