Making pakitahaakana ‘lacrosse sticks’ is one of the cultural practices we have been revitalizing. As we learn and play more, we may adjust this process depending on what works best for us. Doug Peconge has been working on this process for years and has developed a set of instructions that can help you make your own as well.
1. Select the wood.
There are three types of wood that can be used to make our pakitahaakana; those being hickory, ash, and oak. Ash is the lightest and also the weakest of the woods available, while oak is the heaviest and most durable. Ideally, the wood used for a pakitahaakani ‘lacrosse stick’ will be both light and durable, so we mostly use hickory to make our sticks as it is lighter than oak and more durable than ash.
It will help later on if the wood you have selected has straight grains, so try to check for that when selecting your length of wood. Try to find a piece of wood at least six feet long and and at least an inch or two of width and height to leave ample room for trimming down the sticks and in case of any mistake later on.
2. Trim it down.
At this stage, it will help to have access to tools or a friend that does (and can safely operate them). A planer can be used to make sure your wood board has the same thickness throughout, which should come to 1 inch.
The width should also be 1 inch and will require a tablesaw to cut it down to these dimensions.
When you are done cutting down the board, the dimensions should be 1”x1”x72”. The length will be cut down in later steps, it will just help to have a little extra in case of mistakes later on.
3. Cut and sand the tongue.
Choose which end of the length of wood that you would like your hoop on. On that end the wood will be further trimmed down to about a quarter inch thick for 14 inches of length, then a tapered curve back to its original one inch thickness.
At this point the tongue will need to be sanded all along the edges and the corners at the end should be rounded so it physically resembles, well, a tongue.
You can also use a tool called a dremel to make a few notches at the end of the tongue to help secure the hoop later.
4. Steam the tongue.
Find a large pot and set enough water to boil that it will cover the tongue when set in the pot upright. Once the water is boiling put your stick inside and cover as much as possible to steam. Make sure the rest of the length of the stick is supported or leaned against something so it doesn’t fall out.
For every quarter of an inch of thickness in wood, steam for fifteen minutes.
5. Bend the hoop.
Use a circular jig to bend the form, two people will be helpful at this stage to keep the tongue in place around the form. As soon as the hoop is bent in a circle and still hot, place a form around it to keep it in place.
You can make your own form by cutting a 4” diameter circle out of plywood, with another section cut out to make room for the rest of the stick. Leave the stick in the form at least overnight to set.
6. Drill holes along the hoop.
There will be a total of seven holes going around the hoop where the net will be laced through. Each of these holes should be approximately equidistant from each other, or each should be about 51 degrees apart.
There will also be one additional, larger hole drilled into the neck of the stick about an inch from the hoop. Here you will be able to add extra leather cordage to loop through the hoop later on for extra stability.
7. Remove excess length.
Most sticks we make now are cut to a length of 42 inches, if you have never made a stick before or haven’t much played with one, this would be a good starting length. Measure from the tip of the hoop down the length of the stick.
You may prefer a little less or a little more length to your pakitahaakani–you can adjust the length to your own liking. A good rule of thumb would be to hold the stick to your side, hoop end on the ground and measure to where the stick meets your hip bone.
8. Sand your stick.
The stick should be sanded all around to remove any harsh corners and chafing marks. This will likely take the longest portion of your active time while making the stick.
How round or square you make the shaft of your stick is up to you, just make sure it feels good in your grip. Also, keep in mind the more material you sand away the lighter your stick will be, making play with it easier.
9. Decorate. (Optional, but fun)
Remember, this is your stick. After putting in all the effort to make it, feel free to add your own personal flair to it. Maybe you want to wood burn your name into it or paint a design, whatever you like, it’s up to you.
You can add a layer of boiled linseed oil over the outside of your stick. Once, that’s dry you can add a layer of polyurethane for shine.
11. Netting the hoop
This will be the last step in making your very own pakitahaakani!
You will need three pieces of quarter-inch leather cording, two pieces that are 18 inches long and one that is 36 inches.
The two shorter pieces will be used to secure the hoop. One where the end of the tongue meets the rest of the hoop and one through the larger hole you drilled earlier in the neck of the stick.
Wrap one of the pieces through the hole, around the hoop, and back through the hole again. It should wrap around several times. Secure this length with a bowline knot.
Wrap the other piece several times around the end of the tongue and around the outside of the hoop. If you dremeled a few notches in the end of your tongue earlier, the cord should go on those to better secure the hoop. This piece can be knotted with a simple overhand knot.
The last length of cord will be used to make the hoop.
Use the first few inches of your cord to tie a circle of about an inch in diameter. Secure it with an overhand knot. This will be the center of your pocket. Feed the rest of the cord through the bottom hole nearest the shaft of the stick and run it along the hoop to the next drilled hole. Feed the cord through that hole and under the circle of cord you just tied through it and then through the next hole. Continue doing that all the way around the hoop until the last hole where you will tie one last simple knot on the outside of the hoop to secure the net.
Grab a ball and throw it into your net a few times to make sure it is at a good depth. The depth of the net can be adjusted by untying the outside knot and either letting more of it into the hoop or pulling more out.
And now that you have finished making your own lacrosse stick, pakitahantaawi! ‘Let’s play lacrosse!’.
Updated: August 5, 2022