Looking at the history and tradition of the game, I thought this week we would look at the process of making the wooden lacrosse stick. All the love, effort, and craftsmanship that makes a quality stick. In the modern game, we have gotten used to everyone using plastic sticks, manufactured by machine, but still strung by hand, but that wasn’t the lineage that the game came from. From the beginning of the Creator’s game, it was always wooden sticks used, created by talented men such as Alfie Jacques.
A few years ago I had the privilege of going to a wooden stick festival in Onanadaga, New York. I met up with Alfie, who was kind enough to take the time to both tell me, and show me what went into designing and building the wooden lacrosse stick.
Jacques has been (and is) the premiere manufacturer of hand made wooden lacrosse sticks for over fifty years. Based in Onandaga nation (just outside of Syracuse, NY), people come from all over the world to buy his sticks.
The process of making a wooden Lacrosse stick is quite amazing, and a heck of a lot of work:
The first thing Alfie does is cuts down a Shag Bark Hickory Tree with no branches for eight feet of trunk (which means the trees are usually 75 years or older). Although Oak is a tough wood, when hammering a nail into the wood, Oak will split, Hickory doesn’t have that problem, Hickory will actually bend the nail…it’s that hard of a wood.
The next step is spliting the tree into wedges which takes about two to three months to dry. Alfie uses a big metal axe and wooden mallets to split the wood.
Then comes carving the stick. Carving takes about a month.
Next, Alfie steams the sticks to get the bend in them. Although it seems like there would be leverage to do so, it really is a tough task to get it just right. This takes another month (depending how humid the weather is) for the sticks to dry and take. When Alfie bends the sticks he uses wire (like hanger wire) placing it from the head to the shaft to keep it from moving.
Another piece of information is that he uses the end closest to the trunk of the tree to bend, the reason is that the other end is just too stiff to maneuver.
The sticks then get hand strung.
The entire process takes about ten months to make a quality stick.
On a side note, nothing from the tree goes to waste. If pieces are not being used in the stick, they are used for the steaming process (heating up the water to make steam).
Jacques works six days per week and crafts roughly 200 sticks per year, down from a peak of nearly 12,000 per year in the early 1970s, when he worked with his father.
“It’s getting harder to do but it’s not debilitating,” said Jacques, explaining the toll the work takes on his right hand and shoulder. “I can still do everything, I can still make a perfect stick, but it’s getting harder to do.”
Jacques signs all of his sticks, but showing his sense of humor he smiled when telling me, when he makes a left handed stick he signs it backwards.
For about $300 U.S. one of these beauties could be yours, but be prepared to wait a bit, as Alfie continually receives orders from all over the world. But I assure you it is well worth the wait for a quality stick from the master himself.
Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.
An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.
Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.
In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.
Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).
Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.
Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.