Anyone who has watched the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit trilogies has at some point wanted Gandalf's staff. It is a scientifically proven fact. There is nothing like a good, solid Wizard staff to defend against Balrogs, challenge dark lords, fight other Wizards, decimate Orcs, or even illuminate giant Dwarven caverns. The uses are endless, and it has become apparent to myself that I just had to have one.
The difficulty is that I have looked all over the web, and searched everywhere for how to make one that is not only sturdy, realistic, insanely cool, but also easy to make, and the best I have found is how to make them out of paper. Paper!!! Gandalf would be so disappointed.
'FOOL OF A TOOK!!!'
I wanted one out of wood, that would be sturdy enough to use a walking stick, has a big gemstone at the top, and looked really cool.
The solution? Obviously, a big stick. When looking at pictures of the Wizard staffs on the internet, I noticed something. The staff was always thicker toward the top. Why is that important? Because everyone knows that a sapling is always thick at the bottom, and gets thinner as it goes up. That meant the staffs were made from a large sapling, turned upside down, with the roots as the top part. (the business end, if you know what I mean) That was the solution.
I am entering this in the Halloween props contest, so please Vote!!
Disclaimer: This is NOT meant to be an exact reproduction or even a bad replica of one of Gandalf's staffs. Don't get mad if you don't like the way it looks.
Step 1: Find a Suitable Sapling
This can be harder than it seems, mainly because you don't know what the roots look like until you dig it up. For this reason, it is good to have several candidates. I found two saplings, which I needed to remove anyway. Usually I just cut them down with a machete, but since I wanted to make a staff, I waited till I could get around to digging them up.
You will need to find a sapling that is fairly large, so that when the wood has shrunk it will still be a good size. I have found that one I can't quite wrap my hand around is perfect. When the wood dries out it will shrink quite a bit, making it perfect size. You must also make sure it is tall enough. About your own height is perfect.
It is good to look at pictures of Gandalf's different staffs as a reference all throughout the project.
Step 2: Dig, Dig, Dig Some More...
Okay, let me just tell you, this is WAY harder than it sounds. That being said, it is doable, but you will need a spade, shovel, and cheap machete.
You will need the spade, shovel, and your hands to dig, and the machete to chop the roots. I said cheap machete because you don't want to ruin a good one chopping into dirt and rocks. Trust me.
Anyway, start by digging a trench all the way around the sapling, about a foot and a half in diameter. Now begin to dig inward toward the sapling. You will need to locate the roots, and carefully excavate them, digging above, below, and around them. Then you can begin chopping at them, making sure not to cut them too close the trunk and thereby ruining the head of the staff. Remember, go slow. When in doubt, dig some more. Try as much as possible to get under the tree, and cut away the main roots going straight down. Until you do so, the sapling will remain stationary.
All that to say; get the thing out of ground and don't damage the roots too much.
Step 3: Get Rid of the Bark
To better see how to shape the roots, and to be able to make a staff in the first place, it is necessary to get rid of all that nasty gnarly bark. This is pretty self explanatory, all you need is a good sharp knife, a fixed blade is best. Simply cut away all the bark in the places a sander can't get to. You can do all of it with a knife, but I opted for the lazy way, and sanded most of it off. You will need to sand it anyway, so there is no need to do it twice.
Step 4: Examine and Plan
Now to see what you have to work with. Since I had two of them, I had to make a choice between the two. I chose the second, because I liked it better and it had more horizontal roots. You will need to figure out where to cut the roots off, where to put the gemstone, what parts to be cut or hollowed out, and if you want to drill holes in it. Since no two are the same, this really depends on the shape of the roots and your personal preference.
Step 5: Cut to Size
Fairly simple. Figure out how long you want the staff to be, mark it, and cut it. I usually secure the staff in a vice and cut it with a hand saw.
Step 6: Cut Roots to Size
This is the same as in the previous step, except you are cutting the roots to size, not trimming the length of the staff. Figure out where you to cut them, mark them, and then cut them. Simple.
Step 7: The Gemstone and Mounting It
I wanted a gemstone in my staff. I felt that it would add to the finished product, and make it even better. Since I have a rock and mineral collection, this was easy. I found a nice piece of smoky quartz I had laying around, and instantly knew it was perfect. If you don't have a sizable rock collection, you can usually find some good ones online, at a rock and mineral show, or at a museum gift shop. Anyway, get yourself an awesome gem.
By this time you should have already figured out where it is going to go. Now it is time to figure out how it is going to go there. I had to cut away a spot for it to go, and then drill a large hole to stick the bottom of it in. Then I glued it in there with JB weld. It ain't going anywhere. Don't glue it in however, until the staff has been stained and finished. That way it won't get stain or wood finisher on it.
Step 8: Sand
Not much to say here.
Step 9: Staining
By now your staff should look really cool. It should be sanded smooth, the correct height, and the gemstone should be ready to mount. Now all it is lacking is the color. A wizard's staff should be as old, weathered, dirty, and tough as the old guy himself. It is time to add at few thousand years to that thing.
Depending on the finished color you want, and the kind of wood you are using, you may have to experiment with several different stains. Whatever you use, it should be something dark. Following the directions on the can, apply your stain. Make it look old. You may want to make some parts darker than others, it is all up to you.
Note: You will have to wait awhile for the wood to dry out first. Otherwise the stain won't soak into the wood. Don't ask how I know.....
Step 10: Wood Finisher
Now that the color is satisfactory, it is time to seal and finish the wood. If we were being truly accurate, this would happen over a period of several hundred years, as the oils from your hands slowly soak into the wood. Who knows, maybe Gandalf even applied some beeswax at some point. Living in the modern world, and not having a few hundred years, I decided to coat it with spar urethane.
Step 11: You Shall Not Pass!!!!!
Wizard Staff!!! Hang it on the wall, go for hikes with it, amaze your friends, defend your realm and kill Balrogs.
Vote for me in the Halloween props contest.