Custom Walking Cane Handcarved African Safari Elephant Hunter Theme Ivory Wart Hog Blackwood Buffalo

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 09-05-2011 10:11 PM 11456 views 3 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was a commissioned walking cane with an African Safari Hunter’s Theme, featuring a carved and painted Elephant’s head, using real Ivory for the tusks, and African wart hog tusks and water buffalo horn for the handle.

If you would like something similar, you can contact me by email:
[email protected]

I have several things for sale at my Etsy store, and from time to time I have walking canes there, so you can also check the inventory here

Thanks for looking,
Mark DeCou


Project Story:
This custom walking cane started as a “project” in July of 2010, with the request to carve a cane to be gifted to a man that does a lot of hunting, especially African Safari style hunting. That really was all of the direction I was given, and my mind started running. I quickly sketched this in the book I carry everywhere with me, and moved onto whatever was my current project at the time, although now I don’t remember what that was.

Elephant Cane sketch 1 2159

Honestly, I don’t consider myself to be much of an artist, not much of a carver, and certainly not much of a sculptor. With my walking cane postings on Lumberjocks over the years, people find them, contact me, and propose an idea for a new and interesting cane design they have, usually based on something else they’ve seen me carve. Usually, the project is something new that I’ve never done before, adding a different style, or some tweak, or complicated variation of something else I’ve done. And, these new ideas are often something I’ve not carved before, and so I seem to always have some hesitation and worry about whether I can really pull off the difficult idea they have. But, the upside, is that with these requests come ideas I would not have the brain power to dream up on my own. Sometimes figuring out how to build the idea is less valuable than the actual idea itself.

This Elephant cane was no exception, except it was my silly suggestion that an Elephant might be a good African Safari concept cane. I conceived of an elephant head, with a wrapping trunk, carved all in one piece on the shaft of a cane. Never having carved an elephant, nor really looking at an elephant very carefully, I was intimidated with the vision once I had it rough sketched on paper. With my commission schedule the way it is, I would have about a year to think it over.

I have learned to carry the sketch book, having gone through several of them now, where I jot down things my mind conceives, or projects I’d like to do, ideas I have for something I think would be cool, etc. I also take this sketch book to church with me, and keep my notes on the Pastor’s sermon. Sometimes, an idea hits me, and despite his fervent and powerful teaching, my mind will wander off until I get the concept sketched out. So, just to be honest with my process, here’s my notes on how to carve the Elephant’s face that hit me the Sunday morning of 8-28-2011. The topic was being Meek, something I’m not. I left the Elephant Cane sketches intact with my sermon notes on the page, in case anyone is interested in what was being taught that day. And, to be honest with the story, I did go and show my day-dreaming sketches to the Pastor after church, but I did point out to him that I still took more than a page of notes. He’s worried about me I think.

Elephant Cane sketch 2 2160

You see, that Sunday morning, I had just finished a rather frustrating week of work on this cane, seeing that my Elephant’s head just didn’t look right. On a new project, this process of reaching disappointed frustration is fairly normal for me, and if I haven’t gotten to the point of wanting to start over, and having to force myself to press ahead a little farther, then I don’t think I would feel normal anymore. So, I was pretty frustrated with myself, and started Praying Saturday evening for some inspiration about what I could do to the carving to make it look better, and more accurate.

Then, Sunday morning watching the News on TV while getting dressed for church, and in the midst of news about, crashing Dow, rising Gold and Gasoline costs, rising unemployment, which GOP candidate said what, hurricanes, and floods, mortgage crisis, what Sara Palin did, and earthquakes, and raging wild fires, and droughts, and bug infestations, and terrorist trying to kill us all, and kids not learning in school, and drugs, and gangs and murders, and missing mothers, and kidnapped babies, and California’s financial woes, and gambling’s comeback in Vegas, a commercial came on with an elephant walking around with a man. How can we handle all of that bad news constantly hitting us, and be expected to remember what the advertising is trying to convince us to buy?

So, I’m not sure what the commercial was for, I just remember the elephant. I stood there and looked at the screen, and all of a sudden it became clear to me that I had not carved the large eye-brow bones structure to make the head look right. Once I saw it, I knew what I had been missing in my carving. I take off Sunday’s to rest and enjoy other things than shop work, but sitting in the pew that morning, I just couldn’t stop myself from sketching out the eyebrow lines before I forgot what I had noticed in the commercial.

After this step, the whole thing fell into line for me, and I worked three more days on the Elephant carving, and making it wrap around the shaft with the raised ribs of the Shaft. The Raised Ribs was an idea I had for making the shaft look sort of like an African antelope or some animal I had seen on a wildlife TV show.

At the time in July last year when I had conceived of the idea, I hadn’t thought through how much more work it would be to keep the raised ribs going on through where the carving of the Elephant was. Last week when I realized how difficult it was going to be, I talked to the Wife, and she suggested I just make that section round, and move onto something else that would pay some bills. I just couldn’t do it though, so I spent another afternoon and into the evening carving the raised ribs up through the Elephant. I like it much better this way, true to my original vision. You can see why my wife stays so frustrated with me.

