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Old 6th May 2010, 10:33 PM   #1
josh stout
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Default Please help me choose wood for a staff

I am putting together an order for several staffs and shorter sticks from this company (http://www.dowelsondemand.com/Martial_arts.html) and would appreciate recommendations on which wood to choose. I am looking for something heavy for training and forms that will not chip too easily when the staffs are banged together. I am also looking for something that can serve as the haft of a spear or pole arm if I ever get around to restoring some of the antiques I have.

I like the look of purple heart for a staff, and I was thinking about swamp ash or hickory for a spear/pole arm. I think European weapons often used ash. The antiques I have seen used what I think is Chinese red oak, but it looks like what is listed as jatoba on the site.
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Josh
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Old 6th May 2010, 10:52 PM   #2
Lew
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Josh

I have bought from this site in the past and he has good stuff. For a training staff jatoba is good I have a hanbo walking stick made from it and it holds up very well.
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Old 6th May 2010, 11:47 PM   #3
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I like hickory for impact and ash for pole arms (if we're talking spears). It depends on the grain in the particular piece of wood, as much as what the wood is.

Interesting article on woods

Have fun,

F
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Old 6th May 2010, 11:49 PM   #4
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Straight grained quartersawn purpleheart has the qualitys required more than any other timber commercialy available. {or most timbers not commercialy available either.}

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Old 7th May 2010, 01:19 AM   #5
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Josh,
I train Northern Shaolin with what is known as Chinese white waxwood staffs. They are the norm for Chinese martial art practice today. Their true name and place in traditional Chinese martial art history is not completely clear to me. I can say with certainty though that they are very tough and resistant to chipping/splintering and breakage. I have personally put them through serious repeated impact and they are good to go. They can be found through dealers such as Wing Lam Enterprises etc. I believe you are a Chinese arms enthusiast so you may be aware of this option already. I thought it was worth mentioning though. I hope it helps.
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Old 7th May 2010, 03:00 PM   #6
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I know wax wood is a traditional choice, but we use rattan for our light and flexible staffs. The training center in Indonesia uses Macassar ebony for their heavy training staffs, but it is very pricy and usually unavailable.

Thanks to the advice on purple heart etc. I will post pictures when I restore a spear.
Thanks,
Josh
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Old 7th May 2010, 04:08 PM   #7
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rosewood
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Old 7th May 2010, 07:16 PM   #8
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IMHO stay away from waxwood for training ( sorry Neil ). A fellow student likes using waxwood for FMA, but (against rattan at least) they do eventually break and splinter under heavy use (gave him a nasty pinch in class - and a broken stick).
It seems that while some of the exotic hardwoods are really dense, they don't always have the "fiber structure" (if you get my meaning) to hold up to continued use for training - they're too brittle once you overcome their density - no resilience...
Maybe get something nice for forms & restoration, but be carefull what you choose for banging...
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Old 7th May 2010, 10:07 PM   #9
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This may help?
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Old 7th May 2010, 11:42 PM   #10
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Quote:
This may help?
That's great actually!
Thanks Lew - going to file this one away in library!
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Old 11th May 2010, 02:37 AM   #11
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I was going to recommend Osage Orange. The problem is finding straight grained dowel. If you're cutting it yourself, look along river bottoms, not upland areas. Also, look at the bark since the bark generally follows the grain.
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Old 11th May 2010, 03:06 AM   #12
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The other problem with osage orange is that the sap wood can get bug-eaten. Actually, that's true for any wood, but osage orange seems particularly prone to damage.

If you're back east, there are various ironwoods (e.g. hop hornbeam, Ostyra virginiana) that more-or-less live up to their name, and tend to grow straight.

As for Vandoo's graph, you can download it from the link I posted above.

Same link as before

Best,

F
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Old 11th May 2010, 03:13 AM   #13
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And the sapwood dries at a much faster rate, so if you leave it on the wood is very prone to split. I always just use the heartwood. It changes from a bright yellow to a dark reddish brown.
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Old 11th May 2010, 04:11 PM   #14
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Default Staff & stick wood for contact

I would not recomend any of those woods you have listed for constant training, I would use rattan for you sticks and staffs. Make sure you fire harden and use an natural oil finish. With Modifed tapideo they use coffee wood sticks for their stick practice. You will have better luck and less broken high cost hard wood staffs and sticks.
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Old 11th May 2010, 06:54 PM   #15
Nathaniel
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what about using a laminate?
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Old 12th May 2010, 04:09 AM   #16
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Laminates...not so much. They're likely to split along the layers under repeated shocks, because each layer is going to warp differently, depending on where in the stick they are.
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Old 12th May 2010, 04:47 AM   #17
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Fern, you are probably right.

It is interesting to note after I posed the question over a laminate, I see #6 on the wood impact strength graph is a laminated rosewood composite.

The thought just came to me because I remember 3 or so years ago having a conversation with a Aikido instructor (http://forsythaikido.com/portal/) whose father in law was a wood worker...and made weapons for him and Laminate where among them...and I seem to remember him saying the laminate performed well.

