My First Stick (Comments by David N. Stehly)

#1 Aquashicola Country

As a young man I was fond of hiking and back packing and would begin each trek with what I considered a necessary tool, a freshly cut walking stick.  Being a compulsive whittler since the acquisition of my first pocketknife, I would carve on these sticks for amusement during breaks and by the evening campfire.   At the end of the trip the stick was tossed aside and forgotten.  It wasn't until the early seventies that I kept one of the sticks and continued using it and carving it.  That stick is pictured above.  It is carved end to end with the only tool being a Barlow pocket knife.  It is labeled "number one" and I cite it as the beginning of a lifelong hobby.  Since then I have carved over two thousand walking sticks, and now think of the walking stick as an art form rather than a tool.

Two of my hallmarks came from #1, Aquashicola Country, my penchant for snake carving and my carving logo.

In my hiking days I would always notch a spiral on the top of a stick and at sometime in the process that spiral became a small snake.  The piece above begins with a spiral grip area followed by some chip carving and a small twining leaf vine. Following that is the small snake pictured on the left.  When I began to get serious about carving walking sticks, one of the very earliest ones that I tried was a small eastern diamondback rattlesnake.  I was so pleased with the realism that I achieved that I immediately decided to try a life-size copperhead.  More snake carvings ensued and despite the fact that I carve a wide variety of subjects on sticks I soon became known as "the snake carver".  I have since improved on the realism of my snake carvings by making a study of snakes and now include twenty-two different species in my carving repertoire.

The remainder of stick #1 is carved with a variety of chip carved patterns, some basket weave patterns, and the lettering "Aquashicola Country Big Woods".  The Aquashicola Valley of Northeast Pennsylvania was the area in which I was doing most of my hiking at the time.

In the picture on the right you will see the carved mushroom that appears near the bottom of #1.  When I decided to number my pieces I adopted this mushroom as my logo and burned it and a number into the piece.  Now each of my works is serialized according to the chronological order in which it was carved and bears a logo and serial number burned into the lower shaft. 


The design of the logo has evolved since then to that on the left with the scratches underneath, suggesting grass, in the shape of my initials.

Photos by Woodcarving Illustrated

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