As a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, I’ve naturally made my share of wands. Every wand is unique and every wandsmith has their own techniques. I’ll tell you a few of the ways I’ve made them, and explain my favorite method.
The first wand I made was a just a 1/4″ dowel that I stained. This was before the movies and I imagined wands to be fairly standardized and simple. After being inspired by all the shapes and styles from Warner Bros, I went on to explore every way of making them I could find.
Hot Glue Wands
A simple, cheap and very effective way to get a lot of unique wands is to use hot glue on dowels, skewers or chopsticks, building up a 3D texture. Pins and Things has a great tutorial of this.
If you’ve read my Hot Glue How To guide, you know that I love hot glue for its versatility and texture, but hate it for how hard it is to paint. Most guides for these wands will tell you to use acrylic on the hot glue. As we saw in the Hot Glue How To, that works okay, but doesn’t stick well to it after a lot of wear. If you’re gripping the wand handle a lot, you will eventually rub the acrylic away from the most prominent details. You also don’t want to use any kind of paint that will rub off on your hands or be tacky in sweaty palms. This rules out any oil based paint unless you have about a week to let them dry completely.
The first things I would try to get more miles out of hot glue wands would be to prime the hot glue with spray adhesive, and/or use a fast dry finish layer. From plastidip to enamel, there are a lot of sealers that could work. Which would take the wear of a wand the best, I don’t know.
For these reasons, I normally use this method for quantity over quality. I can produce a dozen wands this way that all look pretty good, in about an hour and half. We used to do just that for the Harry Potter Trivia Night guests.
An incredible wizarding academy in Austin, Worthwich School, also helps the masses produce wands. They guide wand-making lessons at various times and locations.
They have everything a member of the magical community might need, including a large array of wood types in pre-cut twigs and handles, tools for whittling and carving, and of course, the all-important cores.
They have handsome examples to for inspiration and encourage you to make choices of components based on which might fit your personality and magical style, to form a good connection.
I sat down for about 10 minutes and put together this nifty piece. A coat of stain and varnish goes a long way.
For wands that I want to feel like the real deal, and that won’t wear out on me, I turned to turning them out on a good old-fashioned wood lathe in my grampa’s shop.
Lathes are so much fun but probably one of the most dangerous tools I’ve ever used. One mistake and you could ruin a tool, break your jaw, or mangle your hand. At the same time, I don’t know of any way to get that degree of rotational symmetry without one, so it’s a tool I learned to respect and use carefully.
My first serious wand, the one above was made with a Douglas fir handle and ponderosa shaft. I used a wood burner on it to give it a pattern that’s modern and unique, but based on the designs found on Navajo pottery.
The next wand I made was one solid piece. The handle was turned on the lathe, but the spiral design was not something I would be able to turn out at even the lowest speed on the lathe. I marked the spiral with tape and proceeded to shelf the project for about a year because I was intimidated by the design.
Eventually I used a Dremel rotary tool to carve out the majority of the spiral. The definition and holes through the core were just whittled by hand. The wood was soft enough that it wasn’t as difficult as I’d expected.
12 Volt Paper Wands
The most interesting method I found of wand making is much safer than a lathe and makes wands that are more paintable than hot glue. A friend was making a Luna Lovegood costume, so I decided last minute to make her a replica wand.
For the most part, the wand is symmetrical, so a lathe would be ideal. I didn’t have access to a lathe though, and it can be time consuming to set up and use correctly. I wanted a method that was more convenient, but still gave the rotational symmetry of a lathe.
The solution is a piece of DIY Magic: I simply used 12V rechargeable drill as a makeshift lathe.
I started with a 1/4 craft dowel and used a velcro cable tie to keep the drill trigger held down at the right speed. I sanded the end that would make the point of the wand down to be a little more narrow.
The shape of the wand was formed with some paper clay I had left over from the bust of Rowena Ravenclaw. Paper clay is perfect here because it starts out very moldable, adheres to wood, dries light, durable and sandable, and accepts paint better than hot glue.
Looking at the profile of the wand you want to make, think about which parts are thickest. Mash on the appropriate amount of clay at each part and start the drill at a low speed. Just by pinching the wet clay (you may need to re-wet it periodically with a spray bottle or your fingers), you should be able to form the shape of the wand exactly like you would on a lathe.
Let this dry overnight. Use a very fine sandpaper with the drill on the fastest speed it will stay stable at. The paper clay will come off much faster than the wood itself. You can hold the outer end loosely with one hand to keep it more stable and work in all the details with the sandpaper. Once the wand is as smooth as the paper allows, you can even use a moist paper towel to get it perfect.
On this wand I had to carve the lateral grooves and the end of the wand by hand.
The paperclay will soak up acrylic paint.
After a base coat you can start to use other colors for highlights, lowlights and texture. I used a very fine bursh to make darker woodgrains.
The results were stunningly good. A few coats of clear spray sealer help make sure the paint stays on and gives it a pollished shine.
The last thing I needed was a box to package it up in. I grabbed some scrap cloth and an old plastic wrap box, which was the perfect length. I ran a bead of hot glue down the middle inside, filled the box loosely with polyesther fiber-fill and pushed the cloth down over it to stick to the glue. This leaves a nice little divot for the wand to sit in.
Other cloth and ribbon just get glued on to cover the whole thing and hide the seams.
I hope this was helpful in letting your wand choose you through whatever medium is best!