Shepherd's Hiking or Walking Stick, Elk Shed Antler, Crushed Arizona Turquoise Inlay, Ash Sapling

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 08-27-2010 05:16 PM 9190 views 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This Hiking Stick is For Sale, click here to visit my store

Serial Number: #2010-08
Height: 56 inches
Top: Kansas Elk Shed Antler
Inlays: Crushed Arizona Turquoise Stones
Shaft: Natural Ash Tree Sapling with bark
Finish: Danish Oil, and Nitrocellulose Lacquer


Project Story:

This is just a silly little Hiking Stick, the kind of thing that I do for fun once in awhile, and then sell.

There’s actually a lot of thought and time that goes into something like this, so I thought I’d share about that for a few minutes….........

I often walk and ride bikes with the kids, since we live in the Country and don’t have video games….by choice. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of getting rid of the television again, but I like some of the shows also. Although we are very Fox-News informed, I think we’d be better off if we did something else most of the time, other than watch television, but that’s another story of something I don’t have victory in, and at this time, there are no other supporting votes in our house. So, I’m still wrestling with it.

The kids prefer bike rides since they are faster, but I prefer walks so that I can look for things and carry them home. The Wife usually doesn’t go on these trips with us, since she gets impatient with all the stops and side-trips and noise, she likes to walk for exercise, and likes to walk fast. And I think she also likes to have a little time alone at home, while we are gone.

On those walks I always take a stick along….for just in case. We have a lot of wildlife in our area, nothing really scary anymore, except the rare neighbor’s story of spotting a Mountain Lion. The wife saw one about 5 miles West of our house one time, so I know the stories are true, but still rare.

On our walks, We’ve seen everything from lizards, to deer, raccoons, rabbits, jack rabbits, skunks, cat fish, carp, tadpoles, toads, minnows, badgers, red and black squirrels, chipmunks, wood rats, bobcats, wild turkeys, turkey buzzards, red tail hawks, other hawks I don’t know the name to, pheasants, bobwhite quail, Great Horned Owl, bluebirds and about any colored song bird that frequents this area, and of course, snakes. In the winter time, we are treated to a flyover by a Bald Eagle once in awhile.

I let the kids make lots of noise while we walk, lots of shouting to hear our echos, and singing happy songs, repeat-after-me-whistling, banging sticks on trees, throwing rocks, etc. The kids think its just for fun, but I want everything to know we are coming, and we always take our Border Collie Luke who’d give his life to protect any of us. Even with all this noise, we see animals, usually while they are running away, and that’s fine with us.

Snakes are probably my biggest worry, but the kids love to watch a snake wiggle, so we try to nudge one to move if we find one, normally long Rat Snakes or Bull Snakes and Gardner Snakes. We have mostly non-poisonous snakes, but you never know. We’ve never seen a prairie rattler or a copperhead, but neighbors tell us that they are around, so I always keep an eye out.

So, I like my sticks to be long enough to use for a “snake catch & release” operation, and for knocking things out of trees like mulberries, walnut husks, acorns, and such. I also like them strong enough to use to cross a creek, or to climb a steep hill, or to ward off any other small animal that might have the Hydra-phobi (rabies). I also like a little “weight” on the end, and that’s why I like antler tops, it’s good for whacking something, if I need to.

The kids and I have cried together through the old Disney movie “Old Yeller” a few times, and they even wanted to read the book afterward. We also have read the Little House on the Prairie books and seen the TV shows and the movie mini-series. We live on an old farming homestead that was created during the same time as the Engles built their first cabin in Kansas, and all of this Historical teaching helps the kids appreciate what we have, and to take notice when an animal isn’t acting just right. Like seeing skunk in the daytime, and it happens.

I also like my sticks to be light enough that they are easy to carry, about the right diameter to be comfortable in my hand, and not tiring to carry. They also need to be durable enough to handle a dropping.

I also like them to be relatively straight so that they have a good vibration when walking with them. If a stick is too crooked, it just doesn’t feel right, as it sort gives back a “teeter-vibrate” when used (sort of a hard thing to describe in words, you just have to feel it to understand). It’s sort of like bringing your arm and wrist down in normal walking motion using the stick, and the stick kicks against that movement by teetering your wrist a different direction, and has an unfavorable vibration. The flex and vibration may seem silly, but after building a bunch of these sticks over the years, I’ve found what I like and what I don’t about each of them.

So, there’s the practical considerations in a Stick Design, and I also like them to be interesting looking and more than “just a stick.” I also prefer to use saplings that I cut down to avoid any internal fungus infestation that weakens fallen wood, so I normally carry along a small saw.

