A few months ago I made a magic wand for one of my friends son. He is very young and loves Harry Potter. Having made countless walking sticks over the years I figured that making a wand would be a great gift that he would cherish for years, and would be much nicer than a plastic one made in another country. When I found out a colleague of mine had a son that loved HP I knew I had to make another one!
Project: Magic Wand
Cost: Practically none
Skill Level: Easy
Time: 4 hours (spread out over several days)
Overall this is a very easy project that almost anyone can do. I started making walking sticks when I was 10 years old and this is about the same level of difficulty. Making a comfortable handle and rounding out the edges is a bit more complex as this will be waved around more than a walking stick.
I started by finding an extra branch on a maple tree. I have over an acre of woods in my back yard so finding a branch that could use pruning was easy. Look for a branch that has a straight run with only a few knots, this will make it easier to carve and prepare overall. The thickness should be slightly bigger than is comfortable as you will be trimming it down. If you want more character find a piece with more knots and curves. This piece was straight with some knots.
Once you prune the branch, cut it to at least double the size. This will allow you to experiment with how it will end up. Sometimes you go in with one plan and find the wood takes on a different idea.
I start all projects like this by skinning the bark off within minutes. This allows me to easily remove all of the bark with just a little bit of effort. Having a good knife is key to a smooth end product. I have a lot of expensive knives, but one of my favorites for these is my classic Buck 112 Ranger, Lockback Folding Knife
With practice you can skin a strip the entire way down the stick, this makes for easy work later in the finishing stages. You will not be able to get knots in these passes however, those will require a little more attention.
Make sure to skin the bark around the knots and burrs carefully. You do not want to dig down and make dips in the wood. Use the knife to get right under the bark and peel it off.
After you are done skinning it, put it away for at least a day. You want the wood to dry. All of those little “hairs” sticking out are too moist to sand now. Come back in a few days and there will be more work to do!
See, I told you it would look different in a few days. By now the wood is dried out and we can work on it without gouging it. At this step I take a chisel and hammer and start taking the big knots out. Taking pictures here was tough, but make sure to be careful!
After you take off all of the strap parts I go over the branch again to give it some character. For this wand I wanted to have it look pure and good, so I stripped down all of the brown. If you play with your patterns and how you carve you can make some great patterns and effects.
After I have the wand to the correct look that I want I then go over it with sandpaper. Depending on the look that I want I can use a variety of different ones. For this wand I wanted a clean look and used 80-100-120-200-220
in succession. Another wand I did I used 40 grit combined with some dark stain to start to give it an aged, experienced look.
At this point I have the general feel of how the wand should come out. It is still twice as long as it needs to be, so now is the time to cut it to size. Remember, measure twice cut once!
After cutting it to size you will have a sharp edge. I have come up with the technique of rounding the edges. I start with a knife and cut notches all around and then follow up by sanding with the grain to prevent rough spots.
Then I use my Sonicrafter to help round out the edges. I really like this tool for the precision work it can do (although it is loud)
After you get nice rounded edges you are almost done. To finish I use Tung Oil as it does not smell and is much more natural than a polyurethane. I also feel good handling this. After two coats I use a cheese cloth to burnish it and make sure there are no rough spots. Sorry, there are no pictures of me coating it as my hands were too dirty to take pictures.
After all that we have an awesome ‘Harry Potter style’ wand!