I worked in the local art Co-op gallery Saturday and took this cane with me to display while I ran the register and answered questions from shoppers. Several people asked if the Elephant was plastic, or if I had wrapped it around the shaft somehow. After the second person asked, I was starting to think I had made a mistake in the way I painted this Elephant.

I explained that I had carved it out of a 2” x 2” x 37” stick of walnut, all one piece, except for gluing on some wood to make the ears a little longer. Then, I painted it with four variations of Gray acrylic paint I mixed up, antiqued it with brown glaze, and then sprayed on pre-cat lacquer. Nobody in the gallery understands what “pre-cat lacquer” is, but it’s fun to say. This one lady listened to my whole diatribe about it, and then asked, “so this elephant is plastic, how did you wrap it around the wood?”

Apparently, in my explaining, I had not made it clear enough that it was all wood, and carved out of a stick of wood. As our President is keen to saying, “Just let me be clear….”

The Wart Hog Tusks:
I had this vision of using the wart hog tusk for the handle, but the tusks I had just weren’t big enough to do that with. So, I came up with the idea of using two tusks that matched, and inlaying them in the wooden handle. This proved to be an interesting inlay challenge, but I finished it up, glued on the handle, and finished the cane on Friday night this past week. The deadline is this coming Wednesday, and it feels good to finally have it finished.

The Elephant Tusks:
I used pre-ban legally purchased African Elephant Tusk material to carve the two little tusks for the Elephant’s head. I had that idea from a previous project, where I used Elephant Ivory to carve the teeth for a Taz folk-art cane that I carved.

The Spalted Sycamore:
I had planned to use African Zebra Wood on this handle, and after digging through several dusty boxes of wood scraps, dodging the numerous Brown Recluse Spiders where I thought I had a piece of Zebrawood, I finally gave up. I apparently, used it on another project. So, I discovered this spalted sycamore scrap left over after building a couple of end tables this summer

Here are some additional photos:













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


More Walking Sticks & Canes:
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 2007-2011, M.A.DeCou, all rights reserved and protected, ask permission first! Weblinks to this page are permitted)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

14 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


19259 posts in 4456 days

#1 posted 09-05-2011 11:34 PM

WOW, that cane is awesome! Hard to believe it is all out of one piece of wood. I wondered how you wrapped it until I read the article. I can’t believe I hadn’t favored the Tax before ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 4276 days

#2 posted 09-05-2011 11:52 PM

An absolutely wonder piece of craftsmanship and a work of art ….... well done Mark !

The wood combination and finish details in the handle are spectacular and the carving with the elephant is,
well….... just amazing !!! What else can I say… I also had to read the complete description to understand
that you carved this out of a single piece of wood…. WOW !

Keep up the fantastic work, I always look forward to seeing your projects !

What process do you use to finish your canes?

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View Karson's profile


35223 posts in 5181 days

#3 posted 09-06-2011 12:08 AM

Mark: A great looking cane. Nice carving that piece of plastic. :>)


-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Michael1's profile


403 posts in 3440 days

#4 posted 09-06-2011 12:26 AM

Very nice work. A masterpiece

-- Michael Mills, North Carolina,

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 4017 days

#5 posted 09-06-2011 12:40 AM

That’s a fantastic walking cane. I can see how someone would think it was a molded plastic elephant.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View mmh's profile


3680 posts in 4502 days

#6 posted 09-06-2011 04:32 AM

Quite a unique piece!

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

View cathyb's profile


843 posts in 4024 days

#7 posted 09-06-2011 04:34 AM

Pretty amazing! The level of detail is incredible. I am inspired by your work. Thank you for sharing…...

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

View Greg's profile


335 posts in 3654 days

#8 posted 09-06-2011 06:48 AM

Mark, that thing is Rediculous! (in a great way!)
Wow, wow, wow! Love the classy handle. I love how you provided your seemingly nonchalant sketch from way back when, and thenn you brought it to life. Outstanding work sir.


-- You don't have a custom made heirloom fly fishing Net?

View Billp's profile


804 posts in 4980 days

#9 posted 09-06-2011 11:00 AM

What a wonderful job on this piece of art. Getting inspiration while sitting in the ultimate carpenters workshop not a bad idea. Thanks for sharing your greative process, may God continue to bless you with wonderful ideas.

-- Billp

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2823 posts in 4372 days

#10 posted 09-06-2011 02:35 PM

Beautiful Cane! Great carving details!

-- Dennis Zongker

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3975 days

#11 posted 09-06-2011 02:46 PM

That is an incredible looking cane and carving. Excellent job!

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5095 days

#12 posted 09-08-2011 04:18 AM

Truly one of a kind. Your “folk” canes have become an impressive body of work.

View Bertha's profile


13588 posts in 3473 days

#13 posted 09-08-2011 04:30 AM

absolutely spectacular. I love how you integrated the tusk into the handle That must have been a challenge. The joints are flawless. It’s unreal.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View terrilynne's profile


836 posts in 3674 days

#14 posted 09-29-2011 09:46 PM

You are an artist!

-- Terri, Rocky Mountain High Colorado!

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