This tutorial explains how to make a hand carved wand, which is a perfect gift for any young witch or wizard. The process is easy, and it can be done in a single evening. Hand shaping allows you to have a more rustic look, and incorporate curves into the design.
Both of these wands are shaped by hand using tools, which is different than my normal process of turning them on a lathe. However, having carved dozens of guitar necks on the belt sander, the process itself is something I am familiar with.
The main wand in this tutorial is made from Walnut, is 12-1/2 inches long, and designed with a round pommel and grooves on the handle.
The second wand is made from Cherry, is 12-1/2 inches long, and is partially turned on the lathe. The two rings at the center begged to be turned, so I did that before I carved the rest by hand. This is completely optional, and you can carve this with files just as well.
You can use this same process to make any type or style of wand that you want. If you like my designs, please feel free to use them. If you would rather have something a little different, then modify them to suit your taste. There is no wrong answer as long as you like what you make.
Laminating the Blanks for the Hand Carved Wand
If you head to the woodworking store and find a piece that is already big enough to cut out a blank, then feel free to use a single piece. In this case, I was only able to find 3/4 inch thick pieces, so I glued two of them together.
This is a great way to save money in general when woodworking. The thicker 8/4 pieces are always more expensive than the standard thickness. Besides, with a good glue joint, you will never be able to tell it was made from two pieces.
After both pieces of wood have glue on them, spread it evenly. Use a finger or a glue roller to form an even and thin layer.
Make sure that the glue covers both mating surfaces, and that there are no dry areas. Also, don’t hose the project with glue. A thin layer on both of the faces that are going to be glued together is just enough. The first secret to an invisible joint is an even film of glue.
Even clamping pressure and multiple clamps helps ensure that the pieces are held together well.
Apply a couple spring clamps on the ends to keep the wood from sliding. Then, start adding strong bar clamps in between. Once they are all in place, begin bringing up the pressure. Bring up the pressure evenly, which will help keep the wood from sliding around. Clean up any squeeze out with a wet rag, and allow the wand blank to dry overnight.
Drawing a Design for the Hand Carved Wand
This is where you get to decide what kind of wand you like. If you look around online, there are a few places that will make you answer some questions and assign you a wand. The inspiration for these two wands came from a site like that.
The first step is to mark out the ends based on the size of the wand. In this case, they are 12-1/2 inches. Then, start laying out the rest of the design. For this carved wand, the top of the round pommel is 4-3/4 inches from the butt end, with a 1 inch ball, and 3/4 inch handle. The rest of the wand starts out a little smaller than 3/4 inch, and tapers to less than half an inch at the tip.
In this case, the handle, pommel, and middle of the wand are all centered. They will be easier to cut and shape later, and will have the most wood to work with.
The top 1/3 of the wand curves, so this is marked out off center on purpose. Since the top section is thinner, it really does not matter that it’s not centered. There will be plenty of wood to carve out the design.
Roughing Out the Carved Wand Blank
The more you can remove on the band saw or with a coping saw the better. Carving by hand, even using power tools takes time. If you can reduce the bulk of the process by using a saw, then you will save time later.
Use a band saw or coping saw to cut off the waste wood that is outside the lines. Also, leave a tiny amount extra on the tip and butt of the wand. This little extra allowance will be trimmed off later. The reason for keeping a little extra is to make sure that the wand measures exactly as it should for length. After all, if a little wizard asks for a 12-1/2 inch long wand, that’s what they should get.
Essentially these are the same lines as on the first round in most cases. In this one, the curve has already been set. So the design shows a straight cut for the top section of the wand.
The reason for these new lines is to give you more waste to saw off on the band saw or coping saw. Again, the more you can take off before sanding the better. Run the piece through the saw after you mark out the design, and be sure to stay outside the lines. Discard the waste, and you now have a roughed out wand blank.
Shaping the Hand Carved Wand
It is starting to look like a hand carved wand, but it still needs to be sanded and shaped.
This is where you will need to decide on how to proceed. On these wands I used a spindle sander and a bench top belt sander for the vast majority of the work. The spindle sander was nice for the tighter areas, and the belt sander was great for hogging off large amounts of wood quickly. Even a palm sander or almost any other kind of power sander can be useful.
