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My son found a nice thick branch that I want to turn into a walking stick for him. Unfortunately, I can't tell what kind of wood it is exactly. The bark is still partially on and doesn't seem loose.

How do I treat and finish it, so that the bark will stay on while the stick will still be protected from the elements?

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    I think just general use will cause, over time, the bark to come off, especially at the wear point of where the hand sits. Also, over time as the wood dries out it will shrink, but the bark is pretty much dry to start with so won't. This will also lend towards it coming loose at some point. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 17 '15 at 21:30
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I did a walking stick in exactly the above manner. Several thick coats of polyurethane. My big mistake was using a high gloss, so that it has that sort of 'fake' look, but its the inside bark of a birch so is quite nice looking.

I did that about seven to ten years ago and the bark and stick still look in mint condition. Thats heavy use year round so is probably longer than a lot of furniture lasts.

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Use epoxy resin, thinned with acetone, and brush it on. Use a very thin mix for the first coat, then if necessary, come back with a second coat. Acetone will allow the epoxy to flow and penetrate deep into the fibers of the bark and wood, and stablize it. It will change the appearance of course, making it look darker and "finished", but I don't think you'd be able to avoid that with any method.

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I think the short answer here is: Bark is never permanent, unless it's alive. One the one hand, imagine bark as your skin. The surface of your skin today is not made up of the same cells today as it was a month ago. Bark is very similar in this way. While it's living, it is constantly replenished and growing. Once this 'living' process is halted, the bark will break down and decay.

Certainly, there are all kinds of polyurethane, shellac and oils that will preserve the life of the bark on the walking stick; but, unfortunately the wood and the bark will decay, dry and change dimensions at different rates. Eventually the bark will mechanically separate from the wood.

I think it might make more sense in this case to either strip the bark to finish the wood, or leave it natural. Eventually it will separate, and that is ok.

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5

One thing to keep in mind is the season in which the branch was cut.

If the wood is of a decidous variety the bark will be very easy to remove in the spring and very hard to remove in the fall. Keep this in mind if you are looking to leave the bark on the edges of boards in finished pieces or want to remove the bark easily in other situations.

If the walking stick was cut in the fall, you may find that the bark will hang around for some time regardless how you finish it. Finishing may play a role in bark retention but if the stick was cut in the wrong season, you may find that the bark will come off regardless of how it is finished.

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0

You could fully encase the stick in a thick urethane so that it's not at all exposed, but that probably defeats the purpose.

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