Wood Hunting

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Wood Hunting

Post by grendel on Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:31 pm

Since I been inspired by Skalla to begin stick making (or should I say Shillelagh) I thought I'd start post on wood hunting to try an answer basic questions like.

Where to find wood?
What kind of wood will be in my local park?
How to recognise wood?
How to get wood, cut it of/fallen?
What wood is it ok to take?
What time of year?

ect

Anyway I'm an amateur compared to other people on this forum, but fortunately live near and ancient forest. Generally I download picture of leaves on my Iphone and walk the woods trying to reconised the trees. there's usually a good number of fallen trees or trees cut down by surgeons for most of the year. I know with some forests some trees like Sycamore are almost consdered vermin and there's no problem cutting them, but others the park keepers get very narked.

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Stupidity got us into this mess, why can't it get us out

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Re: Wood Hunting

Post by skalla on Tue Jul 16, 2013 6:27 pm

I used to carry a Collins Gem book of British Trees and Shrubs for ID untill i knew the regulars, usually cost about 2.99 and more convenient than dropping a few hundreds quid of phone on a rock Smile

Parks often have lovely ornamental trees with hard to find wood - befriending a park keeper could pay dividends as all trees get pruned once in a while.  But it does not mean it will be good for a shillelagh...

If you are making a Shillelagh, you need to  bear in mind that the head comes from a larger branch, and the "stick" from a smaller branch growing out of it.  This obvs means it's not particularly "stealth" due to the amount of sawing (a min of 3 cuts to detatch a shillelagh - 1 either side of the head, and 1 at the base of the stick) and producing waste - this only matters if practicing extreme wombling.

IMO Shillelaghs need a parent tree of decent size due to the size of the hitty bit.... eg: my best source of Hawthorn is generally hedges that were cut via a tractor flail 8-10 years ago and then left and not done again - the regrowth is quite straight-ish and great for the task of making clubs.  Hawthorn will split easily if peeled when moist - it's positively dripping in summer.

Sadly you rarely see this with Blackthorn (classic for shillelaghs) in the UK as they dont get used in hedges much anymore, or they are well tended Sad  Blackthorn splits very very easily, far worse than Hawthorn.  Never work your best piece first, i did this with my first cache of the stuff and i was shocked at how it tore itself to pieces.

Ash is great for the job, and often grows like a weed and therefore easily wombled, get it while you can too, Ash die-back may yet change our forests.  It also grows fairly straight and does not hold much moisture, so its forgiving on the checking issue.

Forget oak - it does not typically grow that straight and will blunt your knife and desire to carry on if you try to work it once seasoned.

Holly is great, but again splits very easily.  Willow, Hazel and Rowan are much more forgiving and easier to work, though are much lighter and more brittle.

I've not tried Elm/Wytchelm, but they should do a good job if you can find one of the right size.  Birches, Maples, Planes and Sykkies should be good too - Plane in particular could have gorgeous grain around the head where you expose the end-grain and all the colours.

Beech is great, and i have never noticed checking in it, and Hornbeam shoulkd be similar but even harder when dry.  If you find Hop-Hornbeam (most likely in a park) then you will have a stick of legendary strength!

Cherry and Gean should be awesome for the task too... i plan a local raid on some in nearby wasteland once summer is over.

In Ancient forests, beware as trees may be protected - eg: Service Trees and Small Leaved Lime - very ancient and much in decline Smile


The best time to cut a stick?  Most folk say "when you see it", so others dont beat you to it....but then the sap is high in summer, and the thing is more likely to split if you season it.  I try to cut in Autumn and Winter, so there is less sap, and the tree has time to produce re-growth/buds for the next growing seaon.

I also cut all vertically growing wood at a 45 degree angle.  This means rainwater wont penetrate the wood so easily and cause rot and infections to the parent.  If i am cutting a sapling, i always cut above a node to leave a place for new buds to grow etc.

When cutting, allow for checking, ie: splits developing in the radius as the stick dries.  i cut way over long around a shillelagh/knobstick head in the hope that they will not reach the bit i intend to use.  I also cut over long for length too.  Nowt worse than looking forwards to a finished product and then realising that splits have foiled your plans.

Now you could actually work the stick straight away and ignore checking.  On moist woods, this is risky - you have to make the stick quickly (ie carve to shape, skin it if you are doing so) and store it in a way that radically slows drying between working on it.  This is do-able even with moist woods - you can store it in a box or bag of woodshavings between work sessions, or cover in a paper/placcy bag and allow a little moisture out every now and again by leaving it open for 10 mins a day - but it's a hassle.  Some even store green wood in water between work sessions - i've never tried this but i have dipped work in water before storing in a plastic bag.  The reason to season a stick first is so it wont check/split as you work it, and you can work it at your leisure.


Last edited by skalla on Tue Jul 16, 2013 6:37 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Wood Hunting

Post by skalla on Tue Jul 16, 2013 6:34 pm

Also if seasoning a stick, paint exposed end grain to slow drying... emulsion works fine.

..and dont lean a stick in a corner to seaon, it will develop a bow over time.  Lay it flat, or even screw an eylet into the base and hang upside down to let gravity take some of the bends out as it drys.

And season in a cool, dark place!

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Re: Wood Hunting

Post by skalla on Wed Jul 17, 2013 6:08 pm

I almost forgot - Sweet Chestnut is great for walking sticks (most of the NHS's "classic" walking sticks are made from this) and younger shoots have gorgeous bark but the wood is also a beautiful golden colour.  If you can expose the side grain by cutting or filing from the side and polishing it you can get some lovely patterns.

Not so good for knobsticks though as it can split easily, though if you dry it very slowly (cutting over long for checking etc) OR work it quickly while green and then oil it, it will have lovely results.

While i try to avoid a stick checking, it is not the end of the world and i have made many nice sticks with little cracks in the handle/head that once oiled have not spread in years and are quite stable.

Personally i wouldnt bother with softer woods like poplar or pine, though some do.

skalla
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Re: Wood Hunting

Post by grendel on Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:55 pm

Wow, what a write up. Perhaps the most detailed response on the forum. I went into the local village where I am today and low and behold found a copy of the Colin's Gems you recommended and had a go at IDing some of the trees nearby. Thanks.

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I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. cats look down on us but pigs treat us as equals.

Stupidity got us into this mess, why can't it get us out

grendel
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Re: Wood Hunting

Post by skalla on Wed Jul 17, 2013 10:06 pm

No sweat, i could talk for ages on sticks and trees Very Happy  i actually had to stop myself from writing more Razz

That Collins Gem on British Trees is awesome too, the whole range is great infact - wildflowers, insects, birds, herbs, the night sky etc, they are a nature geek's dream and i've found them invaluable.

skalla
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Re: Wood Hunting

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