John has been a professional woodworker for more than fourteen years and has worked in and around the industry for more than forty-five.
Hair sticks are one of the oldest fashion accessories known to humankind. They have been used to secure long hair in virtually every culture on earth over the millennia. They are not difficult to use, and better yet, they are easy to make. This article will show you how to transform a couple of small sticks into a pair of elegant, practical hair sticks.
- Loppers, hand pruners or a small saw
- Whittling or carving knife
Before You Begin
Hair sticks vary in length anywhere from about ten inches down to about four. The most common length that I've encountered is about seven inches and that is roughly how long I make mine. What is best for you will depend less on how long your hair is than how thick it is. Decide on the length before you begin.
Selecting Your Material
I live in a thick forest and just go for a walk with loppers or pruners in hand. I look for sticks that are about as big around as my wife's index finger or my pinkie finger. If you have stonemason's hands, your material will be too thick. You can make hair sticks from thicker material but you're making more work for yourself. Whittling them down to size will take longer.
- Try to find two sticks of the same species of wood. Otherwise, they are not going to match when you're finished.
- Using moderate pressure try to break the stick in two. If it breaks easily, it isn't strong enough. Just move on to another stick.
- I cut my sticks to nine inches, which is about two inches longer than my finished product. Once I have the sticks I want, I take them home.
The terms hardwood and softwood are ambiguous terms. They don't tell you how hard the wood actually is. For the purpose of carving hair sticks, you will know how hard the wood is when you start whittling. The harder a wood is, the harder it will be to carve. I carve them anyway because the wood is often beautiful. Many softwoods contain a lot of sap and/or resin. To use them, the wood has to be very dry and a finish should be applied to avoid getting sticky resin in the user's hair.
Dry deadwood is also harder to carve than green wood with the sap in it. For some species of wood, I only cut deadwood because I don't want to remove any living growth. For other species, it doesn't really matter.
Whittling Set For Beginners
Remove the bark. I use a knife and can whittle the bark off my hair stick blank within a matter of minutes. Remember to keep the hand holding your work behind the cutting edge and the direction of cut. Always cut away from your body.
Continue whittling until you have your hair stick shaped and sized the way you want it. To be practical it does need to come to a blunt point on one end. That will make it easy to insert into the hair when it is being used.
If you like the hair sticks the way they are, you can happily stop right here and use them (My daughter and I call this the anti-vampire stake stage). Just make sure there is nothing to snag the user's hair and you're good to go. Most people prefer to sand them at this point and apply a finish of some kind.
Sanding allows you to refine the shape and make everything nice and smooth. If you watch my video you will see that I flip my belt sander upside down and work on it like it's a bench sander. You don't have to do that. Hand sanding takes more time but offers greater control. Beautiful results are easily attainable either way.
Adding embellishments is something I feel compelled to do. I don't feel like my hair sticks are complete until I've carved some kind of knob or pattern into the one end. I use simple carving tools and find that my options here are only limited by my imagination and skill. At the end of this step, fine sand your work if needed.
Raw wooden hair sticks will absorb oils from the hair of the user however I would recommend putting a finish on your work on purpose. Finishes like walnut oil or linseed oil will bring out the natural beauty of the grain. Stains can give your work rich colour. Lacquer, varnish or shellac can enhance and protect the wood as well as make them even smoother to the touch. The choices are up to you.
Your hair sticks are all ready. They're beautiful and you made them yourself. If you're at a loss as to how to use them here is a video that will show you how. YouTube, of course, will suggest several other similar videos when you're done looking at this one.
Using a Hair Stick
Watch the Author Make a Hair Stick
I think with this article alone, it would be easy to make a hair stick. Sometimes it helps to see someone in action. In this video, I carve a hair stick out of Speckled Alder sticks. The wood is soft and green and the process goes very quickly. Even with stops to discuss shooting with my videographer and reshoots, I was able to complete and oil this set of hair sticks within thirty minutes.
John (author) from New Brunswick, Canada on October 18, 2017:
Hardwood would make an excellent hair stick. The spotted alder that I used in the video is technically a hardwood although it is pretty soft. A good hardwood will be harder to carve but the resulting stick will be stronger. Glad you enjoyed the article. If you do make one, I love to see a picture of your handiwork.
Mary Wickison from Brazil on October 18, 2017:
What a great idea! I am a fan of hair sticks and have worn them since I was in my twenties. We have 8 acres and many twigs from our various trees. Although we have mostly hardwood, this is something we will definitely try to do.
I never even thought about making my own.
So pleased to have found this article, thanks.