An Idiot's Guide To Cane Making

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JOAT

New User
Theo
Or, in other words, almost anyone can make a wooden cane, it ain't rocket science.

Decided to make another spare cane. First one was of oak flooring, planed to 1/2"X1" and glued so I've got a cane 1"X1", nicely sturdy, not really heavy, well balanced. This one will be like my present cane, from a small tree that's been air drying in my shop for about 11-12 years. I cut tenons before with the scrollsaw or bandsaw, which besides being a real PITA resulted in undercutting, which snapped the tenon off, and made one cane shorter than I wanted (still got it and it's available free to anyone that needs it). So this one I'm trying shaving the tenon to shape with my pocket knife.
1_CANE_BUILD.JPG

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Every cane needs a handle, at least I think so. My handle came from a LOT of looking on-line, then quite a bit of redoing until I finally have the design I like. I rout out three pieces using my handle master. The master is two pieces of 1/2" plywood glued together, with pilot nail holes drilled in. I use small nails, about 1 1/4" to hold the routed piece because it's fast, handy, and it works - I do not like using rubber cement or double stick tape. If you don't want nail holes, then you need to flip the master for one of the three routed pieces, then you can have the nail holes hidden inside. I didn't do that on this one because the cane is for me, and I don't care, plus the nails were sticking and I didn't feel like bothering. By the way I got a very neat 6" flat pry bar at Ace that is the best thing I've found for loosening the nails. And yes, that is six inches. Pictured is the master, one of the side pieces, the inner piece (you need to mark the width of the tenon on one piece, then cut that section out for the tenon), then the other side piece.

Here is the inner pieces glued to one of the outer pieces. The bottom of the outer pieces will probably have to be sanded or filed a bit to allow for the curve of the cane shaft, to allow proper fitting.
The picture makes it look like the pieces aren't properly lined up, but that's just because they're routed out of plywood and that's just one of the plys. I use plywood, I was going to use a nice piece of pallet wood, but didn't feel like messing with the planer, so am making this one out of plywood, just as I did my other ones.

And this is my pounderonner top I made for my knockdown work bench. I use it for support when I pound the nails in to hold the routed piece (also nice for holding a cuppa or a sandwich). I try not to drive the nails all the way, leave just enough out to get the little pry bar under and they come loose very easily. And, if you do pound one or two in, it's plenty easy enough to get the master and routed piece loose by pulling.


Now waiting for the glue to dry.

 
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JOAT

New User
Theo
On my other canes I'd cut the tenon, then slid the glued handle on the tenon and glued it in place, using shims as needed. Worked well. But on this one I used a knife to make the tenon, figuring on holding the unglued side of the handle in place, sliding it on the tenon, then doing some rasp work on the two bottom edges until it fit nicely, then glue the other half on, and when the glue dried, glue the handle in place.

Didn't quite work out that way. Couldn't find my only rasp that was narrow enough to do the work. I've had a problem with small tools walking out of my shop. At first I thought it was the younger son, as he had a key, but there's small stuff that he would never have touched. I had kept a key to the shop over the door, in case I locked my keys in the house (been there, done that), so I could open the shop to get to the house key hidden inside. I'm wondering now if one of the neighborhood kids didn't see me putting the key up there or taking it down and going in while I was gone. Anyway, the rasp is definitely not where I kept it. So, when I found that out I just glued the last side on and will be shaving a bit off with my knife until I get it down to where I like it, then glue the handle on, and if necessary once the glue is dry, either trim the little sticking out, or glue something in if there's a small space.
Before I forget. I only cut my cane to final length AFTER the handle is glued on - reasons for that is, if you under cut the tenon, then it snaps off, the cane will be too short when a new tenon is cut. I like my canes so my elbow is slightly bent, this allows a slight 'cushion' effect, and allows me to give a slight push if need be. Anyway that's what's most comfortable for me.

And instead of running out and buying a box of cane tips (two) I now use vinyl chair tips, you can get them in various sizes, here are some in 1" and 3/4", just depends on what size branch or tree you use. They seem to work every bit as well as regular cane tips, don't seem to wear any faster, and you can get a box of four for about one half the cost of two cane tips. Just trim the bottom of your cane to accept.

I really should have made this whole thing in just one post, but if I'd done that I'd have needed to wait, and probably never have posted anything.




 
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JOAT

New User
Theo
My angle grinder died the other day so had to go and get replacements, and wound up with no shop time. But some tips. When you cut a tenon for a cane, look to see what way the wood bows. Make the bow the front of the cane. Yes, it does make a difference, any other way and the cane feels a bit awkward to use. I just use my knife to trim off the bumps and sharp pieces on the can, don't make any other effort to smooth it or to remove the bark unless it's loose. Hmm, now how did the lettering start to do this I wonder? Ah well. I use plywood for my handles, it works well, looks decent, and I've got a bunch of small pieces around just waiting to be used. For a finish on the handle I'll be putting on a few coats of thinned 50/50 Titebond II, it works well and I've always got glue. For the cane shaft I'll just apply one or two coats of unused vegetable (read cooking) oil. Need to put another coat on my every day cane, it's about worn off of that one. I've got one more cane shaft I believe, so I'll be starting on that one tomorrow, I'll carve the tenon with my pocket knife, and be making a 'flat' handle for it. I'll cut some 1/2" plywood about 1" or so wide, about 6" long, and otherwise put the handle together just like I did the routed handle. I want to see how I like it. BUT the routed handle has several advantages that took quite a few tries to get in it - you can see, it's the Mark VI point 2 or so version. The front is shaped and angled to inflict a nice impact if you need to use it as a defensive weapon, the curve is comfortable, the hook on the bottom is quite handy for hanging from the edge of most shelves and counters and holds very well on a shopping cart handle (riding on the inside). I hope to have a final picture tomorrow of what the finished cane will look like.
 

