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.

 

Ewer Unique Essence

ewer unique essenceIt’s a mysterious bottle filled with a unique, glowing essence. What could the essence be? Happiness? Triumph? Panache? The Thrill of Your First Ride on the Back of an Arachnimammoth? This radiant project was part of To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for 6-8 year-olds.

We read The Creature Department by Robert Paul Weston (Razorbill, 2013). Elliot von Doppler is thrilled when his uncle Archie invites him to his workplace for a tour. Uncle Archie works in the top secret Research and Development Department at DENKi-3000, a company known for its amazing inventions. Elliot and his new friend Leslie soon learn that Uncle Archie’s secret department is staffed by creatures – bog nymphs, fairy-bats, knucklecrumplers, and bombastadons (to name a few). But DENKi-3000 is also in trouble. If the Creature Department doesn’t come up with a ground-breaking new invention in a few days, the company will be taken over by the relentless Quazicom Corporation. But, like DENKi-3000, Quazicom isn’t quite what it seems…

In my favorite part of the book, Elliot and Leslie visit “The Abstractory,” an enormous library/pantry that houses millions of bottles. Inside each bottle are different creature essences – namely, the special feelings, thoughts, and emotions that power creature inventions. Some essences are simple, like “Justice.” Others are more complicated, like “The Overwhelming Suspicion Something Big and Hungry is Hiding Under Your Bed.” Depending on their contents, the bottles glow, vibrate, flash, shimmer, and rattle. We wanted to capture a little of that fun with this project. Hence, a glow-in-the-dark bottle that contains an essence of your own making, complete with label.

finished bottleBut, because DENKi-3000’s research and development department is shrouded in secret, the entire project came as a take-home kit with strict instructions to NOT open the box until you get home.

DENKi-3000 boxYou’ll need:

  • 1 small glass bottle with lid
  • 1 rectangle of white card stock (ours was 2.25″ x 2.75″)
  • Glow-in-the-dark pigment or paint (more on this later)
  • 1 paintbrush
  • 1 square of glitter tulle (ours was 3.5″ x 3.5″)
  • 1 small bottle label with string
  • 1 wooden stirrer (we used a 4.5″ craft stick)
  • Scissors and white glue for construction
  • Pen

Below you can see the contents of the kit. There’s a glass bottle, a container of white glue, a plastic bag of glow-in-the-dark pigment, a wooden stirrer, a paintbrush, a rectangle of white card stock, a square of glitter tulle, and a small label with an elastic string. We gave the kids 1 extra piece of card stock and 1 extra piece of glitter tulle, just in case they messed up. Not pictured in the photo – a set of kit instructions.

creature bottle kit First, the bottle! We used 2.25″ screw-top jars scored from the wedding section of Michaels craft store. 20 jars cost $21, but we had a 40% off coupon. Woot! To make it look less like a spice jar, we hot glued a clear flat glass marble on top of the lid.

empty creature bottle

Use the paintbrush to paint the inside of the bottle with glow-in-the-dark glue or paint. We used non-toxic glow-in-the-dark pigment (read about it here) mixed with white glue. Why? We wanted the kids to feel like little alchemists – pouring the pigment into the glue, stirring it with a wooden stick, and watching it transform into glowing goo.

mixing glow glueThe glow glue goes on opaque, but as you can see below, it dries semi-transparent. Glow-in-the-dark paint (which we found in the t-shirt decorating section of Michaels) also dries transparent:

treated bottlesThe glow glue, however, glows much stronger. Perhaps because you can control the ratio of pigment to glue? But the paint is glowing. And it requires a lot less measuring and mixing. So you can’t go wrong with either choice.

treated bottles in the darkIt’s time to create your creature essence! This is basically a card stock shape wrapped in tulle. Since we wanted the bottles to also look pretty in daylight, we went with glitter tulle, which you can find in the ribbon section of Michaels.

Cut the card stock into your desired shape (we went with a spiral). Make sure the shape fits in the bottle! Then, paint both sides of the shape and the tulle with glow-in-the-dark glue or paint (we recommend doing this on top of wax paper or parchment paper). It might seem like the glue or paint isn’t sticking to the tulle, but we assure you, it is! Here’s the finished painted tulle and card stock spiral:

treated tulle and card stock Once the bottle, the shape, and the tulle are dry, gently wrap the tulle around the shape and tuck it into the bottle. Screw the lid on, write the name of your essence on a label, and attach the label to the bottle. We used 1.25″ price tags with elastic strings, found it the beading section at Michaels. We found the plastic baggies for the pigment there too. Both of these things cost just a few bucks.

You’re done! Charge up the bottle, take it to a dark room (or hold it next to a black light) and watch your creature essence illuminate! I love how the tulle makes the card stock shape look like it’s suspended in fog.

ewer unique essenceThere was another reason I was so keen to do a glow-in-the-dark project for The Creature Department. The book’s cover GLOWS IN THE DARK!

creature department book coverEvery story time, without fail, the kids would ask to see the cover glow. No matter how many times we looked, they never lost their enthusiasm for it. In the video below, you can’t  see the book, but you can definitely hear the kids reacting to its cover!

