The Wizard Behind the Wands

gray magic woodworking wand 161Does the wizard choose the wand? Or does the wand choose the wizard?

If there is one person who knows the answer to this intriguing question, it is Lane O’Neil, the master wandmaker behind Gray Magic Woodworking. Today, we’ll get a sneak peek at Lane’s amazing creations. Tomorrow, Lane and his wands will be at our library’s Harry Potter event!

Even though Lane has been woodworking for 25 years, he didn’t take up the wand making lathe until fairly recently. Four years ago, during a hike, he picked up an oak branch. He carved the branch into his first wand – a gift for his young daughter. 291 hand-crafted wands later, Lane is still busy carving and shipping his unique pieces around the world.

gray magic woodworking wand 155Fantastically, Lane has donated 3 of his wands to our Accio Wand blog contest! If you’d like a shot at winning a one-of-a-kind Gray Magic Woodworking wand, please see the details at the end of this post.


How did you first get interested in wandmaking?

I got interested in wandmaking slowly over time. I enjoyed the Harry Potter movies, and being an artist, I was instantly drawn to the concept of each witch or wizard having a unique wand. They were made from different woods, had different cores, and were made by different wandmakers. The idea that the wand was linked to the person was wonderful. Sometimes the style fit the personality like Hermione, Sirius, or Narcissus. And sometimes it didn’t, like Ginny, Harry, or Mad-Eye. Sometimes the wand only reflected the holders shallow exterior, like Delores Umbridge, or what beauty was hidden beneath the surface, like Luna.

I had vision upon vision in my head of new pieces to create. And I got to work. I wanted each piece to be unique. I love the idea of the wand being paired to one person. It’s less of a part time job now, more of a labor of love.

gray magic woodworking wand 232What sorts of woods do you use?

When I first started, I used what was readily available, Oak, Poplar, Ash, Maple. But as I discovered, there are hundreds of species of trees. I now use Paduak, Gaboon Ebony, Birch, Purpleheart, Cherry, Bubinga, Cocobolo, Koa, Osage Orange, Mahogany, Lacewood, you name it. The more exotic and far traveled it is the better. I love the different textures, grains, colors, and figures.

gray magic woodworking wand 050Where do you acquire the wood for your wands?

I get wood wherever I can. Found pieces, traded pieces among my woodworking group, but primarily I use exotic hardwood suppliers. I got requests to craft from Holly, Elder, and Larch. And since I just couldn’t run down to Home Depot and pick up some Bolivian Rosewood, I needed to branch out and discover new suppliers.

wood piecesMy favorite place is called Hearn, they are located in Oxford, PA.  It’s like a candy store for people who craft wood. They have everything from domestic scraps to 16′ slabs of exotic wood shipped from the hearts of far away continents.

Describe the process of carving a wand from start to finish.

I start with a dried, seasoned “blank.” It’s usually about 1″X1″x16″. I drill a small shallow hole into each end to secure it in the lathe. I remove the Morris Taper spur from the lathe, tap it onto the wood blank, insert the spur/wood onto the lathe, and lock in the tail stock. I make sure I have my safety goggles and breathing respirator on, and my sleeves rolled up.

I position the guide, turn on the lathe, and use a “roughing gouge” to take the edges off until I have a smooth, long cylinder. I can then draw lines, if needed, for length or detail locations. Then I use various skews and chisels to shape the wand.

chiselWhen it’s just about fully shaped, I use sandpaper to smooth it – working to smaller grits until I’m happy with the texture. I can also stain or paint the wand while it’s spinning. I usually use a carnauba wax/ tung oil blend to finish fully.

latheWhen I’m just about done, I “part” the wand from the lathe by cutting the material away by the tip or pommel until the wand falls off. I move the piece to the work bench, saw the remaining scrap block off, sand the two rough ends, and finish with carving, wood burning, or other decorations. I tag it, give it a name, and a number.

gray magic woodworking wandsHow long does it take to make a wand?

