Blackthorn is a member of the Prunus family, which includes many fruit trees including cherry, plum, damson, apricot, and peach and, like its relatives, produces its own sort of ‘fruit‘ – the sloe. This is a small blue/black berry containing a single hard stone. The taste is very sour but it is used in flavouring sloe gin – a very popular tipple! In early Spring, blackthorn bears small white flowers.

While blackthorn is widely regarded as the ultimate wood for walking sticks, suitable pieces are hard to come by. Here in Ireland, it tends to grow in low, dense thickets which can be all but impenetrable. These thickets rarely yield any useful material as the stems don’t usually grow much above a couple of feet tall before spreading into a tangled twiggy mess.

It has been traditional in Ireland to hide the bark under a thick coat of of black paint. At Derryhick Sticks I prefer to enhance the colour of the bark which can vary from a bright red-brown to purple-black. With vigorous buffing and polishing a silky-smooth finish of great depth can be achieved.
Being a much denser wood than, say, hazel, blackthorn takes much longer to dry out thoroughly. Hazel can be fully seasoned within 18 months whereas blackthorn can take up to seven years.

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