I produce one piece walking sticks and canes from, possibly, the widest range of wood species available anywhere. My stock normally includes Alder, Ash, Birch, Blackthorn, Elderberry, Hazel, Hawthorn, Holly, Privet and Rhododendron. I also produce sticks from Ivy and Gorse but, due to scarcity of suitable shanks, they are not always in stock.
If you are looking for a walking stick with a skillfully carved handle of traditional design or depicting a dog, bird, fish or other feature, then my sticks are not for you.
If you are looking for a walking stick which has had rams horn, buffalo horn, cow horn or deer antler carefully added as a handle, then my sticks are not for you.
If you like your walking sticks to be without flaw or imperfection and to have shanks as straight as a snooker cue, then my sticks are not for you.
If, however, you would like a walking stick for every day rustic country living, a once-off stick with a handle designed only by nature, a stick with its own unique characteristics, a stick not just for admiring but for taking with you on a walk, then a Derryhick stick is definitely for you.
My sticks are produced from natually grown shanks so the size and quality can vary significantly. Each handle has to be shaped, the shank is heated for some straightening (not a lot), then follows much boring sanding and, finally, several finishing coats are applied. Very few sticks will turn out to be blemish free. This is to be expected and hairline cracks and colour variations are accepted as normal characteristics.
So, the slogan ‘Created by Nature – finished by hand’ accurately describes Derryhick sticks. I avoid the temptation to straighten them like billiard cues or to hide natural imperfections or other little idiosyncrasies. Instead I concentrate on shaping a comfortable grip on the handle. Once this is achieved I shave, sand and finish the shank to enhance whatever colour and grain that nature has given the stick. The end product is always a stick with its own unique look and character… one that the owner can establish an affinity with knowing that he/she will never see a copy with anyone else.
Each stick on this site is separately photographed and numbered so that browsers can select the precise stick that will be despatched on purchase.
Possibly the most enjoyable aspect of stick-making is the task of sourcing the raw material. I am always on the look-out for likely spots that may be home to some suitable sticks. Once a site is identified, it is then time to seek permission from the owner to enter the land and search for and cut some sticks.
Permission obtained, it’s off on a day’s hunting… for sticks. On such excursions I bring a sandwich and all of the gear necessary for the job, e.g. folding saw, small spade, gloves and some rope. Of course my trusted sprocker, Rocky, is an ever present companion and is very often the only subject that Ie will speak to for the entire day!
After that it is a matter of chance and good luck… some days will be fruitful with a dozen or more sticks being found while other days can be quite disappointing.
Next, the day’s ‘catch’ is hauled home on back – sometimes a mile or more. This can be physically demanding as stick cutting is always undertaken in November, December and January when underfoot conditions can be difficult and hazardous. However, the exercise gained in getting out in the fresh air looking for the sticks compensates for the less healthy task of sanding them later on in the process. Once home, the ends of the newly cut sticks are treated with a couple of coats of varnish or wax in order to reduce the risk of splitting while drying out.
Now the sticks are sorted into varieties (hazel, holly, ash, etc.) and put away to dry out in an old disused hay shed. Here they stay for a minimum of two years but some species (e.g. blackthorn) can take up to seven years to fully dry out. During the drying out period the sticks are occasionally treated with an insecticide to prevent the risk of woodworm infestation. After that it is a matter of patience – just waiting until the sticks have dried out sufficiently for us to begin work on turning them into the finished product.
The first thing I do is to look at options for shaping a comfortable handle from what nature has provided. Then I do some straightening to ensure that the finished stick is well balanced. However, I believe that so much character can be lost by trying to make our sticks like billiard cues and, therefore, I interfere as little as possible from the natural growth line of the stick.
Next, I decide whether the stick should be de-barked, shaved or left with the bark on. From there to completion it is a matter of sanding, oiling, sanding, varnishing, sanding (yes, never ending sanding) and varnishing until I get that velvety sheen finish which is the hallmark of every Derryhick Stick.
All in all, taking the time involved in harvesting, seasoning, shaping and finishing, we estimate that a minimum of 8 hours is spent on each stick… makes the price look amazing value!
No handle on any Derryhick stick is machine shaped. None is ever hand carved to resemble dogs, birds, fish, etc. None is ever added to a separate shank. Every Derryhick stick is a one piece stick where nature has provided its own handle. All of them are either just as they grew or have been slightly modified to ensure a comfortable grip. All of them have been sanded to a very smooth finish, oiled and finished to give a lovely satin feel.
The photographs underneath give an idea of how some of our handles look.
Down many years stick-makers and stick-dressing associations have given names to various shapes of handles.
Many of our sticks have handles that closely resemble some of those handles… but only because nature produced them somewhat like such examples. In such instances, our description of the sticks will refer to the nearest such formal name, e.g. ‘Grafton Knob’ like handle.
The table below shows some of the traditional shapes and their names.