As far back as I can remember, my dad and I have worked together on projects in the garage – more often than not, these were weapons. As a kid, my dad built weapons out of whatever junk he could find and cobble together – these included a lead-filled leather blackjack for my great grandfather, and a leather-handled oak club for my grandfather. It’s no surprise, then, that he introduced me to this pastime at a young age… and also no surprise that I took to it as eagerly as I did.
The first thing we built together was a pair of nunchaku cut from a shovel handle and strung together with handcuff chain. Over the years of my childhood we made about 20 pair of nunchaku with increasing proficiency – no two alike. We also made a broomstick staff with steel pipe reinforced ends, a knife made out of a broken gardening sheer blade with a solid epoxy putty handle, a double-bit hatchet, and countless speers, slings, slingshots, and clubs.
Back then, my dad would take my brothers and me into the woods, and instilled in us the importance of procuring a “walking stick” as soon as possible each time – something I do to this day. We called them “whappin’ sticks” or “beater sticks”… because that’s what we did with them. They became snake-smashers, fish spears, javelins, and imaginary swords that we beat each other with. So, when I walked outside and saw my neighbor sawing limbs off of a twelve foot shrub in his front yard, I knew exactly what I’d be giving my dad for father’s day a month later.
I picked out a Y shaped cutting where a smaller limb branched from a larger one near to the ground. Don’t ask me what kind of shrub or wood it was, because I’m not a botanist. The limbs were rigid and strong, so that was enough for me. I left the cutting to dry next to my chiminea for a week, then shaved the bark and sapwood with my pocket knife. I sawed the knobs and branches off until I had the general shape that I wanted, then slathered the naked stick in olive oil and left it to dry next to the chiminea for another week.
I sanded the stick smooth with a sanding block, then oiled it with orange oil and left it for another week. Lastly, I used a propane blowtorch to blacken the stick (which also hardens the wood) and buffed it with a dish scrubber until the surface was as smooth as glass. After I gave it to him, my dad put a plack leather grip and lanyward on it. It’s not a traditional shillelagh, but it’s close enough for me.
Remember, wastelanders, sticks (along with rocks) are one of the oldest weapons in existence, and they’re FREE. Honor your ancestors – go outside and make something dangerous out of a stick!