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How to Easily Make a DIY Hiking Stick

Your Cub Scout can make a handmade hiking stick. This fun craft project is useful and can bring back fond memories when they hike with it for years to come.

cub scout handmade hiking stick

A couple of years ago, one of the dads who was attending Cub Scout Day Camp with us shared his plans for making hiking sticks. They are awesome! 

It will take the Scouts a few weeks to finish them if they only work on them during den meetings.  The nice thing about this project is that the steps can be done during a den meeting or at home.

My Webelos den made these handmade hiking sticks, and they turned out great!  Parker used his on a cold January hike.  This is a good project for your Bears or Webelos. In fact, it's a perfect Baloo the Builder idea!

How to Make a DIY Hiking Stick

Scroll down for printable directions!

Supplies and equipment for this DIY walking stick idea can be purchased at almost any hardware store. In the list below, I've included my affiliate links to make purchasing them easier for you.

First, gather all your supplies, tools, and equipment.

Hiking Stick Supplies:

Tools and Equipment:

6 Steps in Making a Handmade Walking Stick

Pre-Work

There are a few things you need to do before meeting with the Scouts.

Prior to distributing the hiking sticks to the Scouts, pre-drill the dowel rods.  Start by drilling a 20 mm hole in the top of the dowel rod.  This is for the compass.  Make sure the hole is deep enough for the compass to sit level with the top of the rod.

Drill two holes for the handle.  The first should be approximately 3″ from the top (where the compass will be), and the second should be approximately 9″ from the top.

Step 1: Sand and decorate the dowel rod

Give the Scouts their dowel rod and some sandpaper so that they can sand the rod.  The Scouts are to draw designs on their rods with pencils.  They can do this freehand. 

My friend Betsy's sons printed designs from the internet and used carbon paper (yes, you can still get it!) to trace the designs onto the rod.

My Scouts struggled a bit with what to draw, so you might want to brainstorm designs with them.  Sports teams and comic book or video game characters are good options. 

Make sure they put their names and the date somewhere on their hiking stick.

Scouts can also add measuring marks to their sticks.  If they do, have them put the rubber tip on the end first so that their measurements won't be off.

The Scouts should not draw between the two holes because anything there will be covered up by the paracord handle.

Step 2: Trace drawings with wood burning tool (parents only!)

Parents should do this stepUsing a wood burning tool, trace over the drawings the Scouts have done so that the designs are burned into the wood.  If you have a large den, you'll want to have several tools available to set up multiple stations.

If you only have access to one tool, you can collect the sticks at a meeting and take them home to do the burning.  They can be passed out to the Scouts at your next meeting.

poppy's hiking stick
My father-in-law walks with the aid of a walking cane, so my son made one of the hiking sticks for him!

Step 3: Apply Danish Oil

This step will need to be done at home.  Give the Scouts baby food jars (or other small containers) with 2 or 3 ounces of Danish oil.  They should apply 3 or 4 coats before the next meeting.  Using a clean rag, apply the Danish oil generously to the hiking stick.  Keep rubbing the stick until the wood seems to stop absorbing the oil.

Allow the stick to dry overnight, and apply another coat.  Repeat until you've applied 3 or 4 coats.  Make sure you've sealed the inside of the holes, the top and the bottom of the rod.

The last coat of Danish oil should be applied at least 48 hours before your next meeting to give it time to dry completely.

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Step 4: Attach compass and rubber tip

Glue the compass into the recessed area on the top of the hiking stick.  If needed, glue the rubber tip to the bottom.  Our rubber tips fit so tightly that we didn't need to glue them.

Step 5: Wrap paracord

Wrap the paracord to form a grip and a wrist strap. You'll start by inserting one end of the paracord through the top hole. Pull through the hole leaving about 9″ – 12″ hanging free. This will be part of the wrist strap.  Insert the other end through the bottom hole, and pull tight.

