In general somebody using a walking cane or walking stick might want not only physical support, but also some level of decorative and aesthetic value.
That is why for many centuries walking sticks have captured the attention of artists and jewelers.
Nevertheless, while considering the aesthetics of the walking cane / walking stick it is important to remember that the comfort, physical stability, and security of the walking stick should also be given priority.
CANE HANDLE - COMFORT
The comfort of the walking stick depends mainly on the handle shape.
Walking sticks with handle types such as the Derby, L-shape, and Crook are not only elegant, but are also comfortable for heave support and daily use.
The knob handles are recommended for an average support and balance.
The special property of the Derby handle, besides a comfortable hand support, is the elevated front part of the handle, which helps keep the hand from slipping.
A combination of the Derby-Crook handle shapes might be very comfortable and have some added value – in addition to providing stable support it allows holding the walking stick on the forearm.
Anatomical handles are very comfortable for daily use, but often they look more like medical devices rather than decorative art.
A good example of the combination of aesthetic and anatomical shapes is the Derby or L-shape.
Traditional handles may be designed as a sculpture or decorated by some kind of ornament.
In these cases a designer has to make sure that the handle does not lose its main properties – comfort and stability.
Walking stick handles designed in the form of a sculpture or decorated by some other means are often considered collectors’ items in addition to providing walking support to their owners.
MATERIALS, BALANCE, AND STRENGTH OF THE WALKING STICKS
The right balance is a very important property of the walking stick.
In order to achieve the right balance the weight of the handle must be slightly less than or equal to the weight of the shaft.
To achieve this high-end artisan walking sticks are usually equipped with a cast metal rather than a stamped (punched out) handle.
The cast metal handles have the following advantages when compared to stamped handles:
The wall thickness of the cast handles varies between 2 and 5 mm ( 5/64” to 3/16" ).
While the stamped handles wall thickness is usually between 0.3 and 0.5 mm, approximately ten times thinner than a cast handle.
This compromises the strength and reliability of the walking stick with the stamped handle.
Because of the thin walls of the stamped handles they are prone to dents and nicks during normal handling.
The cast metal technology does not limit the designer’s imagination and ability to create complex art forms.
It should to be noted that cast metal technology is much more sophisticated and time consuming, and it requires much higher skill levels.
Each item made from real silver or silver alloy (like sterling silver) must have the following marks stamped out:
Pure Silver - ( 0.999 )
Sterling Silver - ( 0.925 ), (STERLING) or (SS)
Russian Silver - ( 0.875 )
Old English Silver - ( 0.800 ) etc...
It is important to know, that such materials as German Silver, Nickel Silver, Alpaca Silver are alloys only resembling real silver in color.
Unlike the pewter (another material used for stick handles), they can be polished very well, are strong and can resemble silver in color.
Nevertheless, these alloys do not contain any silver at all.
Above we discussed the importance of balance and the role the handle plays in achieving it.
We said that the handle must be either slightly less than or equal to the weight of the shaft.
Here we will discuss the role of the shaft in achieving the right balance of the walking stick.
While the handle has to be close in weight to the entire shaft, it is important that the lower end of the shaft is as light as possible.
This will result in a lighter load on the forearm muscles during walking,
especially at the moment the stick loses contact with the ground.
At the same time the upper part of the shaft should be thick enough to provide the strength.
Thus, the shaft should be tapered.
It would be even better if the taper starts close to the center of the shaft going to the end.
This makes the walking stick not only well balanced, but proportionally looking as well.
Because the shaft is the main part responsible for the strength of the stick, the material used for its construction is very important.
A shaft of 7/8” diameter made of extremely strong wood, such as ebony, rosewood, etc. will withstand the same load as a 1 ¼” diameter stick made of a hardwood (oak, maple, etc.), and will look more elegant as well.
If the shaft is made from a hardwood it is usually painted to change the naturally light color of the wood.
This paint often chips off due to wear and tear.
On the other hand, exotic woods, such as the above mentioned ebony, rosewood, etc. do not need to be painted providing beautiful natural colors.
The colors these exotic woods provide are as follows:
EBONY - Black
ROSEWOOD - Reddish / Brown
The lower end of the shaft shall be furnished with a metal ferrule, which in addition to providing a finished look prevents the end of the cane from splitting.
Additionally, it is advisable to have a rubber tip placed over the ferrule to prevent slipping.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE CORRECT LENGTH
The length of the stick depends on the height of the walker.
I can recommend two simple methods to determine the correct stick length:
1. The length of the stick should be equal to the distance from the floor to wrist of the hand while the arm is in a straight down position.
2. Divide the height of the user in two and add one inch.