Stick with a little style

A few weeks ago Manish, who is a student at PFW, called to say he’d taken a fall down some stairs and hurt his ankle. Hurt his ankle? When I saw the i-phone photo he sent of his injury, I thought he would never walk again. Well, with the aid of an ankle brace, Manish is back on his feet – sort of.  But hobbling around with a brace is tough – and very slow.  Manish is an energetic and smart young executive who supervises scores of subordinates and travels all over the country. He’s a very busy guy who can’t afford to lie around while his leg heals. He’s got to be on his feet and on the move. Manish needed to be less of an invalid and more of a man in charge. How could we transform Manish’s condition from one of immobility and helplessness to one of action and accomplishment? Historically, men of power, wealth and style carried canes. It might have helped them get around, but a cane was also regarded as an essential part of a gentleman’s wardrobe; a symbol of his influence and refined taste. Oscar Wilde carried one, so did the Marquis De Lafayette and Price Albert; the Duke of Windsor had a collection of them.  Manish needed some panache. We had to replace his stagger with some swagger. A walking stick might be the answer. I suggested the idea to Manish and he jumped on it. This was also a chance to improve his turning skills and get in a little shop time. I made a few of sketches, pulled a couple of walnut chunks for turning blanks, and found a 36” length of walnut, about 1 1/4” square. Perfect. The idea was to turn a slender staff and top it off with a sculpted handle; attached to the staff with a wedged through-tenon. The project skills weren’t difficult at all. This was a matter of good planning; executing each task in the proper order for the best results, in the least amount of time and with the least effort. Below are a few shots taken as Manish’s stick took shape. It wasn’t difficult and didn’t take too long. I think we were both pleased with the result. Although it still had to be sanded and finished, Manish tested out the stick. As he wrapped his hand around the sculpted handle and placed his weight upon it, the walnut staff seemed to suit him; standing straight and strong, his confidence and authority were restored. By the time he reached our parking lot, Manish had adjusted his gait to make the most of his new accessory. I could already picture him waving his new cane to hail a Center City cab; entrusting it to coat check clerks at Philadelphia’s finest restaurants; using it to point out local landmarks to admiring colleagues. Manish was his old self again. Mario  

The rough carved handle has been drilled for the staff's through-tenon.


The handle has been glued to the staff. Now the ebony-wedged tenon must be trimmed.

Manish inspecting progress on the carved handle.

A Grobet detail file is used to fair and smooth the handle.

The completed walking stick.


Shooting the Shoot

What do I do at PFW when not teaching or preparing for a class?   Well, a number of things, I suppose.  But one of my favorites is researching and writing an article for a woodworking publication.  Writing for a peer-reviewed publication is a privilege; woodworkers are the line editors at nearly all of the major woodworking magazines. Last week we welcomed Steve Scott to the shop.  Steve has been an editor at Taunton’s Fine Woodworking Magazine since 2004, and, of course, is a woodworker. Steve came down from Connecticut to photograph an article I am writing for Fine, which does all of its own photography.  Other magazines rely heavily on the author’s photography.  Mario does the photography for my writing, and for his. What is involved in a photo shoot?  Basically, the shoot is an opportunity for Fine to not only obtain the artwork for the article, but also to challenge the author to produce what he is writing about under the unforgiving eye of the camera. The shoot is a process.  The author needs to be ready to work with accuracy and speed.  It is a challenge to make everything work, on time and on budget.  Photoshop is not an option when the editor is looking over your shoulder.   This was a fun shoot.  Steve and I were concentrating on a close-up shot, and suddenly we both heard Mario, camera  at the ready, saying “Freeze”.  We had told Steve beforehand that we wanted to photograph the shoot and blog it, but by now it was mid-afternoon and we had been working steadily since about 8:30 am and had forgotten the plan.  It was a full day; we didn’t finish till just before 6 pm, so Mario only got a couple of shots.   So, how do you break in to the process of being a freelance author in the woodworking field.  Usually, you need an idea, and you need to pitch it to the right editor.  But I got a real break.  My first article came out of the blue.  One Fall day I fielded a call to PFW from an Editor in Chief; he was looking for a garden arbor to fill the cover of his forthcoming Spring issue.  I was on it, with Mario’s good eye as the principal designer.  I built the arbor, several times to adjust the proportions, wrote the article, and was off and running.  For subsequent articles, it was the process described above.  When pitching the article idea, some close up photography can be helpful, as well as an abstract or outline of the article.  I have found that tools, techniques, and process articles sell better than project based articles, the experiences of others may well be different. Look for the article, edited by Steve, in FWW in a couple of months. Alan Turner PFW