Blood Orange and Jasper Magic Wand

Or: faux inlay technique on wood.

I make artifacts and jewelry, along with book art and a ton of other largely useless but fun things. I belong to a loose-knit group of like-minded souls who, upon occasion, will make Harry-Potter-inspired magic wands as props and cosplay pieces.

This newest piece is made from a Blood Orange tree twig woodburned and painted, with a lanyard of braided waxed blue-gray polyester cord strung with Picture Jasper and Blue Lace Agate beads. The stick is about 14″ long and .75″ at its widest.

I’ve had the twig for 15 years. It came from a Blood Orange bonsai attempt that died at two years old. The corkscrew end is part of the root, and shows the stress on the tree. (I am never starting another bonsai again. It’s cruel, the tree equivalent of foot-binding.) I kept the dried-out little trunk because it was beautiful in its frozen misery, and a stern reminder of boundaries I shouldn’t cross again.

When I decided to make a prop wand from it, I stripped off the bark with a Dremel sander tip, then polished with successively finer sandpapers up to 600 grit. 

I did the spiraling design on the twig freehand with a temperature-controlled woodburning pen with a chisel tip. That allowed me to sink deep, precise marks along the wood. The resulting resins got scrubbed off with 90% alcohol and an old T-shirt. This cleaned off the soot and oils that could otherwise retard paint and varnish. The stick looked like this…

Painting time! I mixed a blue/turquoise/gray acrylic paint slip and worked it into every burned line, then painted a layer over the whole stick. That got to dry for a day. I chose blue-gray because it’s a color out of a fantasy series I’m working on, and I want do do some book covers in this look eventually.

(I can imagine that an earthwitch out of my Lonhra Sequence books might use a version of this thing.)

orangwwood wand detailWith another old T-shirt and more alcohol, I rubbed off most of the paint, until the buttery-yellow bare wood showed and the burned lines were filled with blue-gray paint. Once that dried for another day or three, I sanded again with fresh 600 grit black wet-dry paper.

This leaves a general effect of bare wood + colored inlaid lines bordered with the dark brown burned edges of the design. Covered with an oil-based or clear resin varnish, the effect looks even more like inlay. I use this technique a lot on wood book covers, because it adds subtle, precise surface detail.

The lanyard is Gray 4-ply waxed polyester cord from Maine Thread Co, in a triple-strand braid. The tan/cream/brown Picture Jasper rectangular tubes came from a $4 thrift store necklace I found last week. From The 30-Year Stash, I already had tumbled nuggets of Blue Lace Agate with the right mix of gray-blue and white banding and tan matrix.

On pyrography: Some folks do woodburning on leather (I don’t like the smell, or the result, but that’s only my take on it.) You may not get as deep or as controlled a brand line as you might on wood. Be careful when scrubbing/sanding off the top layer, as you can ‘suede’ your leather accidentally.

If you want to try this look, you can use the regular hobbyist single-temperature ‘soldering iron’ type of woodburning pen. I’ve found that my variable-temp professional pyrography unit with multiple tips is an amazing drawing tool. It’s more than paid for itself in the decade-and-a-half since purchase.

What am I going to do with this wand? Hang it up to look at for a while, maybe sell it later. It’s a proof of concept. The value for me lay in the crafting, so I can apply the look elsewhere.


Prop magic wands

I create artifacts. I don’t believe any of them have mystical properties. To me, they are interesting assemblages of fun materials, as make-believe as the fantasy worlds I create in my writing.

I love special-effect props. I judge movies and shows not only by plot and action, but by the quality of the props. (Warehouse 13 is required watching, for me. The Hellboy and LoTR movies are consistently at the top of my shiny list.) If I lived in California, I might have moved heaven and earth to apprentice with some of the big prop shops and warehouses.

Prop wand for blogOne side effect of having some experience with silversmithing and woodworking, along with other archaic crafts, is that my Dumb Ideas tend to not remain permanently in the realm of ideas.

About ten years ago, the Harry Potter craze convulsed our fair shores. After several children-of-friends whined about ‘Harry Potter parties’ and how all the prop wands on the market looked like kid’s plastic toys (because hello, most of them were), I caved. I snapped up a dozen pairs of cheap wood chopsticks from a local import shop, hit a welding shop for some bronze wire, set up wire-twisting jigs, and spent an afternoon kitting out would-be young wizards. I took money for it. The kids were happy, and the parents were appeased.

The next day, my hands hurt like blazes. I decided wand-making was not high on my list of potential mass-production revenue schemes. But I wondered how some unique prop wands might look, made in better materials.

Off to the import store again, this time for elegant turned chopsticks in walnut and rosewood. Off to the jewelry-supply place for heavy gauge silver wire (back when it wasn’t stupidly expensive). This time, I couldn’t just cold work the metal, since I had to silver-solder a lot of twists and turns into place. That led to Prop Wand 1 (above left), which is now a candle snuffer when it isn’t a steampunk accessory in a wrist holster.

That led to a friend’s challenge of some more-involved pieces that could appear to be magic/tech props. I built a few, sold ’em, and set those concepts aside for more book art.

Osage orange prop stick for blogHere is one wand that hasn’t been made yet: Osage Orange Stick #2. It incorporates the lovely golden sheen of osage orange wood, sterling silver, smoky quartz, cubic zirconium, glass mirrors, and glass fiber-optic cables. If I am sufficiently insane, I’ll bulk out the back end to give enough room for a white or blue LED, a battery compartment, and a thumb switch. That means no pretty braid in the optic cable, but no one is going to see inside the final version.

To see what some truly gifted artisans have done with prop wand concepts for both working stage magicians and New Agers, go see my inspirations at Acme Wands.

I’ve seen some amazing M/M ‘Old West’ stories, and I can just see the Acme sticks in, ah, combat use. (Getcher minds outta the gutter, if I’d wanted to say ‘sex toy’, I would have.)