In this post I will demonstrate the tools and techniques I use to build a walking cane from Cedar using Walnut inlay and endcaps. I'll go through the steps from selecting the raw material to final finishing. There are different ways to make a cane. This is the method I generally use. Not saying it's the best and I'm always interested in feedback and constructive critism.
Last summer a friend gave me a large cedar log that was pulled from a logjam in the creek. It had been in this jam for a long time and all the pulpwood had been beaten off the outside leaving just the red cedar heartwood. I had the log sawn into boards and I'll be using one of these for the raw material. My dad gave me some old walnut that he had in his shop so I'll also use that for the trim work.
I start by selecting a piece that is approximately 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick with as few knots as I can find. Knots in cedar can significantly weaken the wood in that area. I'll cut a square blank on my table saw to make the shaft. I also will cut a block from the top of the piece large enough to make the handle.
The next step is to cut the blank at a 30 degree angle about 2 inches from the top of the cane. This is where I'm going to put the intersecting circles. I leaned this technique from Jeff Robert's website
. He has a lot of good information there.
After making the 30 degree cut, I create the spacer that will go here. I'm using a piece of .120" walnut with a .060" white vulcanized paper backing. You can get this spacer material from Ebay. Click the link below to purchase it from Ebay. I make a sandwich of these pieces using the walnut in the miiddle and the paper on the ends. I use a good epoxy (The one I'm using here is made by Gorilla Glue and it's the 5 minute epoxy. Make sure you get good fresh epoxy) to glue the spacer together and clamp it in a vice while it cures for a good tight joint.
After the epoxy cures, I clamp it between the 30 degree cut I made in the shaft blank. I use a long clamp and my Workmate bench to do this.
I like to let this cure for at least 8 hours. After this cures, I'm ready to make the next cut. I measure the center of the spacer I just put in and make another 30 degreecut directly through the center. I also mark down the sides of the next space so I know how thick to make the cut. After I cut through the center, I use my sander to remove enough extra material from each side so that the cut is approximately the same thickness as the spacer I'll put there. This helps to make sure the intersecting circles line up properly.
Now, I use epoxy to glue this joint and clamp like I did before. After it cures you are ready to reinforce the joint by drilling a hole through the center and putting in a wood dowel. I start by finding the center of the blank. I use a drill guide to keep my drill aligned and drill a 3/8" hole through the joint I just made. I'll coat an Oak dowel with epoxy to help lubricate it then use a plastic mallet to drive it into the hole. This will significantly strengthen the joint.
Now I find the center of each end of the shaft then chuck it up between centers in my lathe. I'm using a jig I built that uses my router to get a good taper into the shaft. This is another idea that I got from Jeff Roberts website
. I keep the lathe at it slowest speed (around 1500 RPM) for roughing. After roughing the taper with the router, I remove the jig and do my finish work with sandpaper. I speed the lathe up to approximately 2500 RPM. I start with 120 grit emery cloth and use progressively finer grits...150, 220, 320, 400, 600, and finish off with 0000 steel wool.
Now it's time to start the handle. Using the square blank I cut earlier, I will draw two lines perpendicular to the top edge. Make sure the top edge is square along both it's length and thickness. These two lines will be where the shaft goes. See the arrows in the photo below. I will use a template to draw the handle but you can freehand it as well. Once I have it drawn out, I use my bandsaw to cut just the bottom portion next to the shaft. Do not cut the top portion yet.
I'm going to chuck the handle into my lathe using a Grizzly 4 jawed chuck I purchased from Amazon. Click the link below the photo if you're interested in purchasing one for yourself. By clicking this link to make your purchase, you help me keep this website going. I've removed two of the jaws for this operation. When roughing the handle, I use a high speed grinder with an 80 grit flapwheel attachment. This will round up the shaft pretty quickly. After roughing, I finish with sandpaper like I did the shaft however I usually stop at 400 grit since the final sanding will be done by hand. You have to be careful when turning the shaft on the handle. The sharp corners on the handle can be a real knuckle buster if you get too close! On this handle I forgot to add the spacer before roughing. No problem, I made another spacer and epoxied it onto the end then finished the roughing. you can see the finished shaft with the spacer in the last photo.
The next step is to drill a 1/4" hole down the center of the handle shaft. This is the hole that I will use to epoxy a steel insert to attach the cane shaft and add extra strength. I use my drill press for this hole. After the hole is drilled I use the bandsaw to cut out the top portion of the handle.
