Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wand-Making Made Easy

(c) 2012 by Tom King

Simple Wand with Scroll Markings
 What with the long winter evenings upon us, here's a little project you can start on in your spare time that is inexpensive, fun and will make you the hit of the neighborhood next Halloween.  With the end of the Harry Potter series, the movies move to television and begin their second life. J.K. Rowlings' brillliant series about the lives of children in a school for wizards actually has some very positive things to say to kids.  The series is not about magic being an easy bail-out the way so many kids movies have been.  It is rather about making choices and how if you choose to do right, things usually come out okay in the end.

Simple circular grooves with color variations.
One of the key characters in the series is Mr. Olivander, the Wandmaker.  He's an interesting character and provides most of the Hogwarts School children with their first wands. This past year I tried my hand at wandmaking and made some kids in my neighborhood very happy by sending them home, not with candy (my wife took care of that), but with their very own "first wands" complete with sales tags.

They are easy to make from hardwood dowels.  I use the thicker 5/8 to 3/4 inch dowels so that I have room to carve designs into them and so they aren't an eye-poking-out hazard.  You can find a description of how they are made on this Hubpages article.  The trick to really selling these wand is the individual tags for each wand. 

When I buy the dowels, I alway note the type of wood.  I've found dowels at Home Depot, Lowes and other lumber supply places made of poplar, oak and ash.  They aren't terribly expensive and you can get three or four 8 to 15 inch wands out of them.  You simply cut them into the lengths you want, Carve designs in them with a lathe if you have one or a Dremel-Moto Tool.  You can even make them interesting with a simple whittling knife if you have some skill at whittling.

Custom tags add authenticity

The key is to start early.  Carve the wands, then stain and varnish them.  There's a polyurethane wipe-on varnish that's great for this type of project.  You don't brush or spray it on, but wipe it on with a soft cloth. It's thin, so you'll need to add multiple coats, but it gets down into the carvings and adds nice colors and textures.

When you're done, you'll need to print up some tags for each want and attach them with a loop of string as shown in the article linked above.  The tags, like Mr. Olivander's wands will specify the length, type of wood used, the "core" used and the rigidity of the wand.  A typical tag might read:
Olivander & King
Poplar - 12 inches
Core: Phoenix Feather

By mixing up the tags and giving each it's own unique qualities and designs, you'll be creating a one of a kind keepsake for each child who comes to your door.

The only problem is that if word gets out, you may have to make a lot more wands next year.  The good news is, it's fun and you can find all sorts of wood for them just by keeping your eyes open.  If you have a lathe, it's even easier. Dowels off chairs, broom handles and even scavenged hardwood tree limbs can be pressed into service.  My dog, Daisy, and I found several likely branches on our rambles through the forest and the wands made out of natural tree branches had a mysterious and magical look to them that made them popular with the kids. 

If you take on the project, be sure and send me some pictures.  I'd love to see your work.

Have fun with it.


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