 


Can You Dig It?

can you dig itWhile archaeology can’t always be fedoras, bullwhips, and jaunty theme music, it is a fascinating field of study. Plus, you get to dig really, really big holes! In 2013, my library had a large-scale Journey to the Centre of the Earth event, and archeology seemed just the thing to include. But we needed to be realistic about what we could do. I mean, we couldn’t set up a dig site on the event floor…or could we?

Today, I’m going to share how Katie and I built a portable archeological dig site. It has it all – grids, brushes, artifacts, scientific sketches, field notes, and a clipboard activity that got kids thinking about how all the artifacts were connected. The dig was hosted by the Historical Society of Princeton, who put their own fantastic twist on things (I’ll share what that is at the end of the post!).

Katie and I created the dig in the pre-blog days, so you’ll have to excuse me if there aren’t as many detailed process photos!

Our dig consisted of 4 different “sites.” Each site was a group of 6 corrugated cardboard boxes and a clipboard. I ordered the boxes from Uline (model S-16746). They are 15″ x 15″ x 3″. Originally, the boxes had attached lids, but we cut those off. We connected the boxes with tons of hot glue, then ran brown packing tape around the outside as well.

site boxesArcheologists use string to divide their sites into grids. We replicated this by hot gluing yarn along the tops of the boxes. We color-coordinated the sites as well. Site 4, for example, had yellow yarn, yellow stripes on the markers, and a yellow cover sheet on the clipboard. The other site colors were green, orange and red.

Since the artifacts would later be matched to a site map, we hot glued wooden craft sticks markers around the grid as well. Here’s how each site was marked:

The next step was to find artifacts to put in the boxes. We had a lot of fun with this! Among other things, we used old metal jewelry, non-plastic beads, and owl pellet bones. We used air dry clay to make cups, plates, bowls, and spoons (a couple of which we intentionally shattered and used as shards). A library contractor donated some small deer antlers, and I snagged a “stone knife” from a broken piece of paving tile.

not quite a stone knifeEach of the 4 sites had its own theme: 1) Fire Pit; 2) Pantry; 3) Treasury; and 4) Armory. We sorted the artifacts under the different themes, and then arranged them in the appropriate boxes. Because we needed the artifacts to match the site map, we hot glued them inside the boxes. And we really, really hot glued them. We even had an emergency hot glue gun at the event in case an over-eager archeologist yanked an artifact out of the box.

Next came the dirt! Except, for sanitation reasons, we used playground sand purchased from Lowe’s. Specifically, we mixed white and yellow playground sand together to give it more texture.

original image source nassau literary review

Original image source, the Nassau Literary Review

To keep the mess at a minimum, we added 1″ of sand to the boxes. It was just enough to cover most of the objects, but still left a few sticking out in a tantalizing way. Each individual box got 4 cups of sand, which meant each site used 24 cups of sand. In the end, we used 50lbs of sand for the whole dig site. For obvious reasons, we transported the prepped boxes to the event and THEN filled them with sand.

At the event, young archeologists used paintbrushes to uncover the artifacts. They were natural bristle brushes with wooden handles in assorted sizes (the widest being 2″). There were at least 4 brushes per site so multiple kids could work at once.

multiple archeologistsRemember the clip boards by each site? The clipboards contained a site map of where all the objects were buried. But before kids looked at the map, we asked them to think about what they had just uncovered. So the cover sheets for the clipboards looked like this:

clipboard cover sheet

Kids would talk about what the artifacts looked like (“That looks like a spoon!”), how some artifacts were located close together (“I saw a plate and a spoon together…”), and then make guesses as to what dwelling the artifacts were used for (“I think someone was eating here. A kitchen maybe?”).

Flip up the cover sheet, and there was the site map with the artifacts. If kids hadn’t found an artifact, they could use the grid markers to locate it. The map also had the title of the site, so kids could confirm their hunches as to how the artifacts were connected. If they excavated all the sites, they would also see how those were related (the Pantry was located next to the Fire Pit, the Armory was located next to the Treasury).

clipboard site mapBordering each site map were cool “field sketches” identifying some of the objects on the site. These were drawn by the awesome Aliisa Lee.

earring artifactAliisa even added cool little notes to some of the sketches…

clay artifactYou might have noticed that we didn’t label everything on the site map. That was intentional. Many of the objects were obvious (beads, spoons, a bracelet), but we left a few mysteries to show that, sometimes, you don’t get all the answers right away. It might take a little more research and consultation with your colleagues.

I mentioned that the Historical Society of Princeton added their own special twist to the archeology activity. YES! They displayed, and in some cases let kids handle, a multitude of artifacts that had been discovered and excavated from actual dig sites in Princeton! Some of the artifacts included broken dishware, glass piece, the base of a flowerpot, arrowheads, and a stone ax.

historical society of princetonThe two Princeton excavation sites were the Houdibras Tavern and the Updike Farmstead (where the Historical Society now houses its headquarters). They had this fantastic photo on display too. Kids at the Houdibras Tavern dig in 1969. It was the PERFECT archeology and history connection. So cool.

Hudibras Dig Historical Society of Princeton

Photographer Warren E. Kruse of the Trenton Times, from the Collection of the Historical Society of Princeton

And there you have it! An archeological dig site to spark the imaginations of budding young archeologists (with their dedicated research assistants offering a boost when needed).

young archeologist