JOAT

New User
Theo
Okey dokey, got 'er dun. Did use the belt sander on the cane tenon to take it down a bit. It took it down a lot. Lesson for today: Do not use a belt sander with one hand while holding the cane in progress with the other hand. I will have to make some sort of bracket to go on my take-apart work bench for holding the hand belt sander. However, the handle is now on the cane, with the glue drying.
As soon as the glue dries tomorrow the cane will be ready for its finish, cutting to the final length, and fitting a chair tip on it. If you can't figure out how to do those steps you're beyond help. I will either finish the handle with thinned Titebond II, as with most of my previous handles, or cooking (vegetable) oil. Because the glue has not dried I didn't want to do the entire handle today but here is a shot where I put a bit of oil on part of the cane. You can see the contrast. Yes, it does work, and that's what my previous canes got. Tomorrow or the next day I will be starting on the last cane blank that I know of, just to get it out of the way as much as anything. That one will be getting the straight handle, but didn't have any cut today and didn't want to bother, had other things to do. So now you know, you too can make a cane. It ain't rocket science. And yes, you can make them fancier if you want to, I use mine and people seem to think they look good as is. Who am I to say?
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Ah yes, just above the handle is the new Mark VI point 2 in progress. I'd thought this present master was point 2, but it's point 1. Which means this new master is the third of the Mark VI series. I probably wouldn't be quite so fussy if these were for sale but they're for me. Hehehe​
 
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JOAT

New User
Theo
OK, one last picture, one last post. Today I shaved the tenon for the last cane blank - being much more careful with the knife, shaving more off, and not using the belt sander at all. Very nice. I figured you don't need a picture for that. Also today I cut some 3/4" wide pieces of 1/2" plywood, and glued together the handle. That's what the picture is. I already tried it on the tenon and it fits very nicely. Tomorrow, after the glue dries, I'll trim the two ends, hit the edges a bit with the sander, and be ready to glue it on. I found out the end is just too small for the 3/4" chair tips, but I wasn't about to go and buy some smaller tips for just one cane. So put some sawdust and glue in the tip and fit it on the end of the cane, seems to stick, so I'll see how that works out. And now you know how I make canes for myself. If any of you have been feeling uneasy about trying cane making, this should cure that worry. I'd say just slap one together, for the learning experience, and worry about getting fancy after that. Mine work wonderfully well for me as is so I'm not worrying about fancy. Oh yes, I have found that usually I use the cane with my first and second fingers straddling the cane shaft. I don't know why that is, the handle is comfortable for my hand, but it just feels more comfortable for me that way I guess you could say. I didn't even realize it first time I did it and it just felt natural. On a few occassions I've also found myself holding the cane between my second and third fingers, but that's the exception rather than the rule. I bought my first two canes, lost both, and making them is partly a money saving thing (heh, small pieces of plywood, free cane shafts, about $2-3 for four tips, can't beat that), and partly it's more satisfying to tell people you made it when people ask where you bought it. If anyone wants to copy my handle, just ask and I'll scan the master and post it. Or you can make one and tell people it's an authentic antique golf putter replica.
 
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Glennbear

Moderator
Glenn
Thank you for the very thorough tutorial Theo :eusa_clap Although I do not have any canes planned I will be using some of your methods to make a couple of hiking staffs I have coming up. :wsmile:
 

JOAT

New User
Theo
I've never made, or used a hiking staff. I'm thinking if I made one I'd want a spikey tip on the end. I wasn't doing anything and always like to pass info along, usually. Welcome to use any of it, as long as you realize that's how "I" make mine, and you're not obligated to do it the same as me. Be good to have one or two canes made ahead of time and stuck away, for when you probably will need one. Wish I'd thought of that.

Funny, when I looked at the pricey cane kits on line, and would see an entire book devoted to instructions on how to make a cane, I was pretty intimidated by the thought of making my own cane. Until I made my first one, from oak flooring. Plans? Plans? Don' need no steenkin' plans. :eek:ccasion1
 

JOAT

New User
Theo
Arrgh, I figure as long as I went this far might's well post a picture of my last handle on a cane shaft. Much faster and easier than the shaped handles, and went on just great, and looks better than I thought it would. Only a bit of shimming front and rear (popsicle stick, of course) and good to go, fit much better than any of the tenons I'd sawn. I am thinking tho that it would have looked a bit better if it had been about 1" thick strips rather than 3/4". I'll trim it tomorrow, after the glue sets, and take it for a test run and see if I like it at least as well as the previous handles. I've got this cane making stuff down pat. Hehehe
 
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JOAT

New User
Theo
No sense in posting this much and not posting the followup. I trimmed the cane and test drove it. Feels good. However. There is always a however. However, it didn't feel thick enough. So glued two 3/4" strips of 1/2" ply on top. Just right. I'll hit it with the sander a bit tomorrow and start using it. So now it's about 1 1/4" thick. I'm out of cane blanks, so no more canes for awhile.
Hah, didn't notice when I took the picture one of my big Wizard banks. Right now it's a tape holder. The red is the handle of a previous cane, one that came out shorter than I care for.

 
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