Shepherd Crook Staff Hiking Stick Carved Pastor Tall Stick Shepherding Border Collie Dog Trial

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 09-07-2012 04:44 PM 11384 views 2 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Commissioned Project: Carved Shepherd’s Staff Crook
This item has been SOLD

Serial No. #2012-14
Height: 71”
Material: Red Oak
Finish: Dye Stains and Flat Lacquer

Project Story:
Back in the Spring of 2011 a Pastor found my walking sticks on lumberjocks and asked if I would make him a knobby Tall Shepherd’s Crook for placing in his office at the church. I have a pretty long backlog of commissions, and he waited patiently for all this time, until I was able to get to his project.

Unfortunately for me, this was one of the first times I decided to complete a commissioned project without getting a deposit first. Apparently, he decided not going to go through with the purchase, so I put this Staff in my Etsy Store where it found a buyer in California. Here is the link to my Etsy Store

I built a crook stick one time before and I remembered the complications I encountered on that project. So, I didn’t want to repeat the same process for this new taller, knobby stick looking carved crook.

As in so many things I make, they seem easy when someone looks at them casually, and when I estimate them for a customer. And, as usual, what looks like a pretty simple crook, took me a lot of planning and time to build, more so than I had estimated by quite a bit.

Wood selection: I remember watching an old episode of Norm steam bending wood for a wall hung coat rack, and he said that red oak is the preferred choice for such a project. So, I took his advice and selected Red Oak for my material, and I always have quite a bit of it on hand, and so I picked through until I found the perfect board, pretty straight grain, without knots or grain swirls. I cut the Red Oak to thickness so that the grain ran vertically on the ends (helps with bending without breaking). So, basically, I made lamination strips of quartersawn wood.

Then, I built the laminating press, and a steam box, and powered the steam box with a wall paper steamer. I found the steam box and wall paper steamer concept in other postings on Lumberjocks, the source I check first for when I want to try something I’ve not done before. Lumberjock postings headed me in the right direction, and I started the work and ordered the steamer unit.

The steam box worked like a charm, and I easily held 212 degrees F for what seemed like enough time, about 45 minutes, and dry bent the laminations and let them stand for 24 hours. At temperature, the red oak strips were nearly like limp noodles, perfect for making the tight curve without cracking or breaking.

After the day wait, I then added glue, and let it sit another 24 hours. My goal was to glue the laminations and not have any spring back, as is the case using PVA glue (Wood glue). I use a special hard glue for my Maloof Rocker runners on my chairs, but my jug of glue had gone solid on me, so I used a hard veneering bonding glue that mixes with water that I had on hand, which is designed for bent veneering work.

I gently asked my wife if she would help me with the glue process, since I only had about 30 minutes of open time with the veneer glue. We had it all glued and in the press in 22 minutes, and just had to wait patiently until the next day. I took the “bossing” without any complaints or wise-acre comments since I needed the help, and we finished the gluing process without a hitch.

I intended to wait all night for the glue to set, but I couldn’t wait, so I pulled it out of the clamps after just 5 hours, and checked everything. My big worry with glue laminations is not getting enough wax on the glue press, and finding that it is all one glued together mess. But, without a problem, the glued staff popped right up out of the bending press, which gave me a chance to scrape out all of the extra glue squeeze out, which was still a rubbery consistency, feeling about like rubber bands. After cleaning up the glue, I placed the lamination back in the bending press and left it until the next day.


Once the glue had time to harden, the next day I cleaned up the lamination on the jointer and surface planer. I started to work at carving the knobs, by leaving high spots, and thinning the shaft. I have a lot of power equipment for carving, and I chose the small wheel Arbortech machine with the long arm attachment, with a carbide burr on it. Worked like a charm, a pleasure to use if you like lots of dust. So, I did the carving work outside in front of the shop on a beautiful day.

My goal for the finished appearance was to make a rustic looking, natural looking knobby crook stick that a Biblical era shepherd might have used. For the coloring, I started with oxblood leather dye, followed that with reddish brown and black dye stain. I also sprayed a few coats with my airbrush using walnut colored tinted lacquer. I rubbed out the top of the knobs to leave the reddish coloring, and the darker coloring on the shaft. I finished the project then with quite a few coats of rubbed out flat lacquer. Since I had to do all of the upfront research, build a steam box, buy a steamer, build a gluing form, this one project turned out to not be all that profitable. I’m hopeful that over the years I can use the steam box and bending form to make many copies for other people and recover the investment I’ve made.