The time it takes to make a wand depends on the intricacy. The first wand I ever turned took an hour and half…and it was kind of rough. I spent about 80% of the time carving and shaping, and 20% sanding and finishing. Now it’s more like 40% of the time carving and shaping, and 60% finishing. I under-valued the worth of the finish when I got started, but my skill improved.

I made 22 wands for my daughter’s class for Valentine’s – real simple and basic. Those took 4 minutes each. I also made one covered in carved vines that took 8 hours. But the average time would be 45-60 minutes.

gray magic woodworking wand 234What locations have your wands shipped to?

I’ve shipped as far North as Fairbanks Alaska, as Far East as Taipei Taiwan, as far South as Singapore, and as far West as Anchorage, Alaska. All over Europe and Saudi Arabia too.

gray magic woodworking wand 251What’s the most unusual or significant wand you’ve ever made?

The most unusual wand I ever made was a hand carved series of twisted “vines.” It appears to be woven, but is actually sculpted out of a block of wood.

gray magic woodworking wand 256The most significant wand I’ve ever made is a tie. I made a Beech wand that was chosen by a young girl from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. There wasn’t anything too special about it other than the leather wrapped handle, but she chose it.

gray magic woodworking wand 055The other one was purchased by a mother in London, England. She bought a Japanese Maple for her son Harry for his 10th birthday…that was pretty cool. His mother sent me a photo.

harry and his gray magic woodworking wand


ACCIO WAND CONTEST

Thanks to Lane’s generous donation, we are delighted to offer an exclusive blog contest! E-mail us an original Harry Potter spell, be it serious or silly. Tell us the title of your spell and exactly what it does. 3 lucky winners will receive a Gray Magic Woodworking wand! Winners will be announced on the blog on Friday, March 10th.

Rules & Regulations

  • 1 spell per person, please
  • Open to readers of all ages – be you 9 or 99
  • Entries should be e-mailed to: danas@princeton.edu
  • Entries must arrive Thursday, March 9th, by 5:00pm
  • The 3 winners will be announced on the blog Friday, March 10th
  • Contest is limited to residents of the United States and Canada
  • Use of Felix Felicis potion is strictly prohibited.

Photos courtesy of Gray Magic Woodworking.

 

Fox Trot

fox with wagonRoll out the red wagon…this little fox is going to market! We made tissue box wagons, grabbed our shopping lists, and headed to the market to play a vegetable matching game. Sporting fox ears and tails, naturally.

We read Red Wagon by Renata Liwska (Philomel Books, 2011). Lucy the fox has a new red wagon and a big job to do. She must take her mother’s list to market and buy some groceries. Lucy sets off with her animal friends, and while they do eventually bring the veggies home, they also have adventures as the red wagon transforms into a boat, covered wagon, caravan, train, rocket ship, and construction vehicle. After Lucy’s big day, the red wagon serves one final purpose…a place to take a nap!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • Red and white construction paper
  • 1 wheel assembly for the wagon (more on this below)
  • 2 drinking straws (our were 10″ long)
  • An 16.5″ piece of string
  • 1 small rectangle of tagboard (approximately 1.25″ x 2″)
  • As many veggies templates as you need, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 set of veggie market signs, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock (color version here)
  • As many shopping lists as you need, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • Red poster board
  • Scissors, stapler, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

finished red wagonWe’ll begin with the little red wagon! Cut a large tissue box down to 1.75″ inches tall, then wrap with red paper. Next, attach the wheels. We went with our classic assembly of drinking straw pieces, bamboo skewer axles, and plastic wheels from Kelvin Educational. We hot glued foam beads on the outsides of the wheels to keep them from sliding off the axles as well. Here’s a shot of the underside of the wagon with the finished wheel assembly:

under red wagonYou can also substitute wooden or cardboard wheels. Or hot glue shortened paper towel tubes the bottom of the box to suggest wheels, and drag the wagon on the fixed tubes.

