Hardwood dowels are readily available at both craft stores and your local hardware store. They come in 36” lengths and vary in diameter. I prefer, whenever possible, to use a 3/8” diameter dowel.
Dowels can be cut in any length, so they are perfect for use with any sized cane topper. Drill a hole into both your cane topper and stick that is slightly – 1/16” – larger than the diameter of your dowel. This allows room for the glue and room for the air in the hole to escape when the dowel is inserted.
Use wood glue with hardwood dowels. The water in the wood glue will be penetrate the dowel, causing it to swell slightly and create a tighter joint between the dowel and the stick.
Advantages – Hardwood dowel are extremely strong, yet allow for a small amount of ‘give’ under stress. This means that your joinery will hold up under hard use without breaking. Dowel rods are easy to cut with your bench knife, so no woodworking tools are needed beyond your normal carving kit tools.
Disadvantages – Wood-glued hardwood dowels create a permanent joint. If you want to retrieve your topper at a later date you will need to use a saw to remove the topper from the stick and then drill out the dowel from the topper.
Uses – A long hardwood dowel joint can be used for any walking stick or cane.
Fluted dowel pins can be purchased at your local hardware store, and come in a variety of diameters and lengths. Usually they are sold in packets of twelve.
Drill or carve your holes slightly larger, about 1/16”, than the diameter of your dowel pins. Use wood glue to set the dowel pins.
Dowel pins are created by compressing the wood into the dowel pin shape. When the pin is saturated with wood glue it swells, forcing an extremely tight joint between the sides of the pin and the stick.
The fluted ribs and the rounded ends of a dowel pin allow air to escape from the joinery holes as well as giving more surface space for gluing.
Advantages – Dowel pins are extremely easy to use in your walking sticks and canes. Most dowel pins are short enough that you can cut the joinery hole using a round gouge. Even though dowel pins are short in length they create a very durable, strong joint, even under stress.
Disadvantages – Most fluted dowel pins come in very short lengths of 3” or less. They will not create a strong joint for very tall cane toppers, 6” or higher. For extra tall toppers, create your own fluted dowel pins by cutting several v-troughs in a hardwood dowel using your v-gouge or u-gouge. By cutting your own fluting you have both the advantages of the hardwood dowel and the air passages and added surface area of a fluted dowel.
Uses – Short fluted dowels are excellent for smaller toppers on long walking sticks. Hand-made hardwood fluted dowels can be used on any walking stick or cane.