The Irish Shillelagh for a new millennium

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Project by WestcoastTony posted 10-19-2011 06:30 AM 3255 views 1 time favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch

One of my childhood memories is of the authentic blackthorn shillelaghs that my uncle had hung on his apartment wall—fearsome yet beautiful looking hunks of wood, beautifully polished, with large knob-heads, that served both as walking sticks and weapons of self-defense. Recently I decided to try my hand at creating some more civilized versions (more of a chance of being used as a walking stick than a club, after all!) from the ample wood to be found in and around my property. I set out for this to be an ongoing educational experience, trying different kinds of wood and techniques and slowly expanding my tools. These are two finished pieces. The basic procedure is to find the right shape in the original wood, hew it to rough proportions, remove the bark, refine the shape, smooth it, and coat it with spar varnish (semi gloss seems best) that imparts a beautiful honey color and brings out the variegations in the wood grain. I have yet to find a stick with a really large knob, but I’ve developed some smaller handles and heads, trying to work from whatever interesting patterns come out of the limb junctures in the original wood. I’m hoping to try actually carving figures into the heads as I acquire some better gouges. My main goal is to preserve natural eccentricities in the wood shapes, rather than to create regular, straight sticks. I love gnarls and twists.

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#1 posted 10-19-2011 07:58 PM

Haha! Yes, I was kinda aware of that, although this project has brought me lots of opportunity to learn much more than I ever did. I’ve actually had the thought of uprooting a small tree to get a nice root ball, but I just can’t bring myself to do that. For the moment I’ll content myself with finding fallen limbs or cutting one if it looks really perfect. I may never find a limb with a head the size of a real shillelagh but I am finding some interesting shapes to work from.

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