For the wagon’s handle, you can use a simple pull string, or you can make a drinking straw handle like we did. To make our handle, thread an 16.5″ piece of string through a drinking straw. Pull 1″ of string out of the straw, fold it down, and tape it to the side of the straw. The other end of the string should extend, unattached, from the opposite end of the straw.

handle assembly step 1Next, cut two notches the center of a 1.25″ x 2″ piece of tagboard. This is the anchor for your wagon handle. Wrap the string around the notches in the tagboard, but don’t wrap all the string around it! Leave 1″ of string between the tagboard and the end of the straw. This will allow the handle to move left and right while you’re pulling your wagon.

handle assembly step 2Bend a second drinking straw into 3 sections, pinch the ends together to form a triangular grip on the handle, then tape the ends of the straw firmly together.

handle assembly steps 3-5Fold and slide the taped section of the handle into the open end of the first straw. Cover the taped string with colored masking tape if you like (I used black in the photo below).

handle assembly steps 6-7Here’s what a finished wagon handle looks like. A drinking straw handle, a 1″ gap of string, and a tagboard anchor wrapped with the remaining string.

finished handle assemblyTape the tagboard anchor to the front interior of the wagon. Done!

taped tagboard on wagonTo make your fox costume, circle a strip of red poster board around your head, then staple it. Cut a pair of fox ears from red poster board, and add white construction paper ear interiors. Staple the ears to the headband. We attached our ears close to the front of the headband, and tilted them upwards slightly. Somehow, that just looked more foxy.

fox earsNext, cut a 6″ x 22″ rectangle of red poster board into a fox tail shape. Glue a little brush of white construction paper on the end of the tail, and tab the top. The tab slides inside the waistband of your pants (if you’re wearing a dress, punch two holes in the top of the tail, thread string through them, and tie the string around your waist).

tabbed fox tailYour wagon and costume are finished…now to market! The matching game is very simple. Print the market signs, then put each sign next to the corresponding veggies from the template. I used 8″ table card holders (which you first met in this sneaky math post), and had little plastic baskets for the veggies. We had eight market stops in total, all scattered around the library’s main lobby.

market signThen we gave each kid a shopping list. You’ll notice the lists are all slightly different. This was to avoid everyone rushing to the same area at once, like some sort of vegetable / woodland creature version of Black Friday. We also gave kids little shopping bags (basically, a brown paper lunch bag cut down to 4″). Following their lists, the kids located the matching sign, loaded the vegetable in their wagons, and checked it off their shopping lists.

at the marketOnce they had all their vegetables, they pulled everything back to the project area to color the vegetables and customize their paper bags!

market shopping list

Mandrake Made Easy

mandrake made easy

Behold! An easy – but totally awesome – mandrake that even the littlest wizard or witch can repot. Katie and I created this project while planning a Harry Potter event. We were looking for something creative, simple, low mess, and appropriate for a wide age range. Ultimately, we decided to not do this mandrake craft at our event, but we definitely wanted to share it with you!

You’ll need:

  • Crayola Model Magic (we used the color terra cotta)
  • 1 small plastic cup (we used 1.25oz Solo cups)
  • Green construction paper
  • Clay sculpting tools (chopstick, paperclip, X-acto knife, pencil, etc.)
  • Scissors

Since this craft was going to take place in our carpeted gallery, we wanted zero mess. Model Magic is perfect for this purpose. It’s light, soft, spongy, non toxic, leaves no residue on the hands, and air dries beautifully. A 4oz package made 4 mandrakes.

First, take a chunk of Model Magic and form a root plug at the bottom, 2 arms, and a head. Gently twist the arms and head to make them appear gnarled and root-like.

twisting the arms and headUse sculpting tools and smaller bits of Model Magic to create the face. Then push the mandrake’s plug into a small clear plastic cup. Cut leaves from green construction paper, and gently pinch the Model Magic around the leaves to hold them in place. I love the expression and leaf placement on Katie’s mandrake:

mandrake with leavesYou can add a label to your pot if you’d like. Ours was a bit of manila paper adhered to the plastic cup with a glue stick. We went with the plant’s Latin genus name, Mandragora.

Also optional for this project: a pair earmuffs, charmed with extra soundproofing.