Friday, August 23, 2013

Cub Stuff: A hiking stick for the hiking belt loop

This past summer we took our den of Wolf Cubs out to different places to do hikes for the Hiking Belt Loop/Hiking Pin.  If I had been thinking, I would have had the Scouts make these hiking sticks at the beginning of the summer so they could have something to take on the hikes, but I was thinking more "incentive/reward" for the ones that actually would come out and walk in the heat with us.  Oh, well.

We did about five or six hiking trips and we did one den meeting at the beginning to talk about safety rules and Leave No Trace principles and what you should take and what you should leave home and all that stuff.

We did a neighborhood hike where we looked for as many different birds as we could.
We did a neighborhood hike in another part of town where we looked for geocaches and picked up trash along the way.
We did a bike hike where we looked for different geocaches and talked about bike safety.
We did a geocache hike around the local reservoir.
We did a short neighborhood hike to an historic farm.
We hiked to a local elementary school, picked up trash, and looked for different kinds of trees.
We hiked some meadows on the outskirts of town and looked for animal tracks.

Summer is a hard time to get everyone together because of vacations and sports and swimming lessons and all, so we wanted to do different hikes for the kids that came a lot, but similar enough that most of them could get the belt loop.

That's enough rambling, let me get to the steps we did to make the hiking sticks.

A local hardware store went out of business a while back and I cleaned them out of four foot wooden dowels.  I knew they wouldn't make "natural-looking" walking sticks, but where I live, trees are few and far between and I wasn't going to go cutting anything off live trees for this project.  I got a lot of 7/8 inch in diameter dowels, a couple of 1 inch dowels and even a couple of 1 1/8 inch dowels.  Then I used my drill press to drill a 3/8 inch hole through each dowel a few inches from one end.  This hole was there to put a length of leather lace through later.  Drilling the hole made the wood around the hole a little splintery so that's what I had the Cubs sand down first.

Next I had the Cubs take a pencil and draw a design on their dowels.  I also had them write their names on the sticks.  I encouraged them to draw large designs without a lot of teeny weeny details.  That would be important for a later step.  Once they had drawn their designs, we gave each of them a magnifying glass.  We showed them how to focus the sun's rays through the magnifying glass onto the stick.  The idea was to focus the beam on their drawn designs, getting a good hot spot going and burning along their pencil lines to burn in the design.  For safety, we did this on a driveway with a garden hose ready and we explained that they could only do this with adult supervision.
Believe it or not, it takes patience and a steady hand to do this.  One our most active boys, who has a real hard time sitting still for anything, resisted having to be still, but once he saw that he could do it, he sat there for most of the hour.  He made a cool dragon on his stick.

Most of the Scouts did not finish their designs.  If I were to do this again, I would make this a two den meeting project with one meeting just for the magnifying glass work.

My husband thought that the dowels by themselves wouldn't stand up to much pounding and might split lengthwise.  I found some furniture leg tips at the local home improvement store.  They were fairly snug, I made sure to get sizes that matched the dowels, but if they slipped on easy, I figured they could also slip off easy.  Hot glue to the rescue!  Smeared some hot glue on the bottom of the stick, shoved the rubber tip on, and pounded the stick on the pavement and voila!

Now they had an awesome stick but they needed more decoration.  I borrowed the pack's leather stamping set and combined with my own, there was plenty for the Scouts to choose from.  I had four inch leather coasters, made of tooling leather, that the Cubs could stamp. I learned some of what I know about leather stamping from here.  There are other video tips here

I let the Cubs stamp their own coaster and then gave them the option to color it with Sharpie markers.  Some did, some chose not too.  I kept the leather at home because I wanted to put a shiny finish on the leather.  If I were doing this as a two den meeting project, I'd have the boys put the finish on themselves.  All it involves is a cotton swab or sponge to smooth on the liquid finish in a thin layer, waiting for it to dry, and then buffing with a lint free cloth.  You have to make sure the leather is dry before you put the finish on.
Stamped leather.

Applying finish.
Buffing the finish.
I had some blue leather lacing from a while back, and for this project I got it out and cut off a two foot length for each stick.  I went back through my attendance records and had each Scout put one bead for each summer outing he attended on the leather lacing.  The more hikes they did, the more beads they got.
Beads and lace, a Cub Scout staple.
The beads and leather were laced on and then the lace was put through the hole in the walking stick.  And here's the finished product!  Well, as finished as they could get.  I'm sure the boys would have wanted more "burn design" on their sticks before they went home.  I should have had the Cubs tie the knot on the lacing too - see I think up a lot of good stuff to do AFTER they go home.  I used a figure eight knot at any rate.
There you go!  Even though a hiking stick isn't in the requirements for the hiking belt loop or pin, I think it makes a great addition to it.  Have fun!

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