Monday, February 26, 2018

DIY Walking Cane #1 - First Attempt

Recently I hurt my back, and for a while I was using my Grandfather's old walking cane.

One day I decided to sit in my workshop and clean up the cane a bit.  It was more-or-less unaltered and unused since my Grandfather died.

I sanded down the old finish and a lot of the rough spots.  But I kept a majority of the pits and small holes filled with dirt and grime because I really don't want it to look any different.

I gave it a few coats of furniture wax and hand-buffed it to a shine.

It's a nice cane, but I'm afraid of damaging it somehow.  This is when I thought it would be fun to make my own cane.

Making a cane seems pretty straight forward, but it needs to be strong in order for someone to put their weight on it.  This is why all (wood) canes are made of hard woods. The spot where the cane handle meets the shaft is where there's the maximum amount of pressure, so softer woods like pine won't cut it.  Not really having money for new materials at the moment I began this project, I rummaged around my workshop looking for some hardwood to use.  I found 4 Oak legs to an old coffee table someone gave me, and some other Oak pieces I had lying around.  Oak is a pretty hard wood and should be good for a cane.

I also found a cane handle template online which I printed out.

The first thing I did was glue up 2 of the pieces of Oak that will ultimately become the handle.

For the main part of the cane I'll use the Oak table legs, which were 2 pieces of wood glued together at a 90 degree angle.  These pieces will need to be cut down to thinner pieces, but there are nails inside that needed to be removed.  So I broke the leg pieces apart to access the nails.

Each leg had 3 nails.

And they were rather long too.   If I would have run the legs through my table saw before removing the nails I could have damaged my saw's blade.

After a short while I had a stack of Oak wood ready for trimming.

I first ran the wood through the saw to remove the ripped-up edges.

Then I ran the wood through to remove the opposite, rounded edges.

And lastly I trimmed all the ends of the boards to be flush.

This gave me 8 pieces of usable wood.

But before I could start gluing these up, I needed to run each piece through my surface planer.

This made the pieces a good size for the cane shaft, plus removed the existing finish, which will make it easier to glue up.

I laid out the wood how I saw fit and labeled each piece.

I staggered the joints of each piece so that the cane will have some strength to it.

Then I glued all the pieces together and clamped it tightly.

While that dried I decided to start working on the cane handle.  The pieces I glued up for the handle had been dry for a while, so I squared up all the edges on the table saw.

This piece of wood was a little too thick for a handle, and also had some finish on it, so I used the table saw to cut off a bit on both sides...

...and used the surface planer to smooth it all out. 

Next I traced the handle shape onto the wood...

...and cut the shape out on my bandsaw.

Next came a lot of sanding to refine the shape of the handle.  I did this with my combination belt/disc sander.

After a few hours I removed the clamps from the cane shaft.

I then trimmed each side on the table saw,

Next I cut the shaft to size on the miter saw.

The next step is to connect the handle to the shaft.

To do this I figured I use a double-sided screw I had.

I marked the centers of the shaft and handle...

...and then drilled a hole for the screw.

First I attached the screw to the handle...

...then attached it to the shaft.

While screwing the 2 sides together tightly, part of the shaft cracked.

This made the handle not very stable.

So I removed the screw, and glued the crack together and used a dowel instead.

I then glued the handle to the dowel and shaft and clamped it together tightly.

After drying, I sanded the joint between the 2 pieces to be flush.

Now it was time to better shape this cane.  I inserted a 1/2" roundover bit into the router table and began rounding all the edges.

The shaft did well, but there was significant blow-out on the handle.

Also blown out was a bit of the front tip.

But for the most part, the cane is nicely rounded, and looks more like a cane now.

Next I used the belt sander to give the heel of the cane a bit of a taper...

...and then clamped the cane to my workbench to begin fixing up the shape of the handle with files and sandpaper.

I noticed during the routing process that some of the joints on the shaft had buckled.

To fix this I would used some of my leftover Oak scraps from when I trimmed the wood earlier.

Some of the scraps are 1/8" thick - which is the thickness of the blade on my table saw.  So I can cut a 1/8" thick hole through the joints and glue the scraps in place.  To do this I would need some spacers on my table saw sled to make sure I get even cuts on the shaft.  Without the spacers I can't line up the joints straight since the cane handle would tilt the shaft.

I cut the groves at each joint to be on the safe side...

...and then glued the scraps in place.  Then I clamped the whole can tightly.

When the glue dried, I trimmed the scraps with a hand saw...

...and then sanded the shaft.

At this point I wanted to see how strong it was.  The shaft is good, but the joint between the handle and shaft is still rather weak.

In fact, it broke off - easily.  I'm guessing the 3/8" dowel I used is not very good for this application.

So I brought the handle and shaft to the miter saw and trimmed the broken edges.

Then I drilled through the dowel I glued in earlier.  This time I drilled through to the top of the handle so that I can insert a long screw through the entirety of the handle.

I also trimmed the damaged part of the shaft and drilled as far as I could.  This makes my cane a little shorter than I would have liked, but at this point it's more important for me to learn how to make this properly so that my next attempt at cane-making goes smoothly.

I had a pair of insert bolts that a bolt can screw into.

I drilled a slightly larger hole for the bolts and attached them with an Allen key.

Then I attached the screw through the top hole I created earlier.

I also used some thread locker to keep the bolt and screw attached permanently.

I then used a dowel to fill up the top hole (not pictured).  The cane went together nicely, but...

...another crack formed on the shaft.  Jeez.

Despite this crack, the cane is holding together well, and the joint at the handle and the shaft is pretty strong.  So to fortify the joint better I'll make use of some more of my scrap wood I cut earlier.

I sanded the handle and shaft (near the joint) flat with my orbital sander...

Then I glued and clamped some scrap wood to these areas.

When the glue dried I trimmed the excess wood off.

Then I took it to the belt sander to began shaping the additions to fit the rest of the cane.

I also used my mouse sander and did some hand sanding to refine the shape.

Next I used some glue and sawdust as filler for the new pieces.

When that filler dried I sanded.  It was definitely tougher than regular wood filler and was not easy to smooth out.

So I opted to use regular wood filler to give the handle a smoother finish.

Once the filler dried I did a lot of sanding.

Then I cleaned it up and prepped for staining.

I originally didn't want to stain this cane, but since there's a lot of cover-up wood filler, I figured it should be stained.  For this I'm going to use a dark wood stain - Ebony.

For the most part it looks nice.

But some of the areas with wood filler don't look as nice.

So I masked some of those areas with lightly-misted black spray paint.

Once the stain and paint were dry I applied some matte clear coat, as it was the only kind of finish I had on hand.  When I make my final cane one of these days I'll apply some polyurethane to it.

Once the clear coat was dry I gave the cane a final light sanding and cleaned it up.

This cane turned out decently, but I wouldn't trust using it for real.

I think I also need to get one of those rubber caps for the bottom of it.

But I did learn a lot from this project, and I have some ideas for my next attempt.

So check out my next entry, and thanks for reading.

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