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Cane Review - Made by USAF_Vet

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by Bobson, Apr 26, 2013.

  1. Bobson

    Bobson Well-Known Member

    This is a review of a cane made by USAF_Vet. I’ll let him chime in with the build process as he chooses to do so, but I think he’s written about it briefly in the “Who is now carrying a cane?” thread. Before I go any further, I should say I have very limited experience with canes, so this isn’t an expert review by any means. USAF_Vet (I’ll refer to him Ben from here on) and I started discussing his canes on March 6th, and a week later, I had sent him my measurements and he had agreed to send me a cane, which I would ultimately review for THR. Like I said, my prior experience with canes was severely limited at that point, and I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for, but we talked a bit and were able to come up with something that’s working really well.

    I’m 28 years old and in decent shape, and I had never really given consideration to getting or using a cane until I spent quite a bit of time on THR (more specifically, the “How many are now carrying a cane?” thread). After talking with Ben, I decided I would use the cane more as a walking-stick kind of thing rather than something to actually lean on while I walk. I also wanted something that would work as a self-defense tool if needed, and that was really the primary purpose for my considering a cane. I spend a ton of time on college campuses, and will be spending a lot more time there in the near future, as I plan to start law school next year. So a cane really fit the bill. Okay, moving on to details.

    The cane is made from high-density polymer. The cane I received is about 2.5 lbs (though weight will obviously vary depending upon the length of the cane). As with most things, what I thought I wanted originally, and what I’ve learned that I want after some experience, has changed a bit. The 2.5 lb cane is closer to what I now realize I want, than what I thought I wanted originally. :p At any rate, the cane is extremely sturdy and seems like it would be exceptionally difficult to break during normal use. I’ve tried out two other canes in the last few weeks to compare a bit (my BIL has injured a knee), and both of them felt like really flimsy compared to the cane Ben made for me. Neither seemed like it would make even a half-decent self-defense weapon, whereas the cane Ben sent me seems like it would better fill that role than the role of a cane itself. :rolleyes:

    This cane is ~37.25 inches long from the base to the top of the handle. It was cut to size for my own measurements though (which Ben will collect from anyone interested), so not all canes will be that length. You can, however, use that measurement as an indication of the proportions of the cane in the pictures, if you like. The circumference of the cane’s shaft is between 5.5 and 6.5 inches; the variation is due to the many twists and spirals visible in the shaft, which is what gives this cane much of its strength, according to Ben.

    As tested, the cane isn’t perfect. The most serious problem that I found was with the base (or “tip,” assuming that’s the correct name for the part of the cane that makes contact with the ground). The cane I received is 100% high-density polymer – there is no attached tip that aids in gripping slippery surfaces. As a result, my cane had a tendency to slip or slide on some floors (especially ceramic and other types of tile, hardwood, or linoleum). Ben is well-aware of this issue and is working on a remedy to be applied to all his future canes. As an alternative, there are various tips an individual can buy online for a low price, and attach one to the base of the cane using nothing more than a drill and some caulking. There were other minor suggestions I sent to Ben with my review, which he’s taking into consideration.

    That’s about it as far as the cane itself. In a few weeks of testing, I wasn’t able to damage the cane in any way. I gave my two teenage brothers-in-law opportunities to use the cane – roughly – and the cane is no worse for the wear. I conducted limited striking tests with the cane to determine the level of abuse it can withstand, and was unable to damage it in any way whatsoever. The striking tests included attacking the base of a tree while holding the cane by the base (similar to swinging a baseball bat), and gripping the cane by the shaft and handle while “spearing” the base of the cane into the tree.

    At first, I was a bit uncomfortable walking around with a cane, especially a behemoth like this one, but between walking around with it at school and shops, grocery stores, and a few restaurants, only one person ever commented on it. Most people didn’t give me more than a single look. The one guy who did comment was a Cabela’s employee who mentioned that it looked like it would make a good self-defense tool if I was able to use it as one.

    Hope this review does this cane some justice. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer them. I’m sure Ben will be commenting soon too. Thanks to USAF_Vet for giving me the opportunity to test (and keep) this early cane. I expect to be using it for a long time.

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  2. Bobson

    Bobson Well-Known Member

    A couple more pictures to show detail of the handle, and one final picture of the full cane.

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  3. Bobson

    Bobson Well-Known Member

    One last quick thing. The handle on this cane is more of a variation of the Fritz type, and Ben can make (and has made) canes with Knob-type handles, if preferred by the user. I specifically asked for this type, and it works really well for me.
  4. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    I'm sure it's tough. Unfortunately, the large grooves preclude using stick fighting style that slide over the cane shaft.

