ENCINITAS — Since 1974, Encinitas native Scott Hicks has been keeping a rare craft alive, making hand-carved canes and hiking staffs in his home shop.
His shop looks like you might expect: benches with razor-sharp chisels and cans of finishing compounds; various carved plaques and figures, completed and not; and sawdust on the floor. Even the entry door to his house is of red mahogany, which he carved overall with a 10th century Celtic knot work pattern.
Made of furniture-grade hardwoods, the walking sticks are one-of-a-kind pieces based on Elizabethan period and Old West designs.
“I first started out making monsters,” Hicks said. “But after a trip to see the cathedral and manor house carvings in England, I decided to study heritage styles, and to learn to draw.” The effect is striking: rows of carved beads, interlacing strap work, and spiral fluting decorate the staffs.
Nearly all the shaping is done by hand; Hicks uses an old-fashioned wheelwright’s spoke shave to form the shafts.
“It takes longer than using power tools, but it’s quieter, he said. “Besides, the preservation of the traditional craft is important to me. I like it that my work will last for generations, if taken care of.”
When asked how he managed to turn what most consider to be a hobby craft into a business, Hicks laughed.
“That transition is still in transit,” he said. “I get a few commissions a year, usually around the holidays. But I do it because I love woodworking, and since I am semi-retired (he also tutors English and English as a Second Language), I have the time to experiment with new design ideas and to improve my skills. However, a friend of mine is making a Web site for me, and I do have a ‘business plan.’ The truth is, I like woodcarving a lot more than I like marketing.”
In the end, it seems that Hicks has given away to friends and neighbors a lot more pieces than he sells.
“I don’t think too much about what to do with them,” he said. “I just like to make them.”