Stewart Hammond and his wife, Virginia, of Marion were at Art in the Park one year when they came upon a booth selling walking sticks.
Virginia needed one, but when Stewart saw the price tag, $15, he decided he could make one cheaper.
He went home, cut off a small branch from a hackberry tree, and went to work.
That was the beginning of something that has turned into a hobby for the 88-year-old retired farmer. He figures he has made more than 100 walking sticks since the couple moved to Marion in 2007.
He gives them away to family and friends and has donated several to Marion Senior Center to sell in their craft store.
Hammond uses a knife and broken glass to scrape the bark off sticks and make them smooth. He said he learned to use glass from his father, who once used the technique to fashion a new handle for a hammerhead.
“We couldn’t afford a new hammer,” he said.
After several hours of scraping and sanding, Hammond coats each cane with polyurethane. Using a dremel scroll saw, he can personalize a stick by carving letters, numbers, and designs into it and highlighting them with a black permanent marker.
The first one he made for his wife contains her initials and birth date.
Finished walking sticks can be white, yellow, or light brown, depending on what kind of tree they come from, Hammond said. They retain the shapes of the branches and can include crooks and twists.
“I like working with cedar best,” he said. “It has variations in color, and you can get some pretty ones. They have a dark center, the knots create dark spots, and sometimes you find a streak of red.”
He has made nice canes out of hedge wood, he said, but it was hard to work with.
He found one stick that had been invaded by worms, leaving intricate designs in the wood. It created a naturally decorative cane.
The cane he himself uses is called “Freckles” because the off-white stick has small brown spots.
Hammond suffers from sore joints and muscles. He said his shoulders ache when he works on sticks, so he doesn’t do it much anymore.
“I’ve enjoyed making them,” he said. “I suppose I will make a few more.”