I’ve been carving staffs since I was eight years old. I’ve spent many happy days hunting for suitable trees. Searching through the hills, rooting through thickets, lying on my back with my cheek against a sapling sighting it’s trunk for straightness.
It’s not easy to find the right sapling for a staff, it has to be a good hardwood like maple or beech or oak, and it must be straight and have a good root bowl.
When I find a tree that’s just right I begin digging down into its roots with my fingers, often chipping my nails on small stones in the rocky soil. I have a short saw with me, a hand axe, and garden sheers. I snip the smaller roots and saw through the big tap root. I prize the tree from the ground. With my hand axe, I trim the branches and cut the crown. The feeling of having found a good staff is the same as the hunter coming home with supper.
Last week I carved a wizard’s staff to go along with the dagger I’m working on. I carved it from a maple sapling. I was inspired by some of the artifacts I saw at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford UK, and also by my friend Professor Ari Berk‘s amazing study. Professor Berk’s subterranean lair is like the Pitt Rivers if someone tried to fit it into a much smaller space and it had a genuine wizard living in it (but without the mummified babies).
Visiting those two spaces set up harmonies in me which resonated with my imagination. Doors that had been closed for years were found to be open and old influences began finding their way into my work. The wizard came up from the basement, glittering eyed.