I also like to build them with memorable materials that we pick up from trips we’ve taken, using them for various material inlays, and sometimes I do carvings on them here's an example of one like that . So, I’m always on the look out for interesting things, rocks, shells, bones, sticks, driftwood, things like that.

Additionally, I’ve made a lot of custom knives, and I prefer to use shed antlers for the handles. I don’t know why, I just like the historic look, and each one is a little unique, not like the ones at the big sporting goods store that all look alike packaged in plastic packaging. I also like the antlers I use to have a “story.”

A good friend of mine raises Elk and deer not far from me, and he helps me out by supplying antlers when I need more. I made two sets of Steak Knives a couple of years ago out of his elk shed antlers, click here to see one of those postings , and after that project I had a lot of Trophy Elk antler pieces left over.

So, I try and be creative and use up all the scrap pieces for other knives, file and tool handles, walking cane handles, jewelry pieces, scrimshaw art, and other things…...and I still have a lot of pieces left. I’ve sent two batches of pieces to another lumberjock to use also…..and I still have a lot of pieces left. So, I also make Walking Sticks and Hiking Sticks and use the antler sections for tops on those shafts.

For one of the Steak Knife Sets I built, I had to crush up some turquoise, see that inlay project here and I needed quite some really good stones at that time. So, I contacted a turquoise mine owner in Arizona that I’ve worked with in the past, and had her pick me out some nice natural stones for me. The hardest part is picking out which of the great looking stones I don’t love the most to take a hammer to it.

Finding turquoise isn’t what it used to be, nor as easy as it seems. I bought a stone from a Wichita rock and silver supply place one time to use with my silver jewelry, and when I cut the stone, I discovered that it was brown on the inside and when I washed the cutting oil off with soap, the turquoise color came off. I took the stone back to the store, and the owner said, “Well, it’s Chinese Turquoise, that’s what it does, it’s a brown rock that is dyed with the coloring…...”

I was mad at that point, since what I asked for when I went into the store was “Turquoise Nuggets” and was shown the display and I picked out an $18.00 nugget figuring that was enough money to get a good one. I never heard of, nor expected to get a cheap brown rock with Chinese dye on it. The owner just stood there and looked at me like I was the crazy one for not knowing, and he made no indication of making it right with….just looked at me like I was stupid… I haven’t been back.

But, since that day I have been very careful about the source of turquoise I use.

I don’t buy factory crushed rocks, I just do it myself so I can control the color and size of the pieces, and just do it with a little ball peen hammer and a small anvil. I have dreams of building a small crushing tool out of a couple of pieces of iron pipe, but it’s really pretty easy to do with a hammer and so I haven’t taken time to build the tool.

To make the shaft, I cut the saplings in the winter time, and let them air dry a couple of years, or longer. Then when I select one to use, I heat straighten the staff to make it mostly straight, with enough little bends to give it some character. It’s not hard to do, the same way Native American hunters prepared arrows. Sometimes I use a fire, other times just a high heat gun, or a wet rag and a propane plumber’s torch. Depending on the stick, it takes an hour to hour and half to straighten each one.

I prefer to use them with the bark on just because I like the look, but only when the bark is tight. I cut the saplings in the wintertime, as I’ve found that the wood is not wet, and the bark seems to stay tight when air dried and even after the heat straightening process.

I sand and polish and soak the shaft with Danish oil and then protect it with Sprayed Lacquer. Sometimes I stain them, and I’ve even airbrushed colored lacquer on them at times also. Now, that I’ve written about it, sure seems like a lot of work for just another silly little fun project.

Thanks for reading along,
Mark DeCou



Cane Sample Slideshow: To hear Music, click the Speaker Icon


More Walking Sticks & Canesbr />If you go to my Mark DeCou Website you won’t find very many canes pictured there. I do realize that I need to invest in improving my website, but until that is accomplished, here are few more of my canes posted at lumberjocks, thanks for your patience.

