While I was walking along a trail in NJ, I came across a fallen branch -- it looked really good and I decided to make a hiking stick out of it.

There are 4-5 knots on this as you can see in the photo. How do they affect the integrity of the wood? Will this reduce the strength of the hiking stick that will be subjected to a lot of stress.

Looking forward to thoughts on this.

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NOTE: Edited to better reflect the stackExchange and reduced the scope of the question.

  • 1
    It is very hard to identify the wood from a picture and this site customarily does not do so. I'm sure someone will address the rest of the question.
    – Ashlar
    May 27 '16 at 2:09
  • Hi, welcome to Woodworking.SE! Unfortunately wood identification is out of scope for the Q&A section of our website but please feel free to ask in chat. Regarding your other questions, it will work best to edit this question to focus on just one (e.g., the knots) and break the others out into separate questions about finishing, etc.
    – rob
    May 27 '16 at 13:27
  • Sure rob -- I'll do that. May 27 '16 at 22:58

As Ashlar commented it is very difficult to identify the tree species solely from the picture. If you were able to get more pictures of the tree itself or the leaves it produces that could help greatly in identifying it, but if I had to make a guess after a little research of New England region hardwoods here, I would guess it is from an alder or maple species based on its bark and wood color.

For your application the knots (eyes) in the wood should do no harm to the hiking stick's integrity as long as there is no rot in them or the stick overall. Also then finishing the walking stick with tung oil should work perfectly for this as you said it is natural and it brings out the natural look of the wood.

Note: If anybody has any more knowledge about identifying tree species please comment or feel free to edit my answer as it would be helpful to Krishna to know what he is working with.

  • 1
    I will try getting back on the trail this weekend and see if I can snap a picture of the leaf. That would certainly make things easier :) May 27 '16 at 10:15
  • Turns out it is from an American Beech tree. May 29 '16 at 13:32

There are 4-5 knots on this as you can see in the photo. How do they affect the integrity of the wood?

It's hard to do more than guess at this without seeing the wood in the flesh and handling it, so no warranty with this but there's a reasonable chance you have nothing to worry about.

Will this reduce the strength of the hiking stick that will be subjected to a lot of stress.

Knots in a board are definite weak spots so I think it's safe to assume that in a branch or thin trunk like this they must also be. But, a weak spot doesn't mean it fatally undermines a board, there are of course a great many things made from knotty wood and they hold up just fine.

And in fact many hiking sticks and walking sticks are traditionally made from knotty wood. In addition, in certain parts of Britain bows were historically made from knotty native yew, with the knots remaining in the bow stave after shaping. Bows of course have to stand up to repeated heavy bending and a sudden release of tension, if they can do this with knots in place it does indicate that at least in some cases knots don't undermine the strength of the piece of wood to a noticeable degree.

Your stick looks fairly beefy, it should innately be quite strong (even if this were only pine it would still be quite strong). If it dries out successfully, without any bad cracks forming, the wood could end up strong, resilient and stable, more than able to withstand the forces you'll subject it to using it as a hiking stick.

  • Thanks @Graphus. It is indeed beefy - roughly 1.5" dia throughout the stick. I was able to debark it much more with a hunting knife (the bark is pretty tough!) and its certainly not rotting wood in those knots. I think I'll continue debarking, sanding and seal it in quickly with oil. May 29 '16 at 13:34
  • @Krishna, if you want to truly seal this off from moisture you'd be much better off using varnish than oil. Oil finishes are actually extremely porous to water as surprising as that sounds, but waterproofing is one of the things that varnish excels at. Most varnishes also provide good scratch resistance, when oiling provides essentially none.
    – Graphus
    May 29 '16 at 15:16
  • good point. I have been stalking gun and archery forums for the past few days and they have similar thoughts. I'll take your point into consideration! May 30 '16 at 20:31

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