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Turner takes retirement in stride with walking sticks
walking sticks1
Malcolm Turner enjoys making walking and hiking sticks by hand. In the last six years, he has made more than 100 and has given them away to friends, family and individuals who need one. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

What will you do when you retire? Local resident Malcolm Turner found his passion rests in helping others make strides.
“I make walking and hiking sticks,” said Turner. “One day, I was talking to James Neeley about Purple Martins and he invited me to his house. He had made a walking stick. He told me how to do it and I had to make one. That was the beginning. After that first one, I was hooked and I’ve been making them ever since. I love it.”
Turner worked at A.O. Smith for 42 years. He has made more than 100 sticks in the last five to six years.
“I’ve given most of them away,” said Turner. “They have gone all over, including a few to Texas. I’ve never really sold them. I did take a donation once. I like giving them to people who need them. Others go to friends and family. There are a few I just can’t part with. Those that I think are very special, I keep in my personal collection. I’m not saying I wouldn’t give one of mine away, but it would be very difficult.”
Among those he can’t seem to part with is a stick that’s six feet tall, a stick that he embedded a penny in the handle that is the same year as his birth, and a stick that’s straight at the top and has a swirl appearance toward the bottom.
Much like taking a leisurely walk, making a walking stick takes steps that cannot be rushed.
“First you have to get out and walk,” said Turner. “It’s not easy finding the right stick. They have to be pretty straight. Ones with a handle are best for hiking sticks. My favorites are sticks with vines wrapped around them. When you take the vine off, it leaves a circular pattern around the stick. It gives the stick a unique look. You would be surprised at how long it takes to find a stick with a vine wrapped around it. It’s harder than you think.”
The process to treat the stick takes four to six months, depending on the size of the stick and the complexity.
“First, you have to let the stick dry out in order to remove the bark,” said Turner. “It takes about a week. If you try to remove the bark before it is dry, it could split. If you do find a stick with a vine on it, you will have to slowly carve the vine out. It’s a slow, painstaking process. It’s not easy, but it will look good when you’re done. Once the bark is removed, you have to sand it and seal it using two to three coats of Tung Oil and Tru-Oil.”
Turner says the trek to perfection has taken time.
“Now, when I see a stick on the ground, I can see what it’s going to look like when I’m done,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot over the years. I’ve made some mistakes. I guess this hobby is a labor of love for me. It’s fun, but it’s a lot of work. I’ve skinned knuckles doing it. Before I finish one stick, I’m looking for another one.”
Turner’s walking and hiking sticks are engraved with “PA TURNER” and the year the stick was made.