Here in north Wales, our native Welsh mountain sheep are widespread on the mountains and rams produce a beautiful honey-coloured horn which although not particularly big has enough length to work excellent handles and market sticks from.
This is perfect for the traditional shepherds crook and occasionally I might acquire a horn large enough to carve a birds head, trout or animal onto the handle.
These horns are much sought after by stick makers as they make the most prized stick handles. Horns will have become damaged whilst on the ram and so the finished handles tend to have some discolouration within the horn and small cracks or fissures on the horn surface but this all adds to the character of the handle.
Seasoning the horns
The horns must season or dry for a minimum of 12 months prior to being worked and then the heating and bending to shape will begin. Each handle takes a minimum of ten hours of heating, bending and shaping over several days to complete the initial stages, decorated sticks can take in excess of 20 hours to complete I also work with water buffalo horn. These are sourced in Asia and make very attractive handles, usually jet black but occasionally will have some colour running through the handle.
The wooden handles
Each winter I cut many block sticks. These are shanks with branch or root attached which I am able to carve from. The simplest form being the knob stick.
The shanks or sticks are cut in winter from local woodland all here in the Vale of Clwyd. The most popular wood for stick making comes from the hazel tree providing lightweight but strong sticks with a good taper and balance. Occasionally I will use holly, ash or blackthorn.
Again, the sticks must season and dry for at least a year before straightening begins, this is done by heating the wood and clamping into shape and then cooling. Each stick is made to last many years and the horn handles will last a lifetime. After years of use or misuse, shanks may become damaged but can be replaced if accidentally broken.
If you have a favourite old stick which needs repair or requires a new shank fitting, please call for prices.