"Methods to My Madness: Designing and Carving a Cane" #2: Handle Designs

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Blog entry by mpounders posted 11-10-2010 05:47 AM 10386 reads 2 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Choosing the Wood Part 2 of "Methods to My Madness: Designing and Carving a Cane" series Part 3: Shaping the handle »

So the shaft portion of the cane has been selected. The over all height of the cane will be measured from the highest part of the handle to the tip of the shaft, so it is important to include all of these elements when sizing the cane, always remembering that is easier to cut the cane shorter than it is to make it longer. A normal measurement used for canes is typically from the floor to the bend of a person’s wrist. I like my canes a little taller and usually add 2-3 inches to the measurement to ensure I can cut some off if necessary. I have made canes that range from 32”-40” and that is a pretty common range if you are not making it specifically for a person.

Here are the patterns I like to use. I just drew these out using some French Curves and trying to come up with some designs I liked, although they are similar to some standards seen for canes. My thought was to have the handle to have a shape similar to a tree limb, but it also serves other purposes. You can place your hand on it in different positions, so it has some built-in flexibility in the height. It works well and is comfortable no matter which way the handle is pointed. The handle is long enough that both hands can be placed on top to assist in rising from a seated position. Here are some examples of other shapes also

The simple ball shape is also a surprisingly comfortable shape. Handles can be wrapped in cord or leather, although this is usually seen more on staffs. The cord gives a good grip and can be useful in emergencies, but I find it uncomfortable to my grip. Leather can be wrapped like a cord or laced on. You can also wet it and shape to a regular cane handle, but stitch the seams where the fingers will be placed for comfort. Antlers, bone and other products can also be used to make unique handles.

The grain direction in the handle is important, since a lot of weight will be placed on it. I usually run the grain from front to back and try to keep the weaker neck portion a little thicker to make it stronger. But I also connect my canes with a steel rod that provides added strength. Some times I will add a turned spacer below the handle with the grain running vertically to provide additional height and strength. This can also provide an area for carving that doesn’t intefere with the grip. The handle below has such a spacer.

The spacer also serves another function. I like the bottom neck of the handle or the bottom of the spacer to be a little larger in diameter than the top of the cane shaft. I like to have alittle bead in this area, a little shadow that helps conceal the glue line joining the shaft to the handle. Some people use different exotic woods cut into washers that are used in a similar way to add visual interest between the two separate elements of the cane. But I use the little bead for an additional purpose! Some people will carry a cane or occasionally grip their cane in this area and I like to make it feel like I intended it to be gripped here, by some simple turnings, balls, or beads that delineate this also as a grip area. The spacer will allow me to make thinner handle to fit a smaller person’s grip while having it taper down to a size that is sufficently large to make a nice transistion to the shaft. A taller spacer can also be elegant and it seems to add a kinda Windsor chair element. I did not care for the difference in the grain direction on the lacewood handle and spacer shown above. It looked too busy and had to many joints…just didn’t feel right. Also, my hand felt a little cramped around the fingers. So I re-did basically the same shape in walnut and made the finger catch on the end of the handle smaller and more open. I made the handle thicker to be more comfortable in a larger hand and shortened the neck and included the bead element on it. I felt it was short enough and thick enough so that it would be strong with the steel rod attaching ti to the shaft. I usually prefer turning the beaded section on the lathe rather than carving it, but I carved and tapered this one because it allowed me to get the look I wanted with no seam at all.

So when I have decided on the shape I cut out the side profile on the bandsaw. In the next section, I’ll talk about joining the pieces together and the tools and methods I use for shaping the handle. I may even try a short video on the shaping, if I can figure it out! Thanks for looking!

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

4 comments so far

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 3062 days

#1 posted 11-10-2010 12:09 PM

I have always liked your canes. Thanks for letting us know your process.

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View dustbunny's profile


1149 posts in 3293 days

#2 posted 11-10-2010 03:53 PM

Nice blog…
I am following along : )


-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~

View Bob N's profile

Bob N

131 posts in 3925 days

#3 posted 11-10-2010 07:27 PM

Thanks again for doing this. I’m staying glued to your blog and anxiously awaiting the next part :)

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4297 days

#4 posted 11-11-2010 03:38 PM

A great tutorial that everyone should see.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

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