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    You can easily sell them come St. BURKE Adorned in battle vestments safety glasses, hat, and work glovesthis forager trims the staff to the desired length.

    In fact, the sturdy, gnarled hardwood wallopers which the Celts have carried—as canes or weapons—since the days of the legendary Irish giant, Finn MacCool are really pretty easy to craft. The traditional walking stick's name comes from an old Gaelic word meaning "oak club. Before the eighth century, the sturdy bludgeons were used to settle old family feuds at village fairs On such occasions the shillelagh was seldom swung with just one hand, but grasped in the middle with both fists and brought down with head-splitting force.

    Sometimes, however, an extremely strong man would use two shillelaghs: When the British invaded the Emerald Isle, they not only chopped down the great oak forests which had been considered sacred by the Druids and shipped off the timber to England, but also imposed strict laws In later years, as more peaceful pursuits prevailed, the traditional club was used primarily as a walking staff, or as a stick to herd cattle.

    Continue Reading Wild Raw Material You'll have to be mighty careful, however, when you start to gather your raw shillelagh material, because all of the plus species of North American hawthorn are armed with thorns that grow anywhere from one to five inches long. You'll have no trouble recognizing members of the genus Crataegus —whether they're the knee-high or tree-high variety—because their straight or moderately curved single spikes are not shared by any of North America's other native shrubs or trees.

    American hawthorns were originally found only as undergrowth in dense forests, but later—as homes and shopping centers whittled the woodlands away—the small trees were able to hybridize. Today they grow abundantly in thickets along woodlands, in deserted fields, in moist ground on the banks of ponds and streams Classed as members of the rose family and kin to the apple, hawthorns go by any number of aliases, including blackthorn, whitethorn, cockspur, littlehip, thorn-plum, hagthorn, and Mayhaw.

    And all of the species produce clusters of tiny, alluring fruit called haws, which are usually dullish to scarlet red but can also be yellow, black, or bluish. The miniature "apples" are edible, though some have large stones and little pulp, and their texture often mealy and taste you'll have to try them vary considerably.

    The best are sugary when raw and—when transformed into jelly—require very little sweetener. If not overly ripe, haws—like apples—produce natural pectin, too. A Formidable Foe For our purposes, of course, the hawthorn's wood is of more interest than its fruit Naturally, since this tree is so heavily armored against you, you must be prepared to defend yourself.

    My battle accouterments coutherments, if you want to use the authentic Irish term include safety glasses, a canvas hunting jacket, tough field pants, heavy shoes sneakers invite woundsleather work gloves, and some sort of head protection. The "weapons" of the trade include a pruning saw, a hacksaw, and a folding knife that's big and sharp enough to do some heavy whittling.

    Add some patience, and you're ready to take on the fiercest hawthorn the countryside can produce. Into Battle Once you're face to face with the thorn-covered tree of your choice and, of course, after you've obtained permission to cut if you're on any land but your own! Its top, when trimmed, should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand or you can choose, if you like, a limb with a T-shaped handle made from a portion of an adjoining branch. Since a shillelagh should measure about 36 inches when finished, make certain that the rough stick you've set your sights on is somewhat longer.

    Next, take up your pruning saw and remove any piercing limbs that are between you and your objective. This step, however, is easier planned than done, because cutting a branch doesn't mean it will fall from the tree. Instead, expect it to snag securely within the briary tangles. One tree may yield three or four workable canes, and you'll probably be able to gather a good number of shillelaghs-in-the-raw within a couple of hours.

    But make haste slowly: Remember that he who rides a hawthorn cannot dismount! Phase two is a lot easier. Hold the tapered stick down firmly on hard ground or a rock and—using the hacksaw—trim off all the small branches to give the club that traditional knobby look and feel. Then wedge your cudgel between two close-growing saplings, hold it tightly, and cut it to the desired length. Finally, whittle away the bark use particular care not to slice off the stumps left by your earlier sawinggather your handiwork, and go home to nurse your battle scars.

    The End of a Quest In the relative comfort of your house or yard, use a small, sharp knife to round off the edges of each club's head and the nubs along its length. When you've finished this chore, it's time to put your creations away to dry for a week or two. Then medium and fine sandpaper, used in that order, will put smooth surfaces on the rugged-looking canes. When the sticks are sanded to your satisfaction, wipe away the dust and stain them in your choice of wood tones.

    I like fruitwood, which imparts a rich, natural color to the truncheons. I've also found that the paste type is less messy to work with than liquid stain. For a perfect product, apply a coat of clear polyurethane after the stain has dried, or—if you want a super-cosmetic touch—wrap the top six inches or so of the cane with masking tape and paint the remaining length with a hard, glossy, black enamel.

    Once that's done, remove the tape, and you'll have a shillelagh fit for the lord mayor himself. Now, off to market You also may find that the blood, sweat, tears, and time involved in producing these handsome, hand-hewn models will tempt you to overprice them. On the other hand, you may not want to peddle your beautiful shillelaghs at all, because they make such unusual and cherished gifts! I would like to make a shilellagh. I have hunted and hiked and fished and gathered wood for a log cabin in New Hampshire and New jersey amongst other locales.

    I do not remember ever seeing a tree Hawthorn as described in the article. Where in the U. Think of it's origin and select limbs that reflect that heritage.
    The Shillelagh has a reputation of being a stout, reliable walking cane, and became a choice walking cane for European gentlemen centuries ago.

    Tough, resilient and naturally resistant to warping, chipping and discoloration, blackthorn shillelaghs offer a longevity rarely seen in canes ; and this classic piece of history can be yours for a low, reasonable price.

