Step 19: To finish out the top of my cane and add some fun interest I have added a small frog clutching to the stick, just out of reach of my snake’s head. The tracing pattern is posted here or create your own cane hugger by marking it to the top of your cane topper with a pencil.
Cane huggers – small animals and birds that wrap around the sides of your cane – are an old carving tradition. These little creatures most often have out-stretched arms or wings that ‘hug’ the shaft of the stick. Beavers, raccoons, squirrels, mice, dragonflies, and, our choice, frogs are all found in folk art styled walking sticks.
Step 20: The frog is first stop cut using the bench knife, along the outer edges of the frog’s body. This separates him from the top area of the stick. I lowered the cane top about 1/8″ at the frog’s face and tapered it down to 1/4″ at the frog’s rump.
Taper the stick twist area of the top to gradually flare.
Step 21: Undercut the stick area into the top twist. This deepens the wood around the frog, making the frog appear to stand higher off the cane.
Shape the frog body, legs, and eyes using your bench knife to round-over each area. With 220-grit sandpaper and rifflers, smooth out the frog.
Step 22: You can harvest fresh honeysuckle vine to use on your Sassafras twist cane. Select second year growth or older – it will have a brownish tone to the paper-like bark. Green tone bark is first year growth and often is not strong enough to dry well.
Roll the vine into a loose circle and hang in a dry, dark space for about 3 weeks. This is long enough for the vine to loose most of its sap and moisture, but still be pliable enough for curling.
Strip the paper bark layer from the vine before you add it to your walking stick Sassafras carving. Honeysuckle looses its bark easily. If you leave the bark on the vine only the bark layer will be attached during the gluing. When the bark is shed you will lose the vine around your cane.
You can also purchase pre-dried, pre-striped honeysuckle vine, seagrass, raffia, and even paper rope from most baste weaving supply stores to use with your canes.
Soak your vine in warm (not hot) water for about 10 minutes. Lightly blot on a dry towel to remove the excess water from the outer surface.
Check the thickness of your vine – the thinner part of the vine should be at the top of your stick, with the thicker, older growth, at the bottom. Using super glue, place several drops into the vine trough on your carving then place the vine into the trough. Hold in place for about 1/2 minute. Work just one or two inches at a time, slowly rolling the vine around the cane.
Step 23: Cleaning and finishing prep steps.
With any cane topper my cleaning steps begin with a hard scrubbing using an old toothbrush which can reach into the deep undercuts. This is followed by a quick wash at the sink to remove any dirt and hand oils, using a small amount of dish washing soap, warm water, and a small glass scrubbie brush. Rinse well, but do not over-saturate or soak in the water. Blot your carving and allow to dry for about an hour.
Next, mix one part linseed oil with one part turpentine. Stir well, but don’t make bubbles. Brush one generous coat to all areas of the cane except the very bottom edge. Allow the oil mix to sit for 10 minutes. Wipe briskly with a dry cloth to remove the excess oil. Repeat one time.
This oil mix replaces the natural oils of your caving wood and soaks deeply into the wood fibers. After the oil finish has set for several days you can return and apply whatever finish you personally prefer, including polyurethane, varnish, or wax. If, as I prefer, I will add several more coats of oil mix over about a one week period as my final finish.
Step 24: My cane stick – a two to three year Black Walnut branch – is still green. So I will be dry setting this stick, and will not do the final glue-up until several months from now.
I have drilled a 3/8″ hole into both the cane topper and the Black Walnut stick. For my dry set I am using a 3/8″ hardwood dowel, which will be replaced with 3/8″ threaded pipe when I do the final gluing. My dowel holes go as deeply as possible into both parts of the cane to give as long a section as possible for the jointing pipe.
To hide the joint line between the cane topper and the stick, I have used my bench knife, and small round gouge to cut a 1/4″ deep well inside of the top of the Black Walnut stick. The outer 3/16″ of the stick is left un-carved to create a lip area.
When the cane topper is put into place on its stick the joint line between the two parts is hidden by the well area in the top of the stick.
In a couple of months, after the Black Walnut is well dried, I will set the cane using two-part epoxy and the 3/8″ threaded pipe.
Step 25: Thank you for letting me share my love of carving with you in this cane carving project!