How to carve wood spirit walking sticks

Updated February 21, 2017

A hiking stick with designs can be a very beautiful art project. One of the most famous designs for walking sticks is that of Native American wood spirits. Native Americans created these artistic masterpieces because they believed that the faces and spirits represented on the sticks would protect man on dangerous journeys deep in the forest. These designs feature a mix of human and nature characteristics. Carving your own walking stick allows you to take part in a hobby that has existed for ages.

Use a piece of paper to sketch a rough draft of your spirit design. Select the elements you would like represented. For example, you can draw a human face with long hair that turns into vines at the end. Be very creative and thoughtful in your design. You may want to pick something that is very elaborate or simple, yet meaningful. Consider doing some research on wood spirits prior to finalising your design.

Find a piece of wood to use for the stick. A common way to do this is to walk through forest and look for limbs that have fallen from trees. You may need to break the limb or cut it once you find something that suits your taste. Be sure to pick a nice solid type of wood such as cedar or poplar that is as straight as possible. Also, pick a piece of wood that suits your height so it will be usable when walking.

Place the stick in the vice and begin to whittle on the wood with a pocketknife. If you wish to refrain from whittling, you can plane the wood or use a piece of sandpaper to rub away the bark and any stubs. Make sure you have the wood securely in the vice before conducting any modifications to the wood. Improperly whittling a piece of loose wood may result in injury.

Use the chisel and rubber mallet to begin making notches in the wood. Start with the more intricate designs that require the deeper marks to the wood. Use the pocketknife for small cuts or to dig out tiny areas. Follow your paper design as much as possible. Remember that the design will not be completely circular because it is hard to chisel or whittle against the grain of wood. Complete any final detail you need to make in the wood.

Review your design and make sure you have carved everything you want for your wooden hiking spirit stick. Use small wood incision tools to make small lines for vines, hair or other lines. You can darken in the spirits by using a pencil to fill in the crevasses. Use a piece of sandpaper to smooth the design some more, making sure there are no rough spots on the stick. Apply wood stain to the walking stick for a shiny finish.


Always whittle in a direction away from your body.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Walking stick
  • Vice
  • Pocketknife
  • Sandpaper
  • Chisel
  • Rubber mallet
  • Small woodworking tools
  • Wood stain
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About the Author

Corey Morris has been writing since 2009. He has been a reporter for his campus newspaper, "The Rotunda" and is the publication's news editor. His work focuses on topics in news, politics and community events. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in political science and mass media from Longwood University in Farmville, Va.