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The History of Hand-Carved Walking Canes

3 min read
The History of Hand-Carved Walking Canes

The definition of a walking stick and or a cane is somewhat confusing. A distinction between sticks and canes hundreds of years ago was based on the materials used: sticks that were made of ivory, whale bone, ebony, and other valuable woods were called sticks. Canes were made out of malacca or rattan, bamboo and other reeds. The word cane replaced the word walking stick in the 16th century.

The use of walking sticks and canes may very well date back to centuries B.C. to the times when shepherds would tend their flocks. Historical records also indicate that the cane was tied to african rights of passage as a symbol of manhood for young boys.

As long as man has roamed the earth, sticks have been used for many purposes. We can only assume that sticks may have been personalized with carvings or symbols using sharp stones. This was probably the beginning of hand carved sticks.

We know that Egyptian rulers carried staffs varying from three to six feet tall with ornamental knobs shaped like a lotus (symbol of long life). In the middle ages, the rulers carried scepters in their right hand as a symbol of power. Church leaders such as the Bishop carried a hook staff which defined his role shaped as it was to draw in the flock to the church.

It was during the 16th century that hand carved canes became an accepted accessory of elegance and social prominence. In Europe, during the 18th and 19th centuries, the walking stick was a symbol of the aristocratic known as gentlemen. The cane was a fashion statement for the well dressed man. Canes defined status.

If you investigate the internet, there are many online stores that sell beautiful canes. The 21st century has shown a resurgence of the cane. We think of the cane as a staff to be used for medical purposes, but canes are regaining popularity. Canes can be inexpensive and very expensive depending on the wood and the extent of the carving on the staff or handle.

Stickmakers of walking canes are excellent craftsman. The craft is fascinating and it can become an excellent hobby or become a business for the woodcarver. The skills needed to hand carve sticks is not beyond the reach of anyone with some study. A good book to start with is called “Stickmaking: A Complete Course”, by Andrew Jones and Clive George. These craftsmen live in England.

To get you started, let’s carve a walking cane. I am suggesting that you start with a kit and an investment in a book of your choice. I mentioned the book of my choice, but I would suggest that you go to the library to find something to use for tips and directions. I can assist you with locating a kit or I can provide you with a kit. There are some excellent vendors that sell woodcarving tools, books, and just about everything that you need to start a very interesting hobby.

The Ode of a Walking Stick: Use me along the paths that you seek, and rely on my strength as you climb towards the peak. Have fun!

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