Start wrapping the handle grip up toward the top hole.  On the first wrap around the dowel, pass the cord you're wrapping between the paracord “line” and the dowel rod. This will keep the paracord from slipping.

The second wrap will go over the top of the paracord “line”.  The third pass will go between the line and the dowel rod. 

Continue alternating between going over the top of the “line” and going between the “line” and the rod. This will hide the string going from the bottom hole to the top.

Every couple of passes, push the cord down so that there are no gaps between the wraps.  Wrap the cord as tightly and as high as possible.

When you reach the top hole, insert the cord through it going in the same direction as the other part of the wrist strap. Tie a square knot to keep tension on the wrapped part of the handle.

Step 6: Attach whistle

Trim the wrist strap to your desired length, and attach the survival whistle. Attaching the zipper pull is a very tight fit, so you'll need to remove about an inch of the inner threads from the paracord.

And now, your hiking stick is completed!  Make sure you plan a hike soon so that the Scouts can test out their new hiking sticks.

Yield: 1 Hiking Stick

How to Easily Make a Cub Scout Hiking Stick

hiking stick handmade by cub scout

Your Cub Scout can make a handmade hiking stick. This fun craft project is useful and can bring back fond memories when they hike with it for years to come.

Active Time 1 hour
Additional Time 5 days
Total Time 5 days 1 hour
Difficulty Medium
Estimated Cost $20

Instructions

  • Prior to distributing the hiking sticks to the Scouts, pre-drill the dowel rods.  Start by drilling a 20 mm hole in the top of the dowel rod.  This is for the compass.  Make sure the hole is deep enough for the compass to sit level with the top of the rod. Drill two holes for the handle. The first should be approximately 3" from the top (where the compass will be), and the second should be approximately 9" from the top.
  • Step 1 - Give the Scouts their dowel rod and some sandpaper so that they can sand the rod.  The Scouts are to draw designs on their rods with pencils

    They can do this freehand or use carbon paper (yes, you can still get it!) to trace the designs onto the rod. The Scouts should not draw between the two holes because anything there will be covered up by the paracord handle.
  • Step 2 - Parents should do this stepUsing a wood burning tool, trace over the drawings.
  • Step 3 - This step will need to be done at home.  Give the Scouts baby food jars (or other small containers) with 2 or 3 ounces of Danish oil.  They should apply 3 or 4 coats before the next meeting.  Using a clean rag, apply the Danish oil generously to the hiking stick.  Keep rubbing the stick until the wood seems to stop absorbing the oil.

    Allow the stick to dry overnight, and apply another coat.  Repeat until you've applied 3 or 4 coats.  Make sure you've sealed the inside of the holes, the top and the bottom of the rod. The last coat of Danish oil should be applied at least 48 hours before your next meeting to give it time to dry completely.
  • Step 4 - Glue the compass into the recessed area on the top of the hiking stick.  If needed, glue the rubber tip to the bottom.
  • Step 5 - Wrap the paracord to form a grip and a wrist strap. You'll start by inserting one end of the paracord through the top hole. Pull through the hole leaving about 9" – 12" hanging free. This will be part of the wrist strap.  Insert the other end through the bottom hole, and pull tight.

    Start wrapping the handle grip up toward the top hole.  On the first wrap around the dowel, pass the cord you're wrapping between the paracord "line" and the dowel rod. This will keep the paracord from slipping.

    The second wrap will go over the top of the paracord "line".  The third pass will go between the line and the dowel rod.  Continue alternating between going over the top of the "line" and going between the "line" and the rod. This will hide the string going from the bottom hole to the top. Every couple of passes, push the cord down so that there are no gaps between the wraps.  Wrap the cord as tightly and as high as possible.

    When you reach the top hole, insert the cord through it going in the same direction as the other part of the wrist strap. Tie a square knot to keep tension on the wrapped part of the handle.
  • Step 6 - Trim the wrist strap to your desired length, and attach the survival whistle. Attaching the zipper pull is a very tight fit, so you'll need to remove about an inch of the inner threads from the paracord.

