I have been making custom walking sticks for both fashion and practical applications for all of my adult life. My inspiration was the TV character Bat Masterson and my muses were Frank Herbert ("Dune") and worlds created by Andre Norton, E.C.Tub, John Brunner, Ann McCaffery, and Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Over the years my sticks have have been commissioned as gifts or for personal use. Probably the three most notable were Dr. Robert Johnston, Dean of the School for the American Craftsman at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Aileen Vanderbilt Webb founder of the School for the American Craftsman and the Museum of Contemporary Crafts New York and Paul Garber the founder and Director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
In the first thumbnail the #1 piece is a 6.5 ft tall walking staff made for a local hippy guru. It's made from East Indian rosewood, brass and the brass pentagram is set with a tiger eye agate in its center. The stick was made to break in two (pool que style) and slip into a leather quiver so that the guru could hop on his Harley and ride
#2 is an ebony stick with silver pin stripes and a silver dome pommel.
It was made on speculation and later given as a gift
#3 a Brazilian Rosewood ,Teak, brass and copper stick with a stash box inside. To operate you palmed the center dot in the pommel pressed down and twisted. A spring loaded tube would pop out filled with you know what. It was a commissioned by someone who will go nameless.
#4 is a Cocabolo and brass piece made on speculation and later sold to a dapper old Englishman who was a professor of far Eastern History. He later commissioned a piece for his nephew. I might add that it was this stick that was the springboard for the piece that was later commissioned by Dr. Robert Johnston for his own personal use.
#5 was the first stick I ever made. I really never intended to make a stick at all. At the time I was an undergrad sculpture student just trying to make art . The head of the stick was a cast bronze head study of a young woman I had done for class. After I had it for a while it occurred to me that it might make a cool head for a walking stick. I then promptly forgot about it for almost a year. Around that time I was at this jewelry supply place and noticed this piece of wood on the shelf. It was 1"square and 36" long and it was unusually heavy. I asked the owner what it was and he said it was Cocabolo. I looked at the wood more carefully and saw some interesting grain and it had a smell that reminded me of something that I couldn't quite place. I bought it .......I had found the other half of the stick.
Turning the shaft was a life altering experience. (This all occurred around 1970. What with me being a hippy, long haired sculptor you can imagine the sorts of mind alerting stuff I was into. There were however two things I never did in an altered state. I never worked with machinery because it was to dangerous and I never read books because I'd fall asleep). During the times just before the turning I had discovered a new sci/fi author. Frank Herbert's Dune was amazing. The planet Arakis, the Freemen,their dessert, the giant worms and the ever present spice. Spice the life blood at the very heart of existence for the dessert planet and all of its people. I remember starting to turn this exotic wood and as the dust swirled around me there was this sweet pungent spicy? aroma. At that exact instant I was no longer on Earth but in a cloud of spice on the surface of Dune. From that day on I was in love with exotic hardwoods and I became a lifelong cane maker.
The stick was really pretty horrible. The head was so heavy it felt like a hammer in my hand. I wound up cutting the head off and using the wood in a different stick and the head is on my desk today.
#6 is a sword cane. It was made of a patchwork from all the scraps of exotics that I had lying around the shop. The handle was wrapped with horse hair twine. The sword was made from an old pig sticker bayonet. The hilt of the sword was made of brass with a spring loaded hand guard that sprung open when the hilt popped out of the end of the cane ( see #3 ). I'll try to find a picture of the sword unsheathed.
#7 is a copper studded Bubbinga pommel weighted head banger
In the second thumbnail the first and the last are made from Ebony and Holly bent laminated veneers and silver. The last is an almost exact reinterpretation of the opera stick that Dr. Robert Johnston commissioned as a birthday gift for Aileen Vanderbilt Webb.
The second third and fourth are notable for the wood species. The second is primarily Brazilian Tulip wood with Rosewood and brass trim. The third is Ebony and Corkscrew Willow. The fourth is Osage Orange.
The only piece left is the only stick i have no visual record of. In 1979 I and my partner Betsy Lewis owned and operated the Skyline Kite Shop...."you meet the nicest people at the end of a line". Being in the business we naturally belonged to The American Kite Fliers Association( AKA ). It also goes without saying that every kite fliers association must have an annual convention. Well Betsy and I had to come up with something special for the kite making competition. She made this amazing rip stop nylon double dorsal finned sled kite that rolled up and slid into a matching rip stop sleeve about as big around as a pencil. For my part I made an Ebony stick in which fit the kite and an Ebony skein of kite line. The perfect cane for the gentleman kite flier. The stick took second place in the nationals (this was an incredible achievement). We decided to put the stick up for the annual fundraising auction. It took the second highest price in the history of the AKA auction. As it happened the president of the AKA bought it and gave as a gift to it's most famous founding member( did I tell the convention was held in Washington D.C.) and the member was the founder and Director Ameritus of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Paul Garber.
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