The staff of Jah
Homegrown woodworking business turns cannabis stalks into canes made from strains
Many people have credited cannabis with aiding in their recovery from a serious illness, but no one ever meant it in quite the same way as Scott Rainey. That’s because it wasn’t the flowers of the cannabis branch that boosted Rainey’s recovery from Stage 3 bladder cancer, but rather the stalks and branches, the parts of the plant that most people throw away.
Along with his wife Heidi Rainey, Scott owns and operates Strain Canes, a homegrown woodworking business that turns discarded cannabis stalks into “functional works of art” like canes, staffs and lamps.
“I’m currently in remission for the last six months, and my wife believes that part of my healing process has been the ability for me to work with [Strain Canes] after some of my treatments,” Scott says. “It was a twofold healing process—I healed my body and I healed my soul.”
As Grass Valley residents, Scott and Heidi got the idea for Strain Canes when they saw cannabis farmer friends burning the deflowered stalks or feeding them to the pigs during harvest time.
“Everybody’s in a mad rush to get the stalks out of the ground and do whatever they could to get rid of them,” Heidi says. “Why throw something away when you can make something out of it?”
A former tattoo shop owner who was forced to abandon his trade after damage to his ulnar nerve severely reduced the dexterity in his needle hand, Scott found his artistic fire rekindled by the concept of cannabis woodworking.
“One of the first things that we came up with was a walking staff, and possibly a cane,” he says. “We started messing around with that idea, and the wood was really unique to work with, and we found a process that accented it nice, and it was received well by a lot of people.”
Each Strain Canes piece takes three-to-six months to complete, with most of that time devoted to drying out the green wood. A solar kiln allows Scott to control the drying process and minimize defects, although some stalks are simply hung indoors until the wood becomes workable. After the stalks are dried, sanded and steamed, Scott applies dyes, coats and finishes, including a metal handle and a label showing the strain and the farm it came from. Heidi applies accents like gems and beads.
The sturdy but surprisingly light final product looks like the walking stick of a wizard, and potential customers at the outdoor festivals where Scott and Heidi do most of their business, are often shocked to realize that they’re holding a marijuana plant. “You can see it in their face when they get it,” Heidi says. “All of a sudden, it clicks.”
Part of that surprise stems from the fact that nobody else seems to be doing anything like Strain Canes, something that Scott and Heidi discovered when they first tried to find more information on cannabis stalks.
“We’re going through this blind. We have no reference. We have no one to talk to about it,” Scott says. “With all the stuff that’s going on about cannabis, we were pretty amazed.”
Every Strain Canes piece is strain-specific, and usually gets colored to match the strain, with Blackberry OG pieces dyed a dark cherry color and White Widow pieces given a stone-washed effect. It started as a novelty, but Scott’s experience working with various strains of cannabis stalks has taught him to spot the subtle differences.
“I’ve trained my eye to where I can spot a Sour Diesel, and I don’t think these people who have been growing for 25 years would be able to look at their stalks and see that,” he says.
After initially sourcing their stalks from friends and family, an ever-expanding clientele led Scott and Heidi to branch out and connect with veteran cannabis farmers. The staffs are the most popular item offered by Strain Canes, and yet finding stalks large enough (the standard length is 57 inches, although they do custom sizing) has been their greatest challenge.
“Not too many farmers grow the size of plants that it takes to make the staffs,” Scott says.
Strain Canes launched a website on April 20. They sell a few items on Etsy, but most of their sales occur at festivals. The product line has evolved to include lower-cost “healing wands” crafted from cannabis branches, as well as jewelry and wall art.
“A lot of people said they wanted the staff, but not to walk with it, just to hang it on the wall,” Heidi says. “That’s where we got the idea for the wall art.”
As for the future of Strain Canes, Scott and Heidi plan to continue selling their wares at outdoor festivals like Kushstock, which takes place October 20 in Adelanto. They would love to turn this passion project into a full-time job, but they are also happy being the pioneers of a new art form, and they look forward to other artists evolving the medium.
“We would love to see other people start doing this, coming up with different ideas,” Scott says. “I don’t have a major woodworking background, but there are people out there that do, and it would be interesting to see what they come up with.”