Canes and Walking Sticks

Introduction to Cane Carving

By L.S. Irish

Cane carving can be one of the most expressive areas of our hobby. Just about everything conceivable has been carved on a walking stick, from snakes to nudes, Biblical passages to dancing clowns. Working with either a well seasoned stick or a cut blank, carving canes will bring hours of pleasure, with the wonderful reward of a finished walking stick when you are done.

Canes come in several categories. The first group of canes is based on the height of the staff, where the cane will be gripped, and sticks that have a specific purpose. Below are just a few of these categories.

Cane: a walking stick that is gripped at the top, measured from the floor to the corner (point) of the hip joint. Canes are cut in length to fit particular individuals!

Market Stick: slightly taller than the cane, the market stick is gripped directly below the topper.

Carrying Stick: A long stick that has a “Y” or “W” shaped handle, balanced over the shoulder it is used for carrying satchels and bags.

Miner’s Stick: A walking stick that has a specific height, used for measuring, often exactly 36″ in length.

Shepherd’s Crooks: long handles canes with a bent top, used to herd and capture sheep.

Staff: a long staffed stick that was often used to mark an individuals office or rank within the community.

Wading Stick: used by fisherman, often five feet or more in length.

Walking Stick or Hiking Stick: a staff that is cut approximately shoulder height for the individual hiker, used to give balance while walking and to prop the underbrush for hidden items (as snakes).


Since most canes are created with one person in mind, another way to categorize canes are by the theme or carving of the individual cane. Through the years canes and staffs have been commissioned as reflections of a person’s life, accomplishments, or occupation. A few examples of this grouping are below.

Theme Cane: a specific favorite item as a fish handle for the fisherman or a hound handle for the fox hunter.

Story Cane: a group of related items that tell a story as the fish handle, frog, snake, and dragonfly, all animals that are found around a pond. Another example would be a rabbit handle with hound “huggers” on the staff for the hunter.

Commemorative Cane: sticks used to record the important accomplishments of an individual’s life or to record their daily activities. An example would be a cane that has a carved war scene plus the writing to denote the persons company, rank, and campaigns.

Natural Cane: canes created from cut sticks that have unusual shapes, the shape and form of the stick determines the carving. An example is a stick that has been twisted by a honeysuckle vine might have a twisting snake carved upon it.

Friendship Cane: a cane that is created by many carvers, each donating one section or segment to complete the stick.

The cane design to the right is a combination of two of the designs in our Cane Topper Pattern Pack.

Introduction to Cane Carving
The Basic Construction Used In Cane Carving
The Basic Joinery Used In Cane Carving
Adding a Leather String Grip to your Cane Carving

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