Make Your Own Magic Wand
With the release of the final Harry Potter title - and I admit freely that I am a huge fan of the whole series - I've been experimenting with DIY magic wands. This article details several different ways to create a wand, from the extremely simple to detailed and complex. These make great projects for all ages, props for your dramatic play center, or additions to your Halloween costume.
1. Extreme simplicity: Use a plain stick, dowel, paper towel tube, popsicle stick, unsharpened pencil, ruler, chopstick, wooden spoon, or just roll up a piece of paper and tape it. Let the kids use their imaginations.
2. Natural wand: Find a nice, fallen stick, or cut a sucker from the base of a tree. If you live near the ocean, driftwood is a wonderful choice as well. Make sure it's not rotted. Break it so it's just the right length and carefully peel off the bark. Sand it with coarse sandpaper. You can get the ends smooth if you put the sandpaper in your palm and then twist the stick's ends into it, although it may take a while. Finally, sand it again with finer sandpaper. Paint or stain, if desired. You can then seal it with clear varnish or polish it with furniture wax.
3. Dowel wand: Cut a long dowel or purchase shorter lengths. See tip below about rounding off the ends. Embellish with paint, stain, glitter, etc.
4. Paper wand: I wish I could take credit for this neat idea. Basically, you roll up a sheet of paper, decorate it with hot glue, and paint it using special techniques to make a wonderfully authentic-looking wand. I'm not sure how long these would last with younger kids, but with fairly gentle handling they'd be fine. This could be done with cardstock for something more sturdy. See the whole project at DadCanDo, and the amazing light-up version over at Instructables.
5. Pipe wand: Use a length of copper or PVC pipe. You can purchase caps that fit the ends. This is a fun one, because you can insert your "phoenix feathers" and whatnot before sealing. The hollow construction makes it easy to put in a crystal or marble at the tip for a truly pretty effect.
6. Wooden trim wand: Get a strip of wooden trim. These are wood strips that have been carved into patterns, and they're used to add decorative edges to household and craft projects. You can cut two pieces of equal length and glue the flat sides together to make a wand that looks like it took a lot of work.
7. Knitting needle wand: You could use plastic knitting needles, but I don't like their pointiness. Instead, try wooden ones. They usually have pretty "handle" ends, and the pointy tips can be sanded down. This is too costly for a class project but if you only want one or two, it might be worth it.
8. Wire wand: Get some heavy copper wire from the hardware store. Bend and twist it together into the desired length and shape.
9. Venetian blind opener wand: I don't know what they're called, but you know those clear plastic rods that are used to twist open venetian blinds? Broken to the right length and with the ends sanded for safety, they make unique wands. You can get them at your local Home Depot or Lowe's. You might even be able to find hollow ones that you can fill like the acetate wand (see below).
10. Acetate wand: Instead of rolling up plain paper, try rolling up a blank transparency sheet. Tape the roll in place at each end. Fill one end with hot glue to close it. Now you can fill the tube up with glitter, confetti, feathers, tiny beads, or anything else you want. Seal the other end with hot glue. You can wrap colorful paper around the tips to conceal the tape, if you like.
11. Aquarium lift tube wand: Pet stores sell aquarium lift tubes, which are used to circulate water in fish tanks. They're clear and about 3/4" to 1" in diameter. You can design caps for each end out of polymer clay and glue them on with lots of waterproof glue (pick up some aquarium sealant while you're at the pet store). That would make the wand fillable; try baby oil and confetti.
12. Soft 'n bendy wand: Cut two strips of felt or other thick fabric about 1" longer and wider than you want the wand to be. Sew together one short side and two long sides. Turn inside out. Now take a length of very thick copper wire (very cheap to get by the foot at Home Depot) and make a small loop at each end. This will prevent the wire from shifting too much or poking through the fabric. Insert this into the wand and stuff it with cotton balls or polyester fill. Sew it closed and embellish as desired. This one is excellent for the littlest ones.