Modern adhesives I know are impressive. But I suppose if laminates where that good...then more people would be using it.
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Old 12th May 2010, 08:25 AM   #18
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Shiro Kashi (Japanese White Oak) is great, I have been using the same 24mm x 128cm pole for full impact wood and against wood for over ten years now. Some light oil is all that is needed for longevity. The long grain and impact resistance make this a really good choice. It is reasonably flexible as well.

The All Japan Kendo federation have made a ruling that this is the ONLY type of wood they will allow for bokken (wooded sword) and Jo (wooden staff) in Jodo competitions due to safety.

THicker poles are available as well, generally in the form of a Bo.

They wood is relatively easy to come by and I know that there is a supplier in Canada that can custom make stuff or supply you with the blanks.

Search SDK Supplies

As others have mentioned hickory is also very good - depending on the grade selected.
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Old 12th May 2010, 04:05 PM   #19
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Back when I was doing capoeira, one of the guys made a couple of berimbaus (musical bows) by hand-laminating the wood staves. They were gorgeous things, and they worked well under tension. But one did snap spectacularly. The glue failed, and the whole thing split.

The problem with a laminated staff is that its strength depends more on your skill in laminating. And unlike the berimbau above, the forces warping a fighting staff are going to be coming from all over the place, not just one direction.

Conversely, if you're good a gluing, it's probably a bit easier to get thin strips that are straight grained, so if all you can find is crap staves, it is an option.

Best,

F

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathaniel
Fern, you are probably right.

It is interesting to note after I posed the question over a laminate, I see #6 on the wood impact strength graph is a laminated rosewood composite.

The thought just came to me because I remember 3 or so years ago having a conversation with a Aikido instructor (http://forsythaikido.com/portal/) whose father in law was a wood worker...and made weapons for him and Laminate where among them...and I seem to remember him saying the laminate performed well.

Modern adhesives I know are impressive. But I suppose if laminates where that good...then more people would be using it.
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Old 13th May 2010, 06:58 PM   #20
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Just thought it would be interesting to ask a someone who is in the profession of making wooden weapons. This is the response I got below:



Hello Nathaniel,

Thank you for the email. If constructed properly, laminated wood is much stronger than a solid piece of wood. The lumber must be high quality, the boards must be planed to have exceptionally smooth surfaces, the glue must be high grade, and after gluing the boards must be tightly clamped together. If prepared this way, the glue joint will be much stronger than the wood itself. If not, then the glue joint will be weak, so it all depends on how knowledgeable and skilled the craftsman is. Martial arts weaponry prepared this way is more expensive because of the extra time involved, which is probably why many makers prefer to make solid wood weapons. If a staff is properly laminated, the quality is far superior. (woods with a high oil content are an exception to this rule as the natural oils in the wood prevent the boards from adhering completely)

For a long pole weapon, the crossing grain structure of the laminated boards will not only provide a much stronger weapon, but will also help to prevent warping. I make wing chun long poles that are 8' to 9' long. I've made them out of hickory, jatoba and purple heart with 2 laminated boards. This results in very little warp, if any, and the poles are very strong. I can guarantee if I made them with a solid piece of wood, even if it was quarter sawn lumber, a pole 8' to 9' long would warp every time.

Hickory is exceptionally durable for wooden weapons that are going to be used for contact applications. I've been making wooden weapons for over 11 years and hickory holds up consistently the best. There are harder woods such as purple heart, but because it is harder it is also more brittle and will tend to splinter and shred more over time. Remember the harder a wood is, the more brittle it is going to be. Woods that have the best combination of weight/density, hardness, flexibility (not whippy, but not too stiff), straight grain structure, and devoid of knots and other imperfections, are elements that will make the highest quality martial arts practice weapons. I would place hickory at the top of the list. White oak is also very good. Osage orange is an excellent choice but it is very difficult to find enough osage in large enough pieces with very straight grain structure, and no knots. If you live in an area where there is abundant osage and you want to make your own weapons, then that would be an excellent option!

Having said all of that, any wooden weapon, no matter how it is made or what wood is used, is subject to splintering, denting or breaking if it is improperly used or abused. Even the strongest steel swords will break if used improperly. The best advise I can give is to purchase your weapons wisely and train wisely as well :-) Hope that helps!

Best regards,
Carina Cirrincione
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Raven Studios
www.little-raven.com
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Old 13th May 2010, 07:01 PM   #21
Nathaniel
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Carina also had this to say in her email where I asked permission to quote her:

"There are many variables involved when trying to research the best woods and the best construction process for making various wooden weapons. one wood may be good for one weapon but not another and the same with the construction process. Even the mechanical properties of one species of wood can vary quite a bit from tree to tree and board to board, so unfortunately this is not an exact science."

Thanks to Carina for allowing me to quote her so as to share her knowledge & experience with others here on the forum.
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Old 14th May 2010, 02:28 AM   #22
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Thanks for posting that advice, Nathaniel.

I'd add one test I use for testing saplings (or boards) for staffs. Stress them and see how they spring. Saplings are different, tree to tree, and you need to find one that gives you the springiness or whatever that you want.

Best,

F
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Old 14th May 2010, 03:32 AM   #23
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Personally, Rattans work the best for us. They seem to have lasted the longest when it comes to sparring/sticking with them. I bought some from a company based in CA that was selling on ebay, they customized our order to length and thickness of the rattans.
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