Where to Purchase Real Shillelaghs, Bata for Irish Stickfighting, and Knobbed Walking Sticks.
The links below are for artisans and businesses where you can shop online for shillelaghs: blackthorn sticks, knobbed walking canes, training weapons for Irish martial arts, etc. If I’m missing anyone, please leave a comment with a name and/or link! I’d also love to read recommendations, reviews, and feedback regarding the craftspeople and shops already on the list.
Traditional Shillelagh Walking Sticks
The classic shillelagh is a one-piece, knobbed, walking stick made from a single sapling or tree branch, often with the bark still attached. Blackthorn is the king of woods for traditional Irish shillelaghs, but ash is a close second. Other traditional options in Ireland include: holly, hawthorn/whitethorn, hazel, chestnut, apple, and oak. Stick-makers outside Ireland are using woods like osage, hickory, and olive, among others.
The advantage of a traditional knobstick is that it can be used as a mobility aid for walking as well as a training weapon for Irish stick-fighting (ISF). Keep in mind, however, that not all knobbed walking sticks may be suitable for ISF training. Some ferrules that protect the tip of a stick could come loose during practice. Also some finishes look nice on a walking cane but might not survive stick-on-stick training.
For ISF, I recommend a shillelagh with an oil and/or wax finish for three reasons:
Hard, glossy finishes such as varnish, shellac, or lacquer are low maintenance and provide a great shine, but some of them can also chip or crack under impact. On the other hand, some ISF practitioners have reported using varnished sticks for contact training without problems, so it may depend on the type of product used in the finish. Consult with the stickmaker or seller about the suitability of their finishes for contact training.
Oils and waxes improve the toughness of your stick by nourishing the wood to prevent it from getting dry and brittle. For example, hurlers and cricketers apply raw linseed oil to their hurleys and bats to reduce dents, cracks, and splinters.
If your stick gets beaten up during practice, you can just sand down any splinters or damaged bark and apply another coat of oil/wax. Damage to glossy varnish, shellac, or lacquer often means the stick must be stripped and refinished to return it to its former glory.
For further advice on choosing a shillelagh for use in Irish stick-fighting [bataireacht], consult this helpful blog-post from Antrim Bata’s Maxime Chouinard: https://irishstick.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/how-to-choose-the-perfect-shillelagh/
http://www.thestickman.co.uk/ (only delivers to Britain and EU)
Walking Stick Sellers
Wooden Training Sticks
The shillelaghs in this category are made from machined timber and are designed specifically for practising Irish stick-fighting. Consequently, they are sometimes not the best choice for walking sticks. Some makers offer many options in exotic hardwoods, and you may wish to consult Zaimoku for info of the most suitable types of wood for training weapons. I’ve had good experiences with jatoba and purpleheart, and I know other practitioners have enjoyed training sticks made from granadillo and hop hornbeam.
Man-made Training Sticks
Shillelaghs made from artificial materials offer alternatives to wood that are tough, cheap, and low maintenance. The Cold Steel and United Cutlery “blackthorn” sticks are made from plastic and are a bit on the heavy side for ISF training. The padded sticks from Soft Sticks are designed for ISF competition, but they lack the shape and qualities of a traditional shillelagh. Your mileage may vary!