Bob and I were fortunate to have met a very nice guy by the name of Paul at the UPS store one day. Come to find out he makes the perfect walking sticks for veterans, family and friends and actually gave one to Bob and I. Below is Paul's story behind his perfect walking sticks in our great outdoors! A walking stick would make the "perfect" Christmas present!
Diamond Willow - Pure "ART" from Mother Nature
The sticks are made out of diamond willow and is found in Manitoba, Ontario, and Minnesota. The diamond willow is also found all along the Hudson Bay and Missouri/Mississippi watersheds. There is supposed to be diamond willow in Alaska and Northern Canada, but not evidence of diamond willow in the Fraser River watershed, or across the continental divide in the USA has been found.
The diamond willow is actually a member of the "Alder" family of trees and bush. It grows along rivers and in bogs that hold moisture year round.
The diamond part of willow is not caused by weather or freezing. It is caused by a fungus. The fungus follows the rivers in these regions of North America. This fungus attacks the crotch of the branch, and causes the enlarging and color change of the branch. This fungus eventually kills the branch it is on, but does not kill the roots. This is why there are always new shoots coming out from the base of the plant. Eventually the entire bush will die, but if the willow is harvested, this keeps the roots healthy, and allows shoots to come out again. This fungus attacks a number of different willows. It has been researched there are about 75 species of willows in the North American continent. Of these, about 4 are considered the best "Diamond" willows.
The interior of the Diamond Willow stick is normally reddish. The red color in the diamonds is due to the bark. If too much of the bark or red from the diamond is removed, all the darker red (actually *brown*) is gone and the stick is left with only the red from the interior of the stick. This means I do not carve down too deep into the diamond, only to sand it smooth and then stop. When the stick dies, the white wood gradually turns brown. In some sticks the red interior is grown over, leaving a think white outer layer. In other sticks the red interior has a very small diameter compared with the diameter of the stick.
I complete all of my diamond willow work by hand. One stick usually takes about a week. Each is hand carved, sanded by 3 grits (60, 220, 600) and has 6 coats of Tung Oil applied by hand. Each stick is allowing to air dry. Between the 3rd and 4th coats I lightly sand each again lightly with 600 grit sandpaper. Then I apply the last 3 coats of oil.
Depending on the person, I may finish the stick with a leather lace hand grip just below a wrist loop at the top of the stick. I personalize each stick by burning the name of the stick's owner into the side of the stick by hand. At the base of each stick are my initials and the stick's number in order of completion.
Here are four sticks in various states of completion:
a) as found in the bush
b) barked cleaned off and out of diamond
d) finished with Tung Oil
Bark hides various sins but can hide excellent diamonds too. So can that lichen. Sometimes I leave just enough Lichen in the diamond to give recognition that these sticks are found in areas of the North American continent.
My "Perfect" walking sticks are usually between 4 and 5 feet in length.
I have done some 6-6.5 feet long. These generally are more costly due to shipping lengths above 6 feet by UPS. These I refer to as "Staffs". Most are used by Boy Scouts and taller hikers that need a little extra length.
The sticks beauty is not the only attribute. The sticks are very light yet dense enough to guarantee against being broken during normal use.
The shortest "Perfect" stick I carved was slightly less then 3 feet in length.
"Canes" are usually 4 feet in length or less, and have a handled grip also of diamond willow attached at 90 degrees to the end of the stick.
I have a fairly good inventory of finished "Perfect" walking sticks.
Paul Kuzinski CPE, CI, Six Sigma Master BB
4302 Camelot Drive
Vicksburg, MS 39180