Over the weekend, Tesla started his newest project – making a quarterstaff by hand. He’s using traditional techniques, including wood chisels, planes, and lots and lots of elbow grease. We expect the project to take several weeks, so I thought I’d chronicle it here.
Traditional quarterstaves measure six to nine feet in length and are made from saplings, usually hazel, oak or hawthorn. The term “quarter” staff is believed to refer to the practice of making staves from the quartered hardwood (trunk) of a tree, rather than from branches. The trunk wood is stronger than that of the branches, which makes for a higher quality staff.
Tesla opted for redwood on this first attempt, primarily because it’s pliable and more easily available than oak. He also decided to start from a pre-cut post instead of a sapling, since saplings normally need to be aged for several months before the wood is ready to work, and aged redwood is easier to find.
This weekend, he used a wood chisel to start removing the corners and rough-shaping the staff. Instead of clamps and sawhorses, he’s using a tree stump to hold the staff – there’s a cleft that the staff can rest in at just the right height.
One afternoon’s work:
Once the edges are off, he will shape the staff with a draw knife, plane it smooth, and then finish with various sandpapers. At this point, he’s leaning toward staining the finished staff dark brown, though that might change as the work progresses.
In addition to teaching traditional woodworking techniques, the project rates very high on the coolness scale. After all, what teenage boy doesn’t want a quarterstaff – and the only thing cooler than having one is making it yourself.