A favorite craft for our third and fourth graders is the walking stick. We make it from a 4-foot section of green, smooth, barked Box Elder. This first exposure to handling a pocket knife is combined with braiding a three-stranded, 4-foot strand of twine . We wrap the braid near the top of the walking stick as a grip and attach the ends with carpet tacks.
We’ve discovered that our third and fourth graders have enough skill and staying power to carve the bark and some small knots off the stick. The stick should be green (freshly cut) and should be kept moist while the boys are carving it. Because this craft takes between two or three 30-minute craft sessions, we wrap the sticks in wet cloth, insert them in leaf bags, and seal and store them from week to week.
Check out our woodworking module for stockade.
You’ll notice the leather-fingered glove on Darren’s left hand (see photo below). This protection reduces the number of cuts to the hand that holds the carving. This type of glove is readily available at welding supply stores. Use both left and right hand gloves even if all of your boys are right-handed because fit isn’t the important aspect-protection is.
We begin our walking stick craft with a short course in knife safety. At this age, the boys are interested in knives, but most are ignorant of even the most fundamental aspects of handling and using the knife. We even instruct them how to close the knife after the usual discussion of carving away from the body, how to pass the knife to a friend and so on.
Stop cuts and paring cuts, which carvers of greater skill use, we teach to our fifth and sixth graders not the younger boys. (Do a quick internet search for these cuts if you are not familiar with them).