Now its time to make the spacers for the handle. I cut a square piece of walnut and epoxy a white .060" vulcanized spacer on one side. After clamping and curing, I'll find the center and use another template I made to draw an oval. I made this template by cutting a piece of PVC on an angle. After drawing the oval, I use my band saw and belt sander to round off the edges making the oval shape.
Now I'll drill the hole for the screw that holds the endcap in. I first drill a 1/4' countersink then drill the 1/8" hole for the screw. I'll apply epoxy then screw the endcap into a pre-drilled hole in the cane handle. I use a hand drill to drill this hole.
To cover the screw, I like to use mosaic pin stock. I purchase it from from Ebay. Click on the link below to see what's available on Ebay. Making your purchase through this link will also help me keep this website going. I'll start with a piece of 1/4" mosaic tube and cut a small piece about 3/8" using a hack saw. You can use a power saw but be careful you don't overheat the tube. The epoxy will degrade and melt under heat very quickly. Coat the piece you just cut in epoxy and press into the holes covering the screws. Be sure to align the mosaic properly. After it cures, I'll use my disk grinder to flatten again being careful not to overheat the mosaic.
The rest of the shaping for the handle will be done by hand using a dremel and a sanding drum. I start by rough shaping the handle with my dremel and a high speed cutter. Next, I'll smooth it out using a sanding drum on my dremel. I'll do the final shaping using another sanding drum that I built from an old bandsaw motor and some pulleys.
Now its time for final sanding. I start with 220 grit paper and try to make sure I remove all the grind lines from the previous shaping operation. Spend plenty of time on this step and it will make the next steps much easier. After I sand with 220, I move to 320 grit. This is where you can see if you missed some of the original grind lines. They will show up as lighter spots like the one you see below in near the rear endcap. If you come across these, go back to the 220 and sand some more then resand with the 320. Finish up with 400 grit. After I epoxy the handle in place, I'll do the final sanding with 600 grit before finishing.
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Ok, I forgot to take photos of the process of joining the handle to the shaft so I'll try to describe it for you below. If you want to see a really strong joint, Check out Jeff Robert's Youtube video
I join the cane handle to the shaft by drilling a 3/8" hole about 3" deep into both the shaft and the handle. I usually drill the handle on a drill press when I still have a flat surface to work with. I drill the cane shaft using a hand drill and just be careful to keep it aligned. After drilling the holes, I measure and cut a piece of 1/4" allthread to fit into the hole. You don't want this to be a tight fit. You want a little slop so you can align the shaft with the handle.
Next mix up enough epoxy to fill the holes approximately 1/2 full. I use 5 minute epoxy for this. Fill the holes then coat the allthread and insert it into the shaft. Then place the handle over the piece of allthread that is sticking out. Carefully align the handle with the shaft, push the two pieces together, wipe off any excess epoxy that squeezed out, and hold it in place for 5 minutes. (This is why I don't use 60 minute epoxy!)
After it sets for a couple of hours, you can use 400 then 600 grit paper to remove any excess epoxy and smoothe the joint and finish sanding the handle with the 600 grit. Now, you're ready for final finishing.
I use Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil and hand rub the finish. Use a tack cloth to make sure all the dust is off before applying a coat. Let it dry 24 hours minimum between coats. Go over it lightly with 0000 steel wool and tack cloth before applying the next coats. Depending on the type of wood, you may need 3 to 8 coats but it's really a matter of personal preference.
Major correction to the paragraph above. DO NOT USE TRU OIL ON CEDAR!!!. I learned the hard way that the oils in cedar which give it that distinct cedar aroma also will bleed through oil finishes and leave a gummy, sticky residue. I had to rework two canes because of this and sanding the gummy cedar oil/tru oil finish off ain't no fun!.
Instead, you should finish sanding as stated above then give it a good wash down with laquer thinner. This helps remove the cedar oils from the surface and give the final finish a good surface to adhere to. After it drys, use a good spray laquer to finish with. I used 4 coats lightly buffing with 0000 steel wool between coats. I also buffed with steel wool and a soft cloth after the final coat to give it a very nice satin finish. Looks good now and it should prevent any further bleeding of cedar oil.
After first coat of Tru-oil
After 2 coats
After 3 coats... getting there....
5 coats. Good enough for me!
The Final Product!