    And now, your hiking stick is completed!  Make sure you plan a hike soon so that the Scouts can test out their new hiking sticks.

Yours in Scouting,
Sherry

P.S. Check out these other wood projects for Cub Scouts!

Matt

Thursday 22nd of September 2022

Made one of these myself to see what would be needed in advance of doing it with the den. Accidentally grabbed a 1-1/4" dowel instead of 1-1/8", but nothing a little sanding at the bottom so the chair leg tip would fit, and going to ~18' of paracord didn't solve. A couple observations / suggestions:

- I used a 1/4" Forstner bit for the holes in the handle. Not sure if that was better than a regular drill bit, and I did get a little tear-out on the end, but it could be a possibility for you if you prefer. - I did *not* have a 20mm Forstner bit, but I got a 13/16" which made a slightly bigger hole, so the compass was easier to drop in. If like me you have trouble finding a good 20mm Forstner bit, the 13/16" might be slightly easier to find. You could fill the extra gap around it with some glue mixed with sawdust from sanding if you really need to. - Something I noted online (that I probably didn't quite do correctly), is when applying each coat of Danish oil, be sure to have the Scouts wipe off the excess each time as much as possible. Leaving too much on can leave the finish feeling tacky/sticky for a much longer time. - As a safety tip: rags with Danish Oil (or any linseed oil) should be laid out to dry out, rather than wadded up and tossed in a trashcan. Linseed oil in particular generates its own heat as it dries and cures, and rag piles have been known to cause serious fires as a result. I note warnings online that you should probably take similar precautions with Danish Oil rags (since it typically contains linseed oil). Look up "oil finishes and spontaneous combustion" (no, really) on the web for more details and proper disposal techniques. Better safe than sorry! - Someone asked (a few years ago) about how to get the paracord back through the upper hole - I wrapped the end in painter's tape originally to protect it from fraying until I was ready to trim and melt the end once everything was completed, and so to help it get through the hole again, I wrapped some additional tape extending further out, so I could push enough of the tape through the hole to grab onto with pliers and pull it through - I'm not sure I had the best wrapping of the paracord, but also, trying to tie a square knot to keep tension on it just produced a big 'blob' of paracord that didn't want to stay (kept wanting to slip). What I did instead was this: I left the original 'tail' (where I first went through) lying on *top* of the uppermost loop around the stick. I temporarily loosened that same loop, and then pulled the second end (the one I put the painter's tape on) *below* the uppermost loop, so it was between the top loop and the next one down. Then I pulled the second end tight, which tightened up the top loop and 'locked' everything reasonably well into place. - One addition I made: When browsing Amazon, I found an inexpensive set of "small ferro rod survival flint fire starters" that had holes pre-drilled for paracord. I put that on the wrist strap so that you can use it to tighten the strap if you want, plus of course, you can use that and your pocketknife if necessary to start a fire!

John

Sunday 7th of August 2022

In addition to the hiking staff medallions available from your local scout shop, you can find many medallions for trails, parks and attractions at Hike America. You can also scan and shrink your favorite patches and designs and print them out and polyurethane them to your stick. They will look a lot like the medallions and make your stick a 'memory stick' of places you have visited.

Marijke

Monday 10th of January 2022

This was a huge success,thank you! We added paint markers as a decorating option in addition to the woodburning tool. I also used a wider drill bit for the top hole. The rope handle looks amazing.

Sherry Smothermon-Short

Tuesday 11th of January 2022

That's a great idea! Thanks for the suggestion!

Top 10 Reasons to Subscribe to Scout Life Magazine ~ Cub Scout Ideas

Saturday 21st of August 2021

[…] can also ask him questions like how big should a handmade hiking stick be or what's the best way to store camp kitchen […]

Larry Heck

Monday 26th of April 2021

We loved making these hiking sticks. Thanks so much for the great idea.

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