  5. DeTerminator

    DeTerminator Well-Known Member

    Very cool, indeed. Looks like a winner. An Irish Blackthorn can also make sliding the hand along the shaft difficult, depending on how pronounced the root protusions are. Depends on how tight your grip, I suppose. Maybe things can be smoothed out on the grooves a bit on the high-density polymer cane. I'm sure something could be adapted to the tip to avoid slipping on ceramic and other types of tile, hardwood, or linoleum.

    Nice cane!
  6. Bobson

    Bobson Well-Known Member

    Yep, there are a variety of feasible options. USAF_Vet is weighing those and will ultimately decide what the best route is. Or he may leave the option open to the user. We'll have to wait and see how he wants to approach it.

    For my own cane, I might just drill a hole in the tip and secure something like this up inside it so that it only protrudes a bit. Then again, I don't use the cane for weight-bearing purposes, so it isn't a big deal for my uses. I tend to take long strides, and the cane only touches the ground every other step (or less) anyway.

    Regarding sliding one's hand along the shaft in the act of self-defense, that's something I hadn't considered, and it may very well be a concern some people have.
  7. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    It may not be that bad, John. While it isn't a smooth symmetric shaft there isn't anything to catch your hand on if you were sliding it through the hand. It appears to be more of a twist in the material (gotta know what the material is). If there were any serious bumps they'd sand out. It won't be as good as a cylinder, but it might not actually be a problem.
  8. USAF_Vet

    USAF_Vet Well-Known Member

    Well I guess it's time for me to chime in.

    The history of this product started about a year ago. I work in a plastic film extrusion shop, and the cane is a scrap by product from purging the dies and extruders. The cane I made for Bobson is made from 100% high density polyethylene plastic. Initially, I had made these in much smaller lengths and shapes to serve as indestructible dog toys. My dogs will chew a Kong to pieces with days, and they are supposed to be indestructible.

    After a year, my dogs have yet to completely gnaw through one of my HDPE chewies. That should give some inclination to the strength and resilience of the material.

    Eventually, I moved on to making "tire thumpers", whose sole purpose was to be used as a defensive tool. I ended up increasing the length and changed the head shape of the tire thumper, and used it as a cane.

    As they are scrap by product, I don't have a lot of control over the shape. The plastic is purged from the die in a tube about 4-6 inches (or more) depending on which die is getting purged. I twist this 350 degree tube of hot plastic into a solid mass as I'm pulling it out of the die, almost like making taffy, and that is ultimately what gives the shaft it's overall shape. The head is actually formed first, twisted and balled up and folded over into the general shape of what I'm making. Once I've pulled about 48 inches of plastic and have it twisted, I lay it out to cool. Obviously, as it cools, it contracts. A 48 inch shaft will shrink quite a bit as it cools. While it is still hot, if needed, I can reshape it, but this has to be done quickly as the plastic cools fairly rapidly once in the open air.

    Once it is done cooling, I cut it down to length (as supplied by the customer).

    That is the process in a nutshell.

    I've done some torture testing on a reject, just to see what sort of abuse I can put this through. I've attacked with gusto a 3/4" sheet of plywood. The plywood lost. Not so much as a dent in the cane.

    I've attacked cinder blocks. Cinder block cracked after several good solid hits. The head of the cane suffered a few scuffs and scratches.

    I propped it against the wall and stepped on it, bounced on it, and jumped on it. It flexes a little, but not much, and I could not get it to break.

    I propped it on a jack stand and drove over it with a Chevy Blazer. Still, it did not break.

    I hung it up and hacked at it with a machete. My arm got tired before I could hack all the way through it. Mind you, this sample was a reject because part of the shaft was too thin. The machete did the most damage, cutting into the shaft and cutting gouges into it with multiple strikes to the same spot. Eventually, I think I could get through it. but it would be no east feat.

    Now, as to the constructive criticisms. I'm working on different options for the foot of the cane to prevent it from slipping on slick surfaces. The cane tip Bobson linked is the best way to go. There is nothing I can do with the material as it is, I tried stippling the bottom, and it grips carpet and gravel and other rough surfaces better, it still slides on linoleum, tile, etc. That is simply the nature of the material, something will have to be added onto the end to prevent it from slipping.

    For SD use, it's solid, but as JShirley pointed out, the shape does limit it's use. A "pool cue" strike is difficult. But it does provide for a great baseball swing, which would be devastating.

    The spiral and twist is the result of how its made, and I like the uniqueness and aesthetics, which is why I leave them as they are. If I had access to a lathe, I could turn it down and smooth it out, or sand it out by hand. That would be a lot of work, and remove the unique look of the cane. There are plenty of places to get a smooth plastic shaft, and I'm not interested in trying to compete with them. So there are some minor drawbacks, but they are drawbacks I can live with.
  9. USAF_Vet

    USAF_Vet Well-Known Member

    As an aside, I've also made a cane with a Low Density Polyethylene blend. The LDPE allows for a slight reduction in weigh, and allows for greater flex in the shaft. Too much, in my opinion, to serve as a weight bearing cane. However, the LDPE does have a much 'grippier' texture. It is not as smooth feeling as the HDPE. The one I currently have is a 20% blend of the LDPE with 80% HDPE. If I could lower the blend to something more like 90/10, or even 95/5, that might solve some of the foot sliding issues, while giving an acceptable amount of flex (but not too much) and still allow for supporting ones weight.
  10. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    I like impact tools, USAF. PM me?
  11. USAF_Vet

    USAF_Vet Well-Known Member

    PM sent
  12. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    Hmmmm....seems like this would be a good way to a handle a machete or other hard use knife.
  13. heron

    heron Well-Known Member

    USAF_Vet, when I looked at the pics I was reminded of dripped candle wax. Your description of the process explains that.

    I use a cane for support, so I looked at this from that perspective.

    First thing I saw that worried me was the lumpy shape of the handle on top. I know your process doesn't allow for much control of that shape, but the end user will certainly want to smooth that off somehow if they have to lean on it.

    If the bottom end can be ground or turned to a uniform diameter, a rubber cane or crutch tip will fit right over it; these are available in most drugstores; standard diameters are 5/8", 3/4", 7/8", and 1".

    I use an adjustable-height cane made of 6000-series aluminum tubing with an unbreakable plastic handle. Mine weighs three-quarters of a pound, and I definitely wouldn't like much more weight. Two and a half pounds would be way outside my comfort range. Still, I'm sure my cane could break bones and maybe kill. Aircraft aluminum is hard stuff, and the light weight allows for faster swings and other movements without the strain or fatigue that might come from using a much heavier implement. Not criticizing your product, just saying.

    Plastics are incredibly tough these days. I remember when I was a kid, the worst insult you could give a product was to say it was plastic. Not so now.

    Your material looks white, which is a little odd for an everyday cane. Could you tell us what the best paint would be for that?
  14. USAF_Vet

    USAF_Vet Well-Known Member

    Depending on how fast the die is purging, I can spend a little more time in the shaping process. Since I don't control die purge speeds, I have to work with what time I have. Bobson's cane was running a little faster than I like to work with. If you pull up the "who is carrying a cane?" thread mentioned in post #1, I have some pictures of other canes I've made, and the variations of head sizes and shapes. I do also make a knob head, which is actually much easier to make the an angled head.

    But yes, there is room to modify further by the end user if so desired. A propane torch and some hot mill gloves will work wonders on this this stuff. Melting it is about the only sure way to destroy it once it's set.

    This will be the next thing I try to integrate into future products. I'll end up sanding down the tip to fit a slip over rubber tip, and will probably melt the tip to bond the slip on into place.

    I agree with you there. I don't use a cane for support, 99% of the time. I sustained a back injury in Iraq, and will carry a cane when it's acting up. When I do carry a cane, it's really more of a swagger stick than anything else.
    Next time I get to purge one of the smaller diameter dies, I should be able to make a thinner shaft, which should reduce the overall weight. 2.5 pounds doesn't sound like a lot, until you have to carry it all day.

    Krylon makes a spray paint that is formulated to bond to plastics. I've used it on a gun stock, but not with one of the canes. It might need to be roughed up a bit, maybe with some 240 grit sand paper to get a good bond, though. That's another option in the R&D phase for the future.
  15. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    I appreciate you sharing this with us, Bobson. Ben, thanks for the additional info. I hope to get a chance to play with one soon. :)

  16. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    If that is what you want HDPE rod is pretty cheap...and comes in black. The white stuff isn't UV stabilized.

    $20 for an 8' section of 1".
    $30 for 1.25"
  17. bikerdoc

    bikerdoc Moderator


    Technical question. How do you heat that stuff to create the crook.Also what kind of saw/blade cuts it best?

    I have been making wooden canes for years, but I have a 5 foot delrin like staff that I am afraid to cut or heat for fear of ruining it.
  18. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    Sam, you're not including shipping.
  19. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member


    Delrin saws like wood. Best with a carbide blade and best with bigger carbides and slow speeds to keep it from heating and becoming "stringy".

    Polymers may be heated with a heat gun and bent to shape. The older the polymer the more important it is to clamp in a form for longer to hope to get a set.
  20. bikerdoc

    bikerdoc Moderator

    Thanks HSO !!!

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