dowel joint walking stick

The best joint is the dowel joint, it is not that difficult to do.

If you are joining a horn or wood handle to your stick you will need a 13mm drill bit, 4” (10cm) masonry nail, masking tape and epoxy glue.

First find the centre of the handle (I have an assortment of steel washers with small centre holes, find one that is about the same diameter as the end of your handle. Use a bradawl and mark the centre). Fix the handle in the vice as upright as possible using a spirit level. Using the 13mm bit, line your drill up as upright as possible. Eye it up against an upright door post or wall post. Keep the drill lined up and drill down 5mm. Move yourself around a ¼ turn and find another upright post and drill down 5mm. Keep moving from front to side in stages until you have gone down 2” (50mm), your hole should now be fairly straight.

Use a wide file or disc sander to flatten the end and decide whether you want your joint straight or angled. Stand your handle on it’s flattened end to make sure it is not leaning to one side or the other and the nose is pointing down straight.

Select a stick, look for one that is slightly smaller than your handle, with a slight taper and a colour to compliment your handle. Put your stick upright in the vice, mark the centre with a washer and drill a 1/8” pilot hole down the centre. Keep your drill upright as you did before and drill down about 3” (76cms). Now using a 3 ½”-4” (9-10cm) masonry nail, grind off the head and fit the nail into your drill about ½” (12mm) into the chuck and drill the nail down the pilot hole as far as you can. Remove the drill and tap the remainder in flush with a hammer.

dowel joint

Next measure the depth of your handle and transfer this measurement on to your stick.

Use a turn of masking tape (first pat on trousers or somewhere to take off some of the sticky, or it might take off your bark when you eventually remove it, as the tape stays on until the joint Is complete).

Cut a line around the top of the tape with a small saw or knife about 2mm deep.

dowel joint

Using a sharp knife and working evenly around the stick, remove the waste until it fits your 13mm hole. Keep twisting your handle on to the stick and remove the waste wood with knife and file, keeping it nice and round till the handle has reached your saw cut.

dowel joint

(At this stage it is the same for a straight joint or an angle joint).

Hold the stick by the end and look down it, like a gun, towards the handle.

Now twist the handle until the head Is in the best position and the nose is pointing straight down the stick.

This is now where your handle will go. Mark a line on the tape and the handle.

dowel joint

So each time you take the handle off it will go back in exactly the same position. If you have done an angle joint, alter your saw cut now to match your handle. To get the perfect joint use a sharp Stanley knife or scalpel and keep trimming the stick joint until it matches the handle exactly. Slightly undercut your stick joint, then it is just a matter of trimming away the bark edge.

It also helps to hold your joint up to the light and trim of the high spots until you cannot see any daylight through your joint and your mark is still lined up, cut a small V notch along the whole length of your dowel, this will help to let out surplus glue and air to stop it having a piston effect. Glue together and you will have a perfect joint.

When the glue is dry, file your handle down to the size of your stick. Keep the turn of masking tape around the top of the stick to help protect your bark. First file all four sides down to the stick level, now take off the four corners to stick level, you know have eight sides, remove these corners carefully and strip with emery cloth to a round finish with no scratch marks. (For horn handles polish with Brasso or Tcut to get your final shine.)

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