Shinty caman making
The making of caman (sticks) for shinty, a team game played with sticks and a ball.
|Historic area of significance
|Scottish Highlands through to Argyll & Bute
|Area currently practised
|Shinty is played all over the UK but mostly in the Highlands of Scotland, Western Isles and Argyll & Bute
|Origin in the UK
|There are records of a game called “Camanachd” (shinty in Gaelic) being played in Scotland since the 5th Century
|Current no. of professionals (main income)
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Shinty a team game played with sticks and a ball. Shinty is now played mainly in the Scottish Highlands, and amongst Highland migrants to the big cities of Scotland, but it was formerly more widespread in Scotland, and was even played for a considerable time in northern England and other areas in the world where Scottish Highlanders migrated.
A rough board of hardwood, usually hickory, is cut into thin strips called laminates of no more than 6mm thick. The number of laminates per stick varies, but is generally between 8 and 12. Glue is then applied to these and they are bent with a jig or former to the correct curve of the bas. The glue is then left to set, either naturally or with the application of heat to speed the process.
After setting, the rough stick blank is removed from the jig and planed and trimmed ready for final shaping. The shaping is done by hand, either with hand tools such as rasps and hand planes, or with powered tools such as bandsaws and belt sanders.
Final finishing is done with sand paper and the sick is given several coats of hard-wearing varnish. The shaft can then be wrapped in grip tape and manufacturers decals applied.
All shinty clubs must conform to a certain shape, that is the curved part, or ‘bas’ as it is called in Gaelic, must be triangular in shape, both sides sloping inwards to meet the top of the ‘bas’ and the bottom flat to meet both of the sloping sides at the bottom edges. No nails or metal of any kind are allowed to be used in the making of the caman and the edges are slightly rounded to reduce the possibility of an injury to an opponent. The head of the stick must pass through a ring two and a half inches in diameter.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
- Skills issues – Whilst there are still only a limited number of skilled makers, there are now young makers being training in the craft.
- Market issues – It does take time, effort and skill level needed to produce a caman. However, crafts people are now able to report that they are able to charge more realistic prices for camans and professional players are prepared to pay extra for a good stick.
- Market issues – a few years ago there were not enough makers to satisfy demand for sticks. Now the situation is much more positive and now is in a position where the game would need to grow to create more demand.
- Market issues: Carbon fibre sticks are a real threat to the craft. Carbon fibre sticks have been tried and tested but at this stage not been approved for the sport.
- Camanachd Association Support Group
Craftspeople currently known
- Tanera Camans – full-time caman maker
- George Mead, Mead Camans – Full time caman maker.
- Kyles Camans – Joinery business and part-time caman maker. Not currently selling to the public, only clubs.
- AB Camans – Joinery business and part-time caman maker.
- Mark Grant – Bespoke woodcarver and part time caman maker
- Munro Camans
- Heron Camans
- Graham Mabon
- MacLennan Camans – Produces bespoke camans.
- Cornish Camans – Makes a small amount.
- CM Camans
The Camanachd Association is leading a body of work with Universities across Scotland to help preserve the ancient craft of caman making. At present, 2 projects are underway with a 3rd to hopefully begin in the next 12 months. One of these projects is with the UHI looking at how to improve the business practices of current caman makers to make the craft more profitable and thereby, increase its viability moving deeper into the 21st Century.
Another project is working with Edinburgh Napier University to provide a bank of tests to gauge a Caman’s quality. These tests will give the wide based parameters expected from a Caman and would allow the CA to have certified tests for camans. This way we can ensure the rigorous historical quality standards are met on a regular basis.
- BBC, The Art of the Caman
- ‘The Caman Maker’, The Oban Times (15 June 1946)
- ‘Association and uni join forces to save craft of shinty stick-making’, Iain Ramage, STV News (Oct 2021)