Being Harry Potter fans, my kids wanted to have some wands of their own to play with.
There are some fantastic instructables for Harry Potter inspired wands on this site - some that light up and others that are intricately carved out of wood. But given my propensity for accidents using sharp knives, I thought wood carving was out of the question - I wanted to keep my fingers intact! Also, the kids requested a number of different wands in various styles. So, air-dry modeling clay seemed to be a good choice - it's pretty inexpensive, easy to use and shape.
The budding wizards wanted wands that light up in appropriate colours for different spells, e.g. green for Avada Kedavra, red for Expelliarmus, etc. One way to do this is to use a single RGB LED with three switches that turned on the three colours. Using coin cell batteries instead of AA or AAA batteries would mean that the light would be fairly bright light without the wand being too big for my kids' hands. I also wanted replaceable batteries for when the wand’s power was depleted after over-enthusiastic spell-casting. I attempted several prototype containers (made with card and other junk) for the batteries to be easily replaceable, but they weren't were particularly good. Luckily, I found some keyring torches at a local store (for £1) that were fairly slim and could be unscrewed at the back. All I'd need to do was make it longer and cover it in clay to give it a ‘wandy’ makeover.
Most of the this instructable follows the making of an Elder Wand, but the same ideas can be used for other types and styles.
Step 1: Stuff I Used
- stick or rod: I used a plant support cane for the length of the wand. Any thin and rigid material would do, e.g. wire from coat hanger
- air-drying modeling clay: for making it more wand-like. You don't need much.
- battery holder: I used a small torch that could be unscrewed. Should be able to find similar keyring torches.
- RGB LED: I used a 5mm round head RGB LED (e.g. Amazon).
- 3 x pushbutton switches: I used 6x6x4mm 4pin DIP momentary pushbutton switch (e.g. Amazon)
- wire: long enough to cover 4x length of wand. I used 24/0.2mm equipment wire which I had lying around, cut into:
- 3 x short wires (~4cm) to go from the battery to the switches.
- 3 x long wires (~30cm) to go from switches to colour terminals of the LED, i.e. tip of the wand.
- 1 x longest wire (~35cm) to go from the battery to the common terminal of the LED.
- Paint: I used a mix of brown, white, yellow, and black acrylic paint, as well as a water-based varnish to seal and finish
- Hot glue gun: to hold it all together
- Pliers: for bending contacts on the switch, although you could do this with your fingernails too (if you haven't bitten them off).
Step 2: Wiring It All
The RGB LED usually has four leads - three for red, green, and blue, and a longer lead common to all three colours. My LEDs were common cathode, so I'd need to connect the '-' side of the battery to the common lead and three wires with switches from the '+' side to each of the red, green, and blue leads. If the LED is common anode, you simply need to flip the battery around.
- Cut the wires to length and strip ~5mm off each end.
- Connect together:
- for each switch, a short wire
- for each switch, a long wire
- all short wires to the '+' terminal of the battery
- longest wire to the '-' terminal of the battery
- each wire to the terminals of the LED
For all connections, I simply bent back the wires (or terminals), crossed them over and twisted them together using pliers to tighten. I didn't bother soldering them because my soldering iron has suffered long enough from all my previous 'soldering' attempts. The joins can then be secured in place using heat shrink tubing or hot glue. Since we’re going to be covering everything in modelling clay anyway, all these connections would be held in place. One thing to note is that air-drying clay contains water so will likely cause short-circuits. However, the short-circuits should disappear once the clay has dried completely.
The trickiest part is connecting the wires to the LED - make sure that none of the wires touch adjacent ones. Staggering where you connect the wires and using hot glue to separate adjacent terminals helped. Alternatively, you could use heat-shrink tubing or insulation tape for each connection.
