Stress tests for staffs/sticks?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Blackstaff, Aug 30, 2019.

  1. Blackstaff

    Blackstaff White Belt

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    Hi guys,

    First of all thanks to all the great replies in my previous thread here regarding cane recommendations. It was all quite helpful and insightful.

    I know some of you make hiking staffs or other sticks as a hobby or business, from what you've said, and I am sure some of you also practice with sticks as parts of your training depending on what martial arts you follow. I was wondering if any of you ever did any stress tests on the stuff you made or used in training, or could offer any stories on how the different woods hold up during training.

    I see many more worthy posts in this thread and I know mine is weird, but as a disabled person who is reliant on a cane to move about, I try to pick up any information that I can on this stuff. I am sure the stuff in my humble collection is adequate, but sometimes you just like to know if it is more than adequate, I guess. If that makes sense. Not that I'm going to be doing any striking against solid walls with this stuff, because I'd fall over, but due to unseen fractures over time, I had an old cane break on me at home--I may have mentioned this in the other thread. It was your standard offset hollow aluminum one, and it broke at precisely the place where you would expect, where the offset happens, as the bend made it a weaker part. It wasn't entirely surprising as I had used that one since I was a young teen, but it did shock me a bit as it happened without putting hardly any weight on it.

    I now use a non-offset beechwood cane with about a 1-inch shaft, and I am sure it is just fine and will be for some time. My weaknesses from disability can make me a bit paranoid at times, so I hope you'll forgive my silly questions.

    I used to browse some other forums related to martial arts, as I have a keen interest in it even though I can't do it myself. Some people were of the opinion that if you don't break a couple of sticks a year for arnis training, you're not doing it right. Not sure how true that is.

    Anyways, I'm interested in your stories about this and any advice you'd be willing to share. Thank you for reading.
     
  2. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't have any answers for you, but you might find the thread "Input on using a cane for self defense" interesting, if you haven't already. I'll "mention" you in it, but I can't remember if that gives you an alert, so here's a link: Input on using a cane for self defense?
     
  3. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Check out this website: The Wood Database
    There are a lot of woods here and it lists their characteristics, workability, strength, hardness, resistance to rot, etc.

    The numbers may not mean much by themselves, but when you start to compare the numbers on different woods, you get some perspective. I’m still a big fan of hickory, but there are a number of related species that go under the name hickory, and honestly I don’t know if there are big differences between them, in terms of performance. Unless you are working with a specialty wood dealer, you may not have much actual choice in the specific species. It may just be “hickory” to them.
     
  4. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    What we train with is not the same material we use for defensive work.
    That said, I have used hickory axe handles and reshaped them to fighting sticks and a couple of hickory canes and have done some full force heavy banging against other axe handles, heavy metal garbage bins, a metal pole, a wooden pole and they have held up quite well. Oak canes held up well for the first couple of strikes and then began to splinter.
    Again we don't train with hickory we train with rattan which is far more forgiving and better for training.
     
  5. Blackstaff

    Blackstaff White Belt

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    Thanks for linking to that, I will check it out!

    Interesting point on the different species that might go under this heading, I didn't consider that, thanks! That kind of database is just the kind of thing I want to learn more about, as well.

    Thanks! I knew rattan was used in a lot of training, but in the past, some people made it sound like they also used other woods to train with as well, to use in training whatever they would use for defensive work. I don't know if that is really the case with any serious practitioner, though. Thanks for your information.
     
  6. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    The only staffs you can really stress test are the processed and composite staff. There is good news about the natural staffs (basically small tree cut and shaped). So many people have used different types of wood which means there is a good, reliable record of which type of wood makes a good staff or a good cane. There's no need to stress test for these types fo canes and staffs. Most of the knowledge that you are going to get that is of value is how to spot a bad or weak staff. There are certain flaws that you don't wan't in a cane or a staff because it weakens the wood.

