Carving a truncheon is an easy woodworking project and if you use a nice variety of wood with an interesting grain then it is a straightforward way of presenting the natural beauty of timber. The key points are getting a nice, even, rounded shape and getting a nice polish on the surface when you are finished. When working with hardwoods it is also much easier to carve while the wood is still green and allow it to dry afterward.
Select a straight stick roughly a foot long with no branches coming out from it. Branches will create knots and, though a knot is a very hard piece of wood, it creates a weakness in the overall structure. Use a wood such as walnut, which has a beautiful grain pattern.
Cut the ends flat and fit the piece into the lathe. Position the stick as straight as possible in the lathe and tighten the stocks that hold it in place. Position the tool rest so that it is about an eighth of an inch from the stick. Turn the stick by hand to ensure that it does not bump against the rest.
Switch on the lathe at the slowest speed. Rest the back of the gouge, near the tip, against the tool rest and hold the handle near your hip. Bring the edge of the gouge's tip up against the rotating wood and apply slight pressure.
Maintain an even pressure on the wood and slide the gouge back and forth along the rest. The tip of the gouge will cut away the bark and wear the wood down into an even cylinder. If you want to make a tapering truncheon apply firmer pressure to the sections you want to make narrower and slowly ease the pressure as you slide the gouge toward the sections you want to keep flat.
Round off the ends by angling the tip of the gouge inward. Do not cut all the way in as you will risk hitting the gouge against the metal part of the lathe. Instead leave the ends as domes with flat tops where the end is engaged with the lathe chuck.
Mark some grooves for the handle. Rest a pencil on the tool rest and put the tip against the spinning wood to mark circles for the handle grooves. Use the gouge to carve down into these grooves.
Sand the block smooth, starting with coarse sandpaper and working your way down to finer grades. Sand the truncheon down by holding the sheet stretched out tight and applying it lightly to the spinning wood. How fine a grade you go down to depends on the fineness of the finish you are looking for.
Brush the wood free of sawdust and chips. Paint the truncheon with a thin layer of varnish. Allow to dry and apply another coat if necessary.