The holidays are over and now the time to go around your area and collect a couple pines or firs Christmas tree for you walking stick making project. I usually go to a tree lot and go through their pile of branches and tress they did not sell. The tress that did not sell are usually thinner or not as full so making into wood walking sticks is easier. This year I picked up three long skinny trees with very few branches that were not sell-able as Christmas trees. In fact, the people at the lot held them for me (I talked to them in November). They gladly accepted a tip and I received some great firs for my future hiking stick making projects.
When you go out to collect your trees make sure they are not too fat at the bottom otherwise you will spend many hours thinning down the trunk. You you can keep it thick to give you more walking stick carving room on your hiking staff. However, the thicker the trunk the heavier the stick.
While you are out collecting wood for your walking stick making project look for thick branches to wood carve other things. I always like to carve wooded knives which friends love to receive as gifts. Other projects I do with thick branches are carved wood flower vases (see the walking stick making guides), wooden knives, create a wood tree forest (see making walking stick guides), stick picture frames and more one afternoon projects.
Once you collect the wood you will need to strip/cut of the branches as close to the trunk as possible without damaging the trunk. The closer the cut to less sanding you will need to do in the future. Yes, you can strip the bark off the trunk too. I usually leave the bark on because I like the way the stick looks with the branches removed (light areas) and the contrasting darker pine or fir bark. I only strip the part I plan to carve when making the hiking stick or staff.