woensdag 6 augustus 2014

Building an eagle head hiking staff.

I admire raptors and the eagle is easily the most impressive of them. I Always try to spot birds of prey while traveling by car or bike and occasionally visit raptor shows. Although rare, it is possible to see the sea eagle around my hometown

While visiting the Teylingen siege (“Belegering van Teylingen”) in 2013, I saw one of the re-enactors hold a hiking staff topped with a wooden eagle head. Unfortunately I did note make a photograph of it, and was unable to find one afterwards.

Ever since then, I have wanted to build myself one of these. For a long time, wanting it was all I did, until I happened to cut down a conifer in my garden. 

A Piece of its trunk looked to be extremely suitable for carving the eagle head, so I started whittling it. Now I haven’t whittled wood since I was a teenager. And even then I hardly did anything but making sharp sticks.

As I had no reference to the actual staff except for the image in my mind, I set out to finding an eagle's picture en profile, which turned out to be easier than I thought.

So with some hesitation, I set out to carve an eagle’s head. The main tool being a utility knife.

Making the initial shape was relatively easy as it resembles a pointy stick fairly well. The soft wood on the outside is easy to carve. The harder wood on the inside is, well... harder.

However, what to do next? Fortunately, we have Youtube now. Imagine what it would have been like to have had Youtube when I was a teenager! But there it is now, Youtube to the rescue!


So now I knew more or less how to go forward. I decided to order some wood carving chisels on a Chinese website. While waiting for them to arrive I did some more shaping with the utility knife.

The chisels arrived in just over a week. A pleasant surprise, and excellent timing! I was just about ready for adding details.

With the head nearing completion, it was time to make the actual hiking staff. I had a branch in the garden shed that was discarded from a road construction project nearby. By now it has been drying several months, so it is ready to be transformed from branch to hiking staff. Again, it is the Internet that provides the required information. Diamond Willow Sticks: "Pure Art by Mom nature". Now I am not sure what type of wood I have, but I am sure that it is not willow. The basic principles are however applicable no matter what wood I suppose.

First, I cleared all the bits sticking out with a saw and knife. Then came decoratively removing part of the bark, and leaving it in place on other parts.

Once that was done, i cut the stick to length (so that the eagles beak will poke my eye out) and started smoothing it with progressively finer sandpaper (100/200/400).

I put a couple of M5 threaded inserts in both the staff and the eagle head so I can mount the eagle on the staff. This leaves me the option to easily switch the head to another staff in case I happen to find a more suitable and/ or more pleasing one.

After cleaning, I applied some IKEA 'Skydd' to the staff, a cheap white mineral oil normally used to treat wooden cutting boards and the like. And again, and again, and again. I Stopped counting the number of layers, but just went on until the wood absorbed no more.

I used the new chisels to carve out the 'feathers' on the head and then sanded it to a smooth finish. It is starting to look the piece!

Here is the staff at the current stage..need do do some more finishing.

The staff got a final coat of beeswax - Kruidvat Protect Bijenwas - which is actually a mix of carnauba wax and beeswax. It claims to be made natural materials, but smells very chemical. The picture below shows the lower end of the staff after waxing.

The Eagle head was treated the same. First sandpaper (200/ 400) and then a few layers of 'Skydd' and the 'Protect' wax...

So here it is, my very own eagle head hiking staff. Still not entirely finished as I want to add a leather hand grip and a feather streamer. I need to find the right material for that, so I will do that later.

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