hiking stick

I know virtually nothing about woodworking, but I would like to make a hiking stick. Hopefully someone in here can offer some advice. Here's what I've done so far:
One of my white pine trees died last year, and I finally got around to cutting it down this year. I cut a limb off afterwards, of the appropriate dimensions. Before doing anything else, I laid it on the rafters in my barn, so the sap would dry up and/or crystallize during the summer months. I recently took it out, and it wasn't sticky anymore... so I shaved the bark off and sanded down the knotty places. Currently, about half the stick is down to the bare wood (very bright color), and the other half still has a darker layer on it in places. It's a very thin layer of darker color, which was inbetween the bark and the raw wood underneath. There appears to be no sap on the wood, and no sticky places (but there may be sap inside the thing still for all I know).
At this point, I need advice on the following:
1) Should I sand the dark layer off the entire length, so the whole thing is just bright raw wood? Or is it OK to leave some of this dark layer on just for appearance? (Note that item 2 deals with treating the wood, in case that impacts this)
2) How should I treat the wood? Or should I just leave it bare? There is an endless variety of wood stains, treatments, oils, and whatnot... I don't have the slightest idea what to do here. I'm interested in a nice, natural wood tone, while making the stick resistant to damage from the elements such as wetness, sunlight, and a good deal of sweat eventually.
Thanks in advance! Kevin D., in Ohio
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FYI, I just came back from browsing www.yahoogroups.com: there's a fairly large newsgroup devoted to walking sticks there. You might pick up some interesting ideas from them. GL
DanD

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Here is what worked for me. I made a hiking stick from juniper (hill country cedar) by stripping the bark and letting it dry for a few months. Then give it a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil and let that dry thoroughly. Then a coat of poly. I wrapped the handle area with a narrow strip on rawhide and I wrapped the business end with #12 copper wire. That was over 20 years and at least 3,000 miles ago. It has served me well.
BTW - I left one small branch knob on the stick so when I turn the stick uside down, the backpack will lean against the stick perfectly making the stick a dual purpose stick.
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dakota wrote:

Pine makes lousy walking sticks IME. Too soft, too prone to decay, too sappy.

My grandfather built a set of pine swings at some point about halfway through the last century. They _still_ ooze sap on hot days, at least 50 years later.

Whatever looks good to you. It doesn't really matter. Most of my walking sticks are made from prunings of various hardwoods. I like the maple ones the best. Very hard, very springy, very durable. I usually shave them down to bare wood in spots, leaving a lot of greenish areas. The greenish areas oxidize, and turn caramel brown. They look nice.
Next time you do one, I recommend peeling it green. Goes easier that way. I have an old, dull butcher knife which I use for that purpose.

I've always just slathered on polyurethane. Nothin' fancy. I'm sure you could do a nice Danish oil finish and maybe some tung and linseed oil and then do a French polish on the thing after sanding down to 3000 grit paper and then using 0000 steel wool on it while standing on your head and whistling Dixie, but I like the shiny dipped in plastic look just fine.
I use cloth sanding sheets that I bought for sanding my car. I guess they're called "crocus cloth" or something like that. They're flexible, and last a long time. I wrap a sheet around the stick and stroke it up and down. (Yes, it does cause my wife to make rude comments when she sees me do this...) I usually only sand to 100 grit or so and call it a day. Like I said in another post, walking sticks aren't rocket science.
I like to get a big, fat rubber cane tip from a pharmacy to stick on the end in order to improve traction and prevent splitting. I had one maple stick from '94 until last summer. Finally broke it using it to swat some thorns out of my way. (Hit the ground with it, and it broke at a knot.) Broke my heart. I haven't been able to bring myself to throw the stupid thing away.
Anyway, when you break that pine one, get yourself a maple one next time. :)
(Actually, if you live anywhere near here, I have a maple stick that needs to be cut down and finished. It was a good branch, so I peeled it, but I haven't needed it, and haven't bothered to complete it.)
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Thanks for all the input everyone.
I ended up leaving the stick only partially sanded down to bare wood, and gave it several coats of boiled linseed oil. After it dried for about a week, I gave it about three HEAVY coats of high-gloss spar poly. I think it turned out looking fantastic, considering this was my first attempt ;-)
I'll try to post a pic in a day or two.

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