    Although it is often imitated by using hawthorne or other similar woods, none compare to the quality of genuine blackthorn, and FashionableCanes. Order yours today and enjoy the comfort, quality and whimsical appeal of a genuine Irish walking cane. Our selection of Irish walking sticks are highly sought after items. About Irish Blackthorn Canes Also known as European Spiny Plum Prunus spinosathis hardwood plant offers all of the qualities a cane-maker wants in his materials.

    It is a very hard, close-grained wood, and if harvested from the trunk of the blackthorn tree, any sample should be covered in sharp, vicious spines. These thorns are removed in the process of finishing and sanding a walking cane shaft, but the dark wood and numerous knots and protrusions are left behind as a signature of the plant from which it came.

    We guarantee our shillelaghs to be genuine Irish blackthorn canes, but many other retailers sell imitations, crafted from hawthorne or other thorny bushes and trees. Here are four tips to check and be sure that any shillelagh is of high quality: Hawthorne looks very similar, but lacks the uniformity of blackthorn, and will usually have many irregularities in the wood grain.

    Knobs or protrusions left from the thorns should be spaced evenly around the shaft of the cane. If made by a craftsman familiar with the creation of shillelaghs, the cane should come to a fine taper.

    All thorns and spurs that have been completely removed should leave behind a fine dimple in the wood. Specially designed, it has a rich Irish history that makes it unlike any other walking stick.

    Take the wood, for example.

    About Irish Blackthorn Canes

    While you may find a shillelagh for sale designed from ash, oak or holly, blackthorn wood is a traditional Irish choice. It also makes the best quality shillelagh. In fact, even among blackthorn canes, there are certain details that identify a genuine Irish shillelagh.

    For example, besides the blackthorn wood, the particular way a shillelagh is designed separates it from all other walking sticks. Add to that where the wood comes from, along with how its Irish fighting-club history made this walking stick a distinctive part of Irish culture and heritage, and all these details begin to provide you with a fairly good idea of what goes into a shillelagh.

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    Yet these details demonstrate only the reasons that a shillelagh is different from other canes or walking sticks. What Is a Shillelagh? First, a shillelagh is a quite specific type of knotty walking stick. Initially called an Irish bata, or fighting stick, it takes its current name from the Shillelagh Forest in County Wicklow, Ireland, whose claim to fame was once its many massive oak trees.

    It is from these trees that the first shillelaghs were made. Knowing this, it was an English writer who is credited with first naming this walking stick. Blackthorn became the wood of choice due to its beauty and durability. Shillelaghs designed form it use only straight lengths of stout blackthorn wood with spiny thorns covering it.

    Sanding those thorns leaves a nubby, knotty appearance that immediately marks this walking stick as a high-quality blackthorn shillelagh.

    With the root of the tree being the preferred source for blackthorn wood, it not only makes a weightier shillelagh but also makes it less likely to crack or break when used. Another part of its heft is from the large knob at the top of the stick.

    Olde Shillelagh Stick Makers - Ireland's Ancient East Wicklow


    Adding to that weight is the molten lead that often was added after hollowing out the knob end of the stick. Such a stick is then known as a loaded stick, although the heaviness of blackthorn roots made it unnecessary to do this with blackthorn shillelaghs. Yet there are a few more factors that set a shillelagh apart.

    The black color, for example, comes not only from the wood itself but also from an unusual process. That process involves smearing the wood with butter and placing it inside a chimney. The result is a distinctive, glossy black finish. Together, all these elements create a walking stick that is decidedly different from all others.

    The Origin of Blackthorn Wood Blackthorn wood is from a large shrub or small tree, usually standing about 12 feet tall and reaching as much as 16 feet high. This also explains why so many antique shillelaghs found today were crafted from blackthorn wood. Interestingly, although it produces fruit known as sloe, which is used in a liqueur called sloe gin, and it blooms with pretty white blossoms in the spring, its wood is the most notable aspect of the blackthorn.

    That wood actually makes terrific firewood, because it produces little smoke and burns slowly. It originally was considered a weapon, which is the shillelagh fighting use mentioned earlier. This early form of bataireacht, or Irish martial arts, later made the shillelagh weapon the one of choice in the Irish stick fighting that began among gangs of the nineteenth century.

    From a young age, boys trained in the use of shillelagh weapons, practicing on a regular basis to sharpen their skills. Fencing masters then helped the boys further hone their skills. Meanwhile, having been taught by their fathers to carry their shillelagh weapon close to the chest for their own protection, boys would never be caught off guard whenever the need arose to use it. Its use as a weapons also affected the length of the stick.

    It started out much longer than its current version because this enabled fighting clubs to make contact more easily with their intended target. Over time, the length of the shillelagh shortened as cities grew and the space for fighting became smaller.

    What never changed was the use of the knobby top as a cudgel. This is also when the loaded stick — those filled with molten lead — were used to the greatest advantage.

    As Irish folklorist Padraic Colum noted, carrying a shillelagh is a badge of honor for a man. Indeed, it was always viewed as a rite of passage into manhood when a boy received his shillelagh.

    This heritage makes a shillelagh a particularly treasured collectible for many people of Irish ancestry. Although blackthorn shillelaghs have many common elements, as already noted, another feature that draws collectors is that each is also a unique piece of art. This is because each bears the characteristics of the individual piece of wood from which it is made. The fact that blackthorn wood is increasingly rare adds to the collectability of genuine blackthorn shillelaghs.

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