These sticks come mostly from Algeria, where they are specially cultivated.
This favourite stick has been known in commerce for some 20 years or more. It is imported from Borneo, and for a long time after its introduction its botanical origin remained a mystery. It has, however, since been referred to the genus of palms Eugeissonia, and probably to the species minor. The commercial name rajah is said to be derived from the fact of the duties paid for its export being claimed by the Rajah of Borneo.
Under this name a variety of sticks, apparently the produce of different species of Calamus, are known. Thus we have root rattans, white hard-barked rattans, monster rattans, miniature rattans, and so on. They are all of a similar character, with the scars of the fallen leaves strongly marked in transverse rings. They are the produce of Eastern countries.
This is also known under the name of letter-wood and leopard-wood. It is the produce of a large tree, native of Guiana, Northern Peru? Brazil, and Trinidad. The wood is extremely hard, of a reddish-brown colour, marked with dark transverse blotches. It makes one of the handsomest sticks known, and when mounted with gold has a very rich appearance.
Under this name the stems of the mullein ( Verbascum Thapsus) are known in commerce. They are slender and very light, both in colour and weight; they are, however, very prettily marked, and make good handles for umbrellas.
These are slender-jointed sticks of the character of bamboos, and are the produce of an unknown species of Arundinaria. They make light and strong sunshade handles, and are very much used for that purpose. They are imported from China.
This is a well-known cane imported from Japan, and is formed of the rhizome or underground stem of a kind of bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra). The cane is very pliable, and is very distinctly marked by the transverse scars of the young shoots, where they have died out, and where the rootlets have fallen off. The canes are mostly of a pale yellow colour, but there is a variety with black scars known as the black whangee.
This is another name for hawthorn (Crataegus Oxyacantha). The wood is very hard and close-grained, and makes very strong sticks.
A close-grained, nearly black wood; used mostly as a cabinet wood. It takes a good polish, and has a very handsome appearance. (J. R. Jackson).
(2) Walking sticks should not be cut or pulled later in the spring than February, nor earlier in autumn than October, the best time being from early December to mid-February. They should not be stripped of bark nor worked till half dry, and meantime should be stored in a cool and moderately dry place. It is best to leave all roots and spurs on the stick about 1 in. long when laying aside to dry. When half dry their suppleness is at its greatest, and working is facilitated.
Holly sticks must be only rough trimmed when put away to season. Ash sticks must also be rough trimmed and well seasoned before they are barked and polished. The wood and curiously-formed root-knobs of ground ash admit of excellent grotesque carving.
Of all home-grown sticks oak is the most reliable, and stout oaken cudgels are esteemed by most persons as some of the best props'to failing legs, as well as the best weapons for self-defence against quarrelsome dogs and rowdy ruffians. Straight sticks of sapling oak arc not always easily obtained, but copse-wood sticks pulled from the stumps of trees form excellent substitutes. These should be selected for walking-sticks which taper gradually from 3/4 in. just below the knob or crutch, down to 1/2 in. at the opposite end. Gnarled and crooked oak sticks are sometimes fancied, and heavy cudgels are sometimes selected for defensive purposes. Oak sticks split in drying when the bark hai been stripped off, or the knots cut too close, or the sticks put away to dry in a very warm dry place; they are then rendered useless for walking-sticks and cudgels. The wood and also the form of the knobs or roots will admit of much taste being displayed in carving.
From the roots of elm trees, saplings with a coating of rough bark will shoot up straight to a height of 10-12 ft. These will furnish good walking-sticks of the fancy type, the rough bark serving the purpose of ornamentation when the sticks are dried, stained, varnished, and polished. The wood is also durable, but not very supple when dried, and sticks of it are not suitable to hard usage. The usual precautions must be taken in drying them.
Light sticks of hazel may be cut or pulled from almost every hedgerow and in any wood. Saplings are not un-frequently found of most symmetrical proportions, tapering from 1 in. down to 1/4 in. through a length of 10-12 ft., these are used by country swains as goads for the oxen, and form very tough sticks. The wood is very light, but it has the disadvantage of bending and remaining crooked when leaned upon heavily. It is also soft, and may be easily carved. Occasionally, hazel sticks may be found grotesquely entwined with honeysuckle, and the stem so deeply furrowed with the supple vine as to enclose the convolutions of the climber. Sticks of this kind are valued as fancy sticks, and look well when properly prepared, varnished and polished.
In exposed positions the blackthorn is only a dwarf shrub, but in sheltered hedgerows and woodlands it attains a height of 20 ft., and its saplings run up to a length of 6-8 it. straight and taper, but covered with stout spines and small twigs. These saplings make excellent walking-sticks, both when they can be dug or pulled up, and also when they have to be cut off. The spines and twigs must not be cut off close until the stick is half dried, and then cut with a sharp knife; in fact, the knots from the spines and twigs when left as slight round excrescences enhance the beauty of the finished stick. Blackthorn is more famous for its hardness, strength, stability, and durability, than for lightness, elasticity, and suppleness. A cudgel made of blackthorn will deal heavy blows, but when matched against one of oak would splinter at the knots, the oak being the tougher stick. The wood is hard and not easily carved, but the root knobs will admit of a very fine and smooth polish, most grateful to the palm of the hand of the tired pedestrian.