1. Fancy handle wand: Use any of the following to create a fancy handle on any stick or dowel:
• Clay (air-dry, natural, polymer)
• Hot glue
• Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty (from your local hardware store)
• Papier mache
• Layers of masking tape or glued paper
• Mini wooden candlestick
• Large-holed beads or dowel topper
• Leather, cloth
• Yarn, embroidery thread
• Drawer pull
• Attach a marble by dabbing on strong glue and wrapping with cloth or leather
• Wooden jumprope handle
• Wind/glue on a long strand of seed beads
• Pen barrel (see below for painting tip)
2. Fancy tip wand: Gussy up the business end of your wand with some of these ideas:
• Glue on a quartz crystal point or marble and wrap with leather, cloth or ribbon
• Drill a hole and insert a crystal
• Tie ribbons to the end
• Cut a notch and glue in a wooden star or other shape
• Add a strand or two of beads or feathers
• Glue on a large-holed bead or dowel topper
• Hammer in a decorative nail (check the upholstery section of your craft store)
• Drawer pull
• Jingle bells
3. Decoupage wand: Prepare a smooth dowel. Paint on some Mod Podge and apply cut-out images from magazines, old books, wrapping paper, printouts, even newspaper ads. Paint over the pictures with more Mod Podge to seal. Before sealing you may like to let the wand dry and then apply brown paint to antique it a bit. Just spread on the paint and then wipe the wand with a damp paper towel to reveal the antiqued images.
4. Woodburned wand: Pencil on a simple design and then use a woodburning tool to etch it in. Obviously this one is better for the big kids, but the effect can be stunning. Try using esoteric symbols, like the runes.
5. Crazy pattern wand: As with the paper wand from above, drizzle hot glue all over your stick or dowel and paint as desired.
6. Weathered wand: Paint your wand with a base color. Allow to dry and then paint with crackling medium, a clear gel you can get at the craft store. When that layer is dry, paint with a different top coat and watch the cracks appear! Black paired with silver and gold are really beautiful choices for this technique.
7. Watercolor wand: Layer on watercolors or diluted acrylics for a subtle effect.
8. Silver wand: Large hardware stores carry aluminum tape, which is basically sticky aluminum foil. Wrap a dowel with this for a neat effect. For extra coolness, drizzle hot glue on your dowel first, or wrap it with cord, wire, or layers of narrow masking tape. Then cover with the shiny tape and burnish with the back of a spoon. If the aluminum tears, just add some more on top. Paint with black paint and wipe, leaving the crevices dark and the wand looking antiqued. Seal with varnish.
9. Resist painted wand: Wrap a wand with low-tack masking tape, like that used by painters to mask off trim. paint the unmasked sections. Let dry and peel off the tape. Put on more tape, exposing unpainted wood, and repeat the process until you have a design you like.
10. Shimmer wand: Paint your stick black. Crush up some cheap eyeshadow from the dollar store and dust it lightly over the wand. Seal with varnish.
11. Gemstone wand: Adhere plastic or glass crystal gems all over your painted stick. I like the new Swarovski crystals that have a meltable glue on the backs - you use a special heat tool to melt the glue and apply them. They stay on really well. They're also expensive, but it only takes a few to make a really nice sparkle.
• Paint wands in two parts. Paint half of the stick, and then put some masking tape on the unpainted side and stick it to a bookshelf or door frame so it can hang freely. Allow to dry and then repeat with the other end.
• To easily round off a dowel, shave off bits of the ends with a handheld pencil sharpener. Look for the kind that has both large and small openings. Once you have a rough dome shape, sanding it smooth is very easy.
• If you wand has a plastic component, like a pen barrel handle, don't waste your money on special plastic paint. Instead, paint on some glue and cover the plastic with tissue paper. Let dry, and you'll have a paintable surface.
• Some people balk at the word "varnish," remembering the fumes from Grandpa's last furniture refinishing project. The truth is, I never use spray varnish. Inexpensive, safe, no-odor varnish can be found in the craft store aisle beside the 2-ounce acrylic paints. It comes in several varieties and works very well. You can also use Mod Podge (and that's what it's called - people, it's not "Modge Podge." Sorry. Pet peeve.)
• The best glue I've found for wood is Quick Cure Gorilla Glue. If you can't find the new Quick Cure type, the regular stuff works fine too. Make sure you follow the directions on the label and don't let the kids use it. Middle school and up can handle it - just don't get it on skin and clothes.
• If you Google the search term "magic wand," make sure "safe search" is on. Please just trust me on this.
My absolute favorite children's book about wands is The Wandmaker's Guidebook. I bought it for my class but I decided not to use it with them - it's just too beautiful. The beauty of this fascinating book defies description. Best of all, it actually comes with a wand that has a removable handle so you can insert your own secret ingredients.
I was surprised at the beauty and variety of the wands I found on the web, and wanted to share a few links. There are numerous companies specializing in high-quality wands. Their sites are eye candy for anyone seeking to create their own.
The Wand Shop
The Noble Collection
Spirit of Old
The Baby Hammock