About a year ago a friend of mine saw a very nice Sonic Screwdriver Wand made by Maranda Li aka Praeclarus Wands.
Due to those being sold out she asked me if it would be possible for me to make her one, which is what I'll be attempting to do. Having talked to her about possible manufacturing processes, materials, designs and more, we decided to go with a slightly more detailed design consisting of the Tenth Doctor's (aka David Tennant) Mark VI Screwdriver as the handle and Romana's Screwdriver as the wand part.
Design and make a Sonic Screwdriver Wand with a decent amount of detail.
This instructable makes use of (power) tools, knives and other scary stuff.
These tools can cut or otherwise hurt you, potentially causing serious harm.
Always wear eye protection and be extra careful where your fingers/hands are at any given moment. In general, before doing each step, think about what you're doing, which tools you're using and what potential dangers are involved. If you are not experienced with the use of the tools, get help from someone who is.
Additionally, as a lot of sawdust and spray paint is involved at certain stages, using a filtering facepiece (painter's mask or similar) is advised. Your lungs do not take very kindly to lots of sawdust and paint particles.
And while at it I would like to give you a very nice description/quote by Adam Savage from Mythbusters on this subject:
"The table saw is unique among all tools in that it terrifies me more than any other. I never use a table saw without picturing my fingers flying across the shop. I am not exaggerating even a little bit. I picture -no joke- somebody walking in the door unexpectedly and tripping and spilling a bucket full of marbles and grease, and all of a sudden I lose my footing and land my chest first on the table saw blade. Every time my hands are within a foot, every time my body is near a running table saw, I am constantly checking my center of gravity, my balance, and keeping both feet on the floor. I am moving so that I can get myself out of the way. I think about kickback. All of those things are running through my head. So because I have never lost that terror of the table saw - and I never want to lose it; The moment I feel comfortable in front of one is the day I am going to lose a pinky." - The Adam Savage Project - Shop Safety - 2/26/2013
Be genuinely afraid of your tools and you will very likely think twice about what you are doing, drastically reducing the chances of injuring yourself. By the way, the video is a very nice video on shop safety, it's really worth a watch. The shop safety part starts pretty much where my link says it does, so you can just let it run and listen to it.
Planning is the first step of any bigger projects, and drawing plans makes this a whole lot easier. If you can / have the time, always get some drawings and thinking done before touching any tools, as this will likely save you a lot of time later on.
As you can see I went through a several different iterations of the Sonic Wand design, becoming better in the process.
I made the drawings over the course of about half a year, interrupted by a multitude of stuff, until eventually arriving at the final version that I have ended up building.
Here's some information on each of the designs:
This was made in GIMP as sort of a preliminary drawing to get a feeling for the sizes and design of the Sonic Screwdrivers in question.
I used this as a basis to talk to my friend who basically commisioned this build.
Based on picture #1, still in GIMP, I built up on the designs and added a whole lot of dimensions as a sort-of-technical drawing. I was ready to build this prop now, but some things came in the way and it was put on hold for a couple of months. As it turns out this was a lucky thing!
This is where things started to turn around for this project.
I attended a Photoshop class at my University and learned to use this magnificent piece of software properly. I just can't help but to admit it - Photoshop is SOOOO much better than GIMP. Easily scale- and transformable paths and non-destructive editing are awesome!
Anyway, as a final project for the class I made this blueprint-ish design of the Sonic Wand, which became the new basis for this build. I imagined this as some sort of blueprint of a fusion device consisting of a Sonic Screwdriver and a magic wand, explaining how it works and what its key parts are.
By the way, if you like this design, you can get it over at my flickr channel with a whopping 9921x7016px resolution, which is good enough to print it on A1 (594x841mm) or ~23x33in paper at 300dpi. You're free to print it as a poster and frame it if you want to. If you do, I'd love to see a picture of it framed and/or on your wall!.
Based on picture #3 (and thanks to working with paths) I made these three different sizes of the wand to use as a template for printing. My friend decided on the combination in the middle, but based on your hand you may prefer another version as you see fit. Or just scale it while printing to suit your needs.
You can get an A4 and a US Letter-sized template of this design (to be printed at 100% size for the scale I used) so you can easily print it both on my linked flickr channel and right here, attached as a .zip.
You can then use those paper templates to make your very own Sonic Wand! Or the Sonic Screwdrivers it consists of, if you feel like it.
I do not claim my designs are very accurate, but they should provide a good enough basis to work with.
About lathing / turning wood:
Lathes are scary tools.
They spin your workpiece at several hundred or even thousand RPM. Contact wit the chuck/vise will bruise or even break your fingers. Higher-powered lathes can rip the flesh right off your bones. Pieces of whatever you are turning might be flung at you with extreme speeds. Your workpiece might jump out of the chuck/vise or downright disintegrate into lots of tiny pieces, probably flying towards you. Or your turning tool gets flung out of your hand, follow Murphy's law and come your way.
Now that I have succesfully scared off half the readers, let me tell you something else about turning wood:
It is incredibly fun and satisfying.
Seriously. Once you try it, you will likely want to do more and more projects utilizing this tool. It is so fascinating to see your workpiece take the shape you intend it to and to see how it responds to your tools. It's addicting.
Also, this project was the second time I used a lathe in my life. So it's really not that hard, but you should get some advice and possiblyhands-on demonstration from someone who knows what he's doing.
The alternative way (which I took as well) was watching a lot of explanatory videos on youtube and slowly trying it myself, taking adequate security precautions (mainly wearing safety goggles, a firmly fixed workpiece and staying away from the chuck/vise). You can find great videos by searching for "How to turn wood", "Wood lathe tutorial" or similar terms on youtube. Watch half a dozen of those and you should be in the green.
In fact, though it may be about a metal lathe using the very same principle, I suggest you watch this video of Adam Savage explaining his lathe and give some safety advice. For the impatient folks, the most crucial bits are said at ~3:00-3:45min.
TL;DR: The basic rules of wood turning for this project (as it cannot be stressed enough):
Step 1: Preparing your wood (no pun intended)
I will use my Proