When confronted with the opportunity to buy something for twenty dollars, I always think “I bet I could build that for free,” and then proceed to spend a hundred dollars in tools so that I can build it for free. Then I spend twenty dollars on beer to celebrate the money I saved. So when my doctor said “You’ll need to buy a walking cane,” I thought, Buy? I have a pile of metal and a welder. So I bought twenty dollars of beer and got to work.
Before getting started, I needed to find some inspiration. A brief web search of canes confirms that cane users fall into one of two categories: Grandma, and Fedora Guy. Grandma has the aluminum adjustable cane with the four separate feet and, sometimes, tennis balls on the bottom. Fedora guy doesn’t need a cane any more than he needs a goblin holding a crystal ball, but for some reason has decided to purchase both of these items attached to each other.
You know what, forget about getting ideas, let’s just see what I have in my garage. I have tubes of metal, sheets of metal, some nuts and bolts, and oh, what is this? A Hurst pistol grip shift handle? Jackpot.
Before getting started, I pulled up my CAD software and did a full 3D model and ran both a modal and non-linear Finite Element Analy— no not really, I just drew it on a piece of paper. The cane’s ability to not collapse under my weight is a function of intuition and a huge safety factor.
Bonus Engineering Fact: The emblem of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers contains the latin phrase “non loqui sed facere” which means “intuition and a huge safety factor.”
After getting a design that I liked, the next step was to make a scale drawing and use it to trace out the metal to cut. I needed to weld an aluminum extension onto the shifter handle, and a stainless extension onto the shaft, so I cut those out of some scrap metal I had. I used a bandsaw for the aluminum and a cutoff wheel for the stainless. You can see the scarp metal I used below the paper cutout. I did a rough cut, and then cleaned them up after they were welded to their respective pieces.
After those were cut out, I mashed the tube with a vice, placing the extension I had just cut into the middle of the part I was squishing to prevent it from collapsing too far in like a figure eight. This was helped with a little propane torch heat which also gave it that nice color fade. Once that was flattened, I welded the extensions onto their respective parts and cleaned them up with a file. I went ahead and drilled 3/16″ holes in both pieces to later use as templates for the connecting metal piece.
Whatever, I have a bandsaw.
Once those pieces were made, it was just a matter of lining everything up, clamping it down, and drilling the holes for the fasteners. I just clamped everything together how I wanted it to look, and used the holes I drilled into the extension pieces to locate holes in the connecting pieces. I used a center punch, but it’s probably not required. just oversize the holes a little and it’ll fit! Once that was done, I bolted everything together, cut the shaft to the correct height, added the rubber bumper thing, and bam! Walking cane.
You know what? I don’t love that. It’s too… Flowy? Swoopy? It needs more angles. More… Metal.
Fortunately, I have more metal. Back to the drawing board.
Once I had a good 1:1 drawing that I liked, I cut out the middle connecting piece and used it as a pattern to cut some 1” wide steel bar. I then welded the bar together, drilled the holes, and used my favorite tool ever of the week again.
After that was done and cleaned up, I put the fasteners back in and bam! Walking cane.
Hurst pistol grip shifter handle
Small piece of 1/4″ scrap aluminum plate
Small piece of 3/16″ scrap stainless plate
1″ x 1/8″ Flat steel bar
3/4″ Stainless thin wall tubing
Rubber bumper thing
4x 10-24 bolts, nuts, and washers
Drill and bits (I used 3/16″, 1/2″ and 3/8″)
Deburring tool <- favorite tool ever of the week