Now, Who’s That Dog?:
My constant companion (whether I want him around at the moment or not) “REX”, my border collie wouldn’t stay out of the photos, so I finally told him to lay down and smile, and I took the photo of him with the crook against the south wall of my woodshop. Like so many border collies, he takes some getting used to, but I’m warming up to him. He is a replacement for my first border collie Luke, who spent 12 years laying inside, and just outside the wood shop door. I couldn’t get many photos of Luke over the years since he was very fearful of guns, and a camera looked like a gun to him. Rex was a little unsure about the camera also, and only laid down for two photos, before he was off chasing birds again (those with border collies will understand the bird chasing thing.)

Thanks for reading along,


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. Horse Head Dressy Cane
  2. African Safari and Elephant Cane
  3. 50th Wedding Anniversary Staff
  4. Carved Face Life-Story Cane
  5. Motorcycle Biker's Walking Cane, Carved Flames
  6. Elk Antler Handle, Carved Twisting Oak Leaves
  7. Bishop’s Carved Walnut Crosier
  8. Nascar’s Jimmie Johnson Themed Walking Cane
  9. Carved Oak Leaf Walking Stick
  10. Folk-Art Smiling Wood Spirit Face Cane w/ Elk Antler Handle
  11. Folk-Art Carved Wood Spirit Hiking Stick
  12. Folk-Art Pirate Carved Face Cane w/ Deer Antler Handle
  13. Cartoon Character Taz, Folk Art One-of-a-kind Art Cane
  14. Sculpted Wood Spirit Face Cane
  15. Folk-Art Wood Spirit Cane w/ Elk Antler Handle & Scrimshaw
  16. Folk Art Mountain Man Face Cane
  17. Shamrock Wood Spirit Irish-Theme Face Cane
  18. Walnut Wood Spirit Face Cane with Antler & Turquoise
  19. Collection of Face Carved Canes
  20. Moses-Inspired Face Carved Cane w/ Antler & Turquoise
  21. Shepherd's Stick, Carved Border Collie Welsh-Style Dog Show Trial Stick
  22. Carved Oak Leaf Walking Cane with Scrimshaw Artwork
  23. Amazing Grace Music Notes Carved Cane
  24. A Lady’s Elegant Red Long-Stem Rose Carved Cane
  25. Prairie Fire Hand-Carved Hiking Thumb Sticks
  26. A Folk-Art Carved Albatross Head & Snake Walnut Cane
  27. 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 2012, M.A.DeCou, all rights reserved and protected, ask permission first! Weblinks to this page are permitted)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

7 comments so far

View DocSavage45's profile


9043 posts in 3892 days

#1 posted 09-07-2012 05:18 PM

Good to see you! Nice piece.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 4514 days

#2 posted 09-07-2012 05:39 PM

Once again a wonderful project and a fun read of a narrative. Good to see another masterpiece.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 4287 days

#3 posted 09-07-2012 07:31 PM

Good story to go with your project. Thanks for the narrative. Makes me want to go laminate something…

-- Hal, Tennessee

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3615 posts in 4762 days

#4 posted 09-08-2012 03:38 AM


It’s amazing how much work went into your shepherd’s crook. It might have been faster to spend a few weeks searching for a root with just the right curve and knobbiness! LOL . . . for certain less stresful than having to ask your wife to help! (I, too, am guilty of your wife’s propensity for bossiness.) It looks just like I would picture one from Biblical times; even the crook looks sufficient for hooking around the poor lost lamb’s neck!


-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4353 days

#5 posted 09-08-2012 02:35 PM

beautiful job mark, yes quite the investment here with what it took to make these, but i think it will pay for itself…your an excellent cane maker and i think this will be a cane of choice for many..i might try this myself down the road…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2659 posts in 4576 days

#6 posted 09-08-2012 02:42 PM

Great looking staff and your how you made it was excellant! Thank you and may you make many more!

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View scrollingmom's profile


1212 posts in 3514 days

#7 posted 09-10-2012 01:45 AM

Too cool. I really like the look of the shepherd’s crook. Thanks for setting me straight on how much goes into one of them. I’m sure you’ll get your use of the steamer.

-- Kelly, Allen,KS

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