A note about resistors:
If you're sensible (unlike me), you'll add three suitably valued current limiting resistors - for red, green, and blue - to avoid destroying the LED and preserve battery life. You can work out the resistor values by using the spec for the LED. Unfortunately, my LEDs didn't list the current nor the forward voltages for each colour - it only listed an narrow range 3.0 - 3.4V. So, assuming a current draw of 20mA and given 6V (1.5V x 4) from batteries suitable resistor values would be:
R1 = (Vin - Vforward) / I = (6V - 3.0V) / 20mA = 150Ω R2 = (6V - 3.4V) / 20mA = 130Ω
I would have (guessed and) used 150Ω for the red and 130Ω for the green and blue...however, like I said, I was lazy and didn't bother.
Step 3: Basic 'wandy' Shape
Whatever your wand design, start by hot gluing the wires to the cane and covering it in modelling clay:
- Get small balls of the air-drying clay and flatten until thin (~1-2mm). Wrap these pieces around the cane, trimming off any excess. Don't worry too much if these pieces seem loose for now.
- Carry on wrapping thin pieces of clay along the length of the wand, using slightly thicker pieces as you get towards the hand end.
- Now, roll the wand in between the palms of your hands until there's no noticeable gap between the clay and the cane. As you roll, the excess clay will be pushed along the length of the wand. This can just be torn off when it reaches the end of the wand.
- If the buttons become buried in clay, remove enough clay around the button using the tip of a pencil. There needs to be enough of a dip around the button so that it can be pressed properly. It's a good idea to check that the LED still works at this point.
- The wand should now look fairly wrinkly, depending on how loose the clay was beforehand. You can smooth out these wrinkles by repeatedly rubbing a damp finger along the length of the wand. Or alternatively, you can leave the wrinkles for a wand with a wood-like grain.
- Have a cup of tea. We want to leave this to dry a little (~30mins) so that it forms a good foundation. It doesn't need to be completely dry but firm enough so that adding other details won't make it break apart.
Step 4: Detailed Shaping
With air-drying clay, it's fairly easy to experiment and make wands with the shape and textures that you want.
To make an Elder Wand:
- Get six increasing sized balls of clay and roll them out into coils 2mm - 10mm thick.
- Wrap each coil around the wand at equal distances, trimming any excess. The thinnest coil is placed nearest to the tip of the wand, with the fattest near the back of the wand.
- For each coil, roll the front end between two fingers until firmly in place. Repeat for the back end of the coil. Note that rolling the middle of the coil will make a flatter shape - the front two raised sections are flatter the the rest.
- For each raised section, take a sharp pencil and randomly jab at it to create the dents. Push the pencil quite deeply for the thicker sections, but wait until the clay has firmed for the thinner sections to make smaller dents.
- For the back of the wand, shape a piece of clay so that it forms a cone.
- Push and drag a pencil towards the front of the wand to create the grooves.
- Leave to dry according to the instructions. Annoying as it is to wait, rushing or skipping this step will lead to cracks in the finish.
Step 5: Painting
I painted this wand using acrylic paint - mostly in white and brown first. If you accidentally paint over the led, just use some tissue or cloth to wipe it off before it dries.
When that first coat of paint dried, I brushed on watered-down black acrylic paint which was wiped off with a sponge or a rag. This left dark shadowy patches in the bumps and crevices leaving a slightly aged look.
Air-dry clay can get soft if it gets wet so once the paint was dry, so I sealed it with a coat of varnish that I had lying around.
Step 6: Cast Some Spells
That's it - once the paint has dried, press the buttons in various combinations to light it up:
- R: red, B: blue, G: green
- R + B: purple
- R + G: yellow
- B + G: turquoise
- R + B + G: white(-ish depending on your led and resistance).
If you wanted more colours, you could add variable resistors to control the strength of the red, green or blue components to create even more blends. That said, my kids would have been happy with just three colours - they're just pleased that they can get it to light up in different colours quickly!
Anyway, hope it's useful to fellow wand-makers out there. Thanks for reading!