Handmade Finished Canes For Sale, Ready to Ship Now: Online Shop Inventory: Click Here to Visit my Cane Inventory Page

- List of Other Canes I’ve built:-

Folk Art & Pop-Art Carved Canes
  1. 50th Wedding Anniversary Staff
  2. Carved Face Life-Story Cane
  3. Motorcycle Biker's Walking Cane, Carved Flames
  4. Elk Antler Handle, Carved Twisting Oak Leaves
  5. Bishop’s Carved Walnut Crosier
  6. Nascar’s Jimmie Johnson Themed Walking Cane
  7. Carved Oak Leaf Walking Stick
  8. Folk-Art Smiling Wood Spirit Face Cane w/ Elk Antler Handle
  9. Folk-Art Carved Wood Spirit Hiking Stick
  10. Folk-Art Pirate Carved Face Cane w/ Deer Antler Handle
  11. Cartoon Character Taz, Folk Art One-of-a-kind Art Cane
  12. Sculpted Wood Spirit Face Cane
  13. Folk-Art Wood Spirit Cane w/ Elk Antler Handle & Scrimshaw
  14. Folk Art Mountain Man Face Cane
  15. Shamrock Wood Spirit Irish-Theme Face Cane
  16. Walnut Wood Spirit Face Cane with Antler & Turquoise
  17. Collection of Face Carved Canes
  18. Moses-Inspired Face Carved Cane w/ Antler & Turquoise
  19. Shepherd's Stick, Carved Border Collie Welsh-Style Dog Show Trial Stick
  20. Carved Oak Leaf Walking Cane with Scrimshaw Artwork
  21. Amazing Grace Music Notes Carved Cane
  22. A Lady’s Elegant Red Long-Stem Rose Carved Cane
  23. Prairie Fire Hand-Carved Hiking Thumb Sticks
  24. A Folk-Art Carved Albatross Head & Snake Walnut Cane
  25. Carved Folk-Art Walking Cane; 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' Story Stick with Scrimshaw Artwork-
Native American Indian Theme Folk-Art Canes
  1. Apache Chief Geronimo Folk-Art Face Cane
  2. Folk Art Native American Face Cane Set
  3. Apache Chief Cochise Folk-Art Face Cane
  4. Folk Art Carved Cane of Shoshone Chief
  5. Indian Guides Chief Big-Red-Cloud Hiking Stick
  6. Apache Chief Cochise #2 Folk-Art Face Cane
Scrimshaw Artwork Canes
  1. Scrimshaw Art Trophy Buck Deer Head
  2. Scrimshaw Art Walking Cane: Praying Mantis Insect
  3. Scrimshaw Art Walking Cane: Floppy Eared Bunny Face & Walnut Barley Twist
  4. Big & Tall Barley Twisted Oak with Scrimshawn Handle
  5. Walnut & Curly Maple Cane with Scrimshaw
  6. Scrimshaw Art Walnut Cane
  7. Fancy Barley Twist with Scrimshaw Cane
  8. Lady's Dress Cane, Red Oak, Walnut, Black Lacquer, & Scrimshaw Artwork of a Purple Cone Flower
Natural Sapling/Limb Canes/Sticks
  1. Ash Sapling with Elk Antler and Inlays of Crushed Turquoise
  2. Knarly Cedar Driftwood Topped Sapling Stick
  3. Folk-Art Carved Wood Spirit Hiking Stick
  4. Nanny McPhee Movie-Inspired Crooked Walking Stick
  5. Naturally Twisted Tree Sapling Cane
  6. Naturally Twisted Tree Sapling Walking Stick
  7. Shepherd's Crook Hiking Stick
  8. Black Locust Tree Sapling Walking Stick
  9. Red BirchTree Sapling Hiking Stick
Fancy Barley-Twist Style Dress Canes
  1. Fancy Barley Twisted Ebonized Oak & Elk Antler Cane, Serial No. 2009-05
  2. Big & Tall Walnut & Maple Barley Twist Custom Cane
  3. Big & Tall Red Oak and Antler with Scrimshaw Monogram
  4. White Oak Barley Twist Cane
  5. Osage Orange Barley Twist Cane
  6. Walnut & Figured Maple Barley Twist cane
  7. Black Walnut and Spalted Sycamore Barley Twist
  8. Red Oak Barley Twist with Black Lacquer
  9. Red Oak Barley Twist with Walnut Handle
  10. Dress Cane, Oak Barley Twist with Walnut Ring
  11. Bryan's Cane, The Start of my Cane Journey
Fancy Dress Style Canes
  1. Ribbed Walnut Cane with Camphor Burl Derby Handle
  2. African Blackwood and Lapis Lazuli Ball Walking Stick
  3. Pink Ivory and Elk Antler Dress Walking Stick
  4. Coiled Ribbon Twisted Spalted White Oak with Walnut Handle
  5. Polished Black Steer Horn Upright Walking Stick
  6. Mexican Bocote Wood, Elk Antler Handle with Hand-Wrought Fine Silver End Caps
  7. Fancy Walking Cane, Camphor Burl, Maple, Bubinga, Whitetail Deer Antler, Inlays & Silver End Caps
  8. Custom Dress-Up Walking Cane, Walnut shaft with a Camphor Burl Handle
  9. Walnut & Buffalo Horn Twisted Cane
  10. White Birch & Buffalo Horn Twisted Cane
  11. Walnut Bamboo-Style Cane with Chrome Ball Top
  12. Walnut & Buffalo Horn Dress Cane
  13. Bird's Eye Maple Cane
  14. Spalted Sycamore Walking Cane
  15. Walnut Tall Knob Top Opera Cane
  16. Zebrawood & Walnut Knob Top Opera Cane
  17. Dress Cane Set, with several Material Options Shown

