Choosing a Stick
Choosing a stick is a very personal, very individual experience
A good stick will last you many years so choosing the right one is very important. Remember that a good stick is not merely a tool or a show piece but an extension of you, both physically and personally, an outward expression of who you are. It should feel good to hold, so good you don't want to put it down. You should like to look at, touch it and show it off. Most importantly of all it should feel natural and right to walk with. The balance, length and weight should fit naturally to your pace, even help maintain your pace.
Below are some notes on choosing your stick but please remember that each stick is hand crafted and as individual as the person who uses it. A good stick is as much partner and companion as it is a tool and you should choose a stick that suites you no matter what others say about what is right for you. After you read the comments below take a look at the current crooks and walking sticks as well as the gallery. If you don't see something that calls out to you then give the stick design guide a look.
Use -- The first thing to consider is how and when you plan on using the crook or stick. Will it be an orthopedic aid, will it be a stick for hiking, will it be a ceremonial or show piece, will it be stick for using around the farm, or will it be a stick to use when trialing. For each use you will have different considerations for style, length and weight.
Balance -- Nothing affects the overall feel of a stick more than balance yet it is very hard to explain, numbers alone cannot convey the essence of good balance. The relative weight of the head, and the shank will make the tip of the stick almost want to rise off the ground between steps. Generally heavier, more bulky heads require heavier shanks to feel balance.
Orthopedic aid -- A stick used as a mobility aid should come to about pocket height such that there is a slight bend in your elbow. You should be able to put your weight on the stick without raising or lowering your shoulder. Weight is not generally a major consideration but the shank should be sturdy and the head should be one you can rest the palm of your hand on.
Hiking -- A stick that comes to about your belly button will typically give you a length long enough to lean on and plant as you reach out and short enough to swing with your arm as you walk. the head should be such that you can grasp it tight to pull on but loose to swing back forward. The weight and balance should suit your arm strength and walking speed.
Ceremonial -- A crook is not just an aid to farmers but a religious symbol as well. Typically crooks used as a religious symbol are as tall or taller than the person holding them. Other ceremonial sticks such as talking sticks can be as short as 18 inches or less.
Around the farm -- For a crook that you are planning on having with you while you are active I prefer a stick that i can hang on my arm by the elbow and not quite hit the ground. While wood handled sticks are not suitable for catching sheep you typically still want an every day farm stick to be sturdy. Others prefer a bit more length to give them more reach.
Market Day -- Traditionally "market sticks" were shorter than farm sticks, more the length i now use on the farm or the length of hiking sticks and they were often more ornately carved and decorated but lacked the turned up nose of a crook. An elaborately carved market stick is often more a show piece than a practical farm tool.
Trials -- Typically trial sticks are a bit longer than those used around the farm, a bit of added reach when working the pen can sometimes be invaluable. These sticks are typically 46 - 50 inches in length. Most people want their trial stick to be light and balanced fairly close to the handle to make waggling the tip easy.
Thumbstick -- Thumbsticks are a little different, traditionally they should come to about armpit level, measured to the bottom of the V so they can be tucked under the arm and leaned on. Some people like to use them as farm sticks and hiking sticks in which case they often prefer one that is shorter.