The next step is to select and fit a ferrule to protect the bottom end of your walking sticks before putting the finishing touches to the walking canes.
For making walking sticks UK and Ireland three choices of material for the ferrule: metal, rubber or horn all can be fitted to all walking sticks. I shall deal with horn later because, to my mind, such a ferrule goes best with a walking sticks handle to match. As for rubber, whilst giving a good grip and being easy to fit (and replace) it always appears cumbersome to me. So, I am going to concentrate here on metal ferrules.
At its cheapest, a sawn-off piece of copper tubing will suffice, but it always looks just what it is. For the modest cost involved, a purpose-made, closed- end ferrule in dull brass is the answer, being both neat and durable.
Brass ferrules are available in a variety of sizes for different walking sticks, ranging from /8—1 inch (10—25mm), and can be purchased singly at game fairs and larger agricultural shows, or in quantities from the suppliers of walking sticks material.
To select one, measure the diameter of the walking sticks an inch (25mm) or so in from its end. This will give you the right size ferrule you need for your walking sticks. Then, carefully cut through the bark around the circumference of the walking sticks at a point near the end which is slightly less than the length of the ferrule itself, I use a junior hacksaw to make this cut; others prefer a sharp knife. The mark has three functions:
1 it serves as a working guide;
2 it prevents the bark above it from flaking off; and
3 it becomes the collar against which the ferrule will eventually sit.
Until you gain more practice and confidence from fitting ferrules to walking canes, I recommend you stick a single turn of masking (or insulating) tape immediately above your mark in order to protect the bark from the next step, which is to rasp the end into a gentle taper to fit the ferrule to the walking sticks shaft. The only problem with adhesive tape (whatever the type) is that it can be too sticky. On removal, it can tear of the bark from the shank of the walking sticks, which it was intended to protect. To minimize this risk, before putting it in place, press the strip you are going to apply onto another surface first — a dusty trouser leg is ideal! This will remove some, but not all of its adhesion and make it less likely to damage the bark on your walking sticks. Try the ferrule for fit and, when it can be readily pushed on for about three- quarters of its length, remove it.
At this stage many UK walking sticks makers tap the ferrule home and call it a day, but we will not. Before this, you need to seal the wood you have exposed in cutting the taper. Remember, this is the ‘business end’ of the walking sticks, which will he constantly under threat from mud, muck and water. This process takes less than a minute and is well worth the effort. Any varnish will do, but I generally use the tin of yacht varnish I’ve bought to give the walking sticks its final finish.
So, apply a little varnish (it need not dry off), replace the walking canes ferrule and tap it home so that it fits snugly against your earlier mark. To make sure it stays there, insert a small veneer pin (cut to length as necessary) near the rim of the ferrule and into the walking sticks shaft, but at this stage do not tap the pin in completely. If you tie a loop of strong thread to the protruding pin, it will provide a convenient means of suspending the walking sticks after it has been varnished, when leaving it to dry. Alternatively, use a small punch to create three equidistant dimples around the rim.