How to Make a DIY Walking Cane Using Upcycled Walnut

Makes a great gift for anyone who needs one.
Dayne Dayne (57)

I built a walking cane for my grandfather from some scrap walnut. I love using hand tools so I stuck to that for the whole project. I took what pictures I could below, so you could follow along and try to make one for yourself.

Use a hard wood

You obviously don't want this thing to break, bend, or crack. This could mean injury to whoever is using it. So make sure you use a hard wood to make the cane. You also want to make sure that if you're upcycling wood, like me, that the wood is sound and uncracked.

Wood is rated on the "Janka Hardness Scale" from "hard" to "hardest," with mostly pines and firs being the weakest wood available. (See image below.)

Besides walnut, other woods that are strong to use include:

  • Cherry
  • Hickory (a classic for canes)
  • Ash
  • Oak
Janka Hardness Scale
Rip SawRip Saw ×1
Hand Plane #7 ×1
chisel set ×1
Rasp SetRasp Set ×1
8/4 walnut wood ×1
sandpaper ×1

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Ripping 8/4 walnut. A good rip saw comes in handy for jobs like this.

Rough shaft. I planed this down to smooth and square with a #7 plane. All said and done, it ended up about 3/4" x 1 1/2" at the top and it tapers down to 3/4" by 3/4" at the bottom.

Marking out a rough design for the handle.

Made relief cuts. What I learned is that you want to make sure to make a cut right at the apex of your arc. That's where the grain changes direction relative to the cut you're making so when you come back with the chisel, if you have not made a relief cut at that point, you'll end up splitting off more wood than you want.

Some very careful chisel work. Not shown: the first try that split all the way through and now lives in the trash.

After some more careful chisel work and a little rough rasping.

After about 30 minutes of some finer rasp work and some filing.

On to the shaft. I hit the corners with a #4 smoothing plane to get the rounding started. I decided to keep the rectangular shape but round the corners quite a bit.

After that, I hit the corners at various angles with the spokeshave. This job could be done exclusively with the #4 or the spokeshave or even a rasp.

Boring the hole for the dowel joint. The handle got the same treatment.

Weirdest glue-up ever. None of these are very tight, just enough to keep the handle seated firmly.

To finish, I went through sandpaper grits from 100 to 150 to 220.

Then I used my own Danish oil recipe, nothing complicated. 1/3 Mineral Spirits, 1/3 Boiled Linseed Oil, and 1/3 Polyurethane.

It got a few coats of this at first to soak the wood, then a few more with a bit of sanding at 500 grit in between. Depending on how it dries up after several days, it might get more of this finish.

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Ash Ash (362)

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