Take your time, and work around the piece. Be careful not to remove too much from one area or another.
If your design starts to get a little off, remove material from the other side to even it out. A hand made wand will have a little variance in the design. This is normal. You just want to make sure that it looks intentional not accidental.
Begin rounding the handle and rounding the shaft area. This is easiest to do on a belt sander, but can be done by hand too. If you are working on this project by hand, files are going to be your best friends.
Even on a budget you can pick up a few wood files for this project. Look at a discount tool store or in a home improvement store. Most files have a medium to coarse set, and will remove wood nicely. It’s a much faster process than sanding by hand, and they are not too damaging to the wood. A basic double mill flat file and a square file are good to start with. Look for a larger diameter round file too if you can.
Adding Grooves on the Wand Handle
Extend these carefully around the handle of the hand carved wand. This does not need to be perfect, and a little variation is a good thing,
Then, use a hack saw to create a small cut following the lines. The hack saw is perfect for this, and it will give the file a place to grip later. This process puts rings or grips on the handle, and gives it a really nice look. Simply clamp the saw in a vise, and carefully rotate the wand against the blade. Work it in the same direction as the teeth, not against them. It will mark just as well, and be easier to control.
Follow the cut all the way around the wand for each groove. Make sure to keep the point of the file straight up too. This will make it easier to get an even groove on the bottom, and means your file is not tipped one way or another.
Go back over the grooves one at a time and check for odd looking spots. Address them with the file and continue looking. Sometimes the first and the last grooves look really different. If they are, go back and even out the depth of all the grooves before moving forward.
Installing the Core Cover
In order to give these wands a little mystery, I added a core cover to the end. Anyone who knows a little wand lore understands that wands have magical cores. Since I was all out of Phoenix Feathers, I had to improvise.
I liked the idea of installing a core cover, which makes it look like there is really a magical core inside the carved wand.
For the cover, you can do any kind of inlay that you like. In this example, find a small plastic rod and drill a matching hole. Then, drip glue into the hole and insert the rod. When dry, cut off the excess and sand the end smooth.
The dot that you see is the same material that is used for adding side dots to a guitar fretboard. I happened to have a few of these in the shop, so I used it for my core cover. What you use does not matter, it’s just for the story. It adds to the magic when a kid believes there is a core in their wand.
Staining and Finishing the Wand
Dye stains are great. In this example, coat the wand several times with dye, and set it aside to dry. Then, lightly sand, and coat again.
After the dye dries, you can use a finish of your choice to protect the wood. In my case, I used a buffed finish. Buffing the surface creates an even sheen, and polished the surface. It also allows the wand to be handled immediately. I buff many of my projects, and I use the Beall Wood Buff System, which I have a post about.
In this case, buff the handle extra hard, and the end of the handle. A hand carved wand should show some variation in the wood as well as the finish. This is where you can make it stand out.
If you look at the end of the handle, you can start to see the original color of the wood popping through the dark stain. This looks very natural, like the wand has been through a lifetime of use. It is easy to do, and simply requires buffing on that one area longer than on the rest of the wand. Buffing is sanding in a way, so it does remove material…slowly.
Hand Carved Wand Made From Cherry
I could have carved something like this by hand, but it would not have looked as good or as even in the end. This wand is the same size as the Walnut wand, and the pommel is in the same place.
Turn the pommel, or carve a couple of 1/2 inch rings that are right next to each other. These form the pommel, and give the rest of the hand carved wand a really sharp look.
Begin with the blank after turning and mark out the design for cutting.
Make sure to cut off as much waste as possible on the saw, which minimizes the amount of sanding to do later.
Then, refine the shape with power sanders or files and keep on going until the wand is exactly as you like it. In the case of the Cherry wand, I also drew a wavy design on the handle, and then went over it with a Dremel and a round nose bit. This lightly carved the design into the wood, and was easy to finish over.
Hand Carved Wand Final Pictures
Both of these were created using pictures as a reference, and capture many of the details.
The hand carving process allows you you craft any shape and style of wand that you desire, the only limit is your imagination. These wands were a pleasure to build, and only took one evening to complete. I love the rustic, hand-made look that is very different from lathe turned wands. These both look like they have age on them, and stories to tell.
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