What is Scrimshaw Artwork?:
A Scrimshaw Art Journey: What it is & How to Do it; Five Simple Steps to Success
Click here to go to
My Website page with Walking Canes

I usually have a few canes in stock at:
  1. Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works in Wichita, Kansas
  2. Prairie Past Times Antiques & Crafts in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas

You can contact these gallery stores directly and see what they still have in stock. They will ship to you if you buy something. If you prefer, you can also email me, as I keep fairly current on what is “unsold.”

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Background: My Cane Making Story:

I enjoy sculpting walking canes. Some folks call them Folk-Art Canes, while others call them Artisan Canes, some call them Carved Canes, while others call them Walking Sticks. There is quite a bit of argument about whether something should be called Sculpture or Carving. They could be considered Functional-Art, which is the type of work that I am usually drawn to. No matter what these canes are called, they seem to bring joy to the owners, and I have been asked to make quite a few of them in the past 5-6 years.

I started making canes on the request of a nice married couple I met on a church-building short-term mission trip to Mexico City in the early 1990’s. Several years after our trip, their son-in-law was diagnosed with bone cancer, and so they wanted to get him a specially made cane that he would enjoy using. They had heard from others that I had quit my corporate office job and started doing woodworking full-time. So, they contacted me to make his cane.

Click for details

Sadly, I also built him a casket, another first for me, about a year later

Click for details

Since the time I did that first Cane for Bryan, I have enjoyed the work on the canes that I have been able to make, but more importantly, the people that I have been able to meet and help along the journey. I do make a bunch of unique items and furniture, but without a doubt, I receive more correspondence and thank-you cards from cane customers than any of the other items I make, combined. So, they are fun for me to build, and I look forward to each new person and situation.

To keep a handle on all of the memories, I engrave a small serial number on each brass cane tip, and then I keep a detailed database log of each cane, customer, and situation. The list always brings me warm memories each time I scan it and remember the folks that have supported my work over the years, and vice versa.


Still Want to See more of my work?

Start with each of these links, and they will take you to other organized lists of my other niche products:

  1. Custom Knives
  2. Custom Art-Furniture I've Built
  3. Artisan Hat Making Tools


(This text, all photos, project design, are protected by copyright 2007-2010, M.A.DeCou, all rights reserved and protected, ask permission first! Weblinks to this page are permitted)*

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

5 comments so far

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4516 days

#1 posted 08-27-2010 07:46 PM

Great write up Mark. Nice stick, too.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 4064 days

#2 posted 08-27-2010 11:53 PM

So good to enjoy the gifts of nature and find use for them in our lives. I love working with antler too. Wood, antlers, rocks, what more do you need? The basics are so inspiring to me. It’s up to our imaginations on what we can do. ( Cold clear water is the ultimate gift to me).
Nice stick….............

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4942 days

#3 posted 08-28-2010 12:28 AM

Thanks guys.

You mentioned “water”, reminded of a quote taped to the side of my computer: “When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin.

I found that quote one day during a time when our area was so dry, that we didn’t have enough water to do much more than flush a toilet a couple times a day and have water for drinking. The Wife had to go to town to wash clothes, and we had to ration everything we did with the water we did have in the well. Then, I understood the literal meaning of the quote, and I’ve seen it work well in figurative ways as well.

thanks for taking time to comment,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View mmh's profile


3679 posts in 4259 days

#4 posted 08-28-2010 11:22 PM

A nice walking stick with an even nicer blog. I enjoy reading your entries and appreciate the down to earth, stop and smell the roses frame of mine you have.

As for the Chinese turuqoise, originally there was a decent source of naturally blue colored turquoise and still may be, but the cheap stuff being exported is probably crap. You’d have to go to a quality source to get the natural quality gemstone and I’m sure it will cost more too. The store owner should have been more informative and helpful.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4851 days

#5 posted 08-30-2010 07:41 AM

I enjoyed the ramble Mark. Kinda like a walk with a nice comfortable walking stick. I could never enjoy life till I slowed down enough to pay attention. I figure most folks couldn’t even slow down enough to enjoy your blog….their loss.

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