    People who work with any kind of wood will have good information about these flaws and how to spot them for the type of wood that they are using and for the purpose that they are using it for. They also have a reliable knowledge of the breaking points of wood.

    If you are looking to smash something, then Waxwood is always a favorite of mine. But you have to keep an eye on it for insects that like to eat wood.


    There are other types of wood that are available as well.

    This is not a good staff. It's either bad wood or good wood that was never made for this purpose. I'm going to go with bad wood just by the way it shattered.



    By the way I have a wax wood staff that about 20 years old holding up really good. Classmates used to call it tree main because that's what it looked like. I never bothered to even it out so it still has the bumps where the branches used to come out.
     
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  7. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

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    Stress testing something you intend to use is a bad idea imo.

    Well, it is under my definition of stress testing... Have a look at how things like aeroplane wings are tested - they put them on a machine and flex/vibrate them and inspect for damage at intervals. After the test, they aren't put into service because their life is used up.

    If you use a cane for comfort - you can walk about alright unaided but a cane makes it a bit nicer - then sure, breaking it isn't much of an issue.

    However, if you actually rely on it to move about then you don't want it breaking.

    That carries over to using it for defence. If you swipe with it there's always a chance it's going to snap. Unless you can be absolutely sure that swipe is going to make your assailant (at least temporarily) more disabled than you, then I wouldn't risk it.

    I'd look much more into developing skill with using it as a poking device ;) That way, all the stress is going into it the same way as in normal use. Or, how to ignore it's there while retaining it and using whatever else you may have.
     
  8. Blackstaff

    Blackstaff White Belt

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    Interestingly, I had never considered developing skills using it as a poker instead of your standard blunt instrument. That actually opens up a lot of potential.
    I do agree with you that stress testing what you intend to use can be problematic. If I was going to stress test something, I would probably get two of the item and stress test one of them. I was considering buying two canes to send one to someone here who might be willing to put in a bit of time testing it until breakage, but my budget is too fixed and limited to do that, at the moment.

    I do rely on the cane and can't walk without it due to cerebral palsy and some complications from surgery, so if it breaks in the wild I would have to crawl around or rely on the kindness of strangers.

    The reason I think about this often is that it is a ready-made tool (albeit one that I can't use as effectively as an able-bodied person) and I just always have it with me.

    That, and since I cannot run from confrontation I have to face it somehow.

    Thank you for your input!
     
  9. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I suggest you simply buy a cane of a known wood that you are interested in, that you know the wood’s toughness reputation, and you go out somewhere and find a big rock or a pile of concrete cinderblocks or old sidewalk pieces, and beat the crap out of it across the rock. Just smash away on it, see how it holds up. Does it splinter gradually? Does it splinter all at once and a piece flys off? Are you able to get it to break at all? It becomes a judgement call, you won’t have actual numbers, but that can give you a genuine assessment of its toughness.

    Keep in mind, hitting a person with a cane is like hitting a heavy bag. It is somewhat soft and compressible, which is unlike hitting it across a big rock or a stack of concrete cinder blocks. So a cane used in self defense against a person will hold up much better than a cane used on a rock. But that should give you some useful information, more-so probably, than actual numbers and poundages and weights and such.

    After you have satisfactorily beat the crap out of the cane over a rock, if you feel good about the results, buy a new one from the same maker, and you are done. If the original one hasn’t actually broken then you may be able to refinish it and continue to use it. You might want to try this with a couple of types of wood, but if you start with hickory I doubt you will need to look farther. Testing another one or two woods might give you some perspective, but if you have a hard time breaking it by smashing it over a rock, I think you’ve got a tough piece of wood. The thickness of the cane will also play into it, obviously.

    I don’t see a need to spend more time or effort with it than that.
     
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  10. Blackstaff

    Blackstaff White Belt

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    Sorry about the super late reply; just wanted to say thanks for the solid suggestions. I'm definitely going to put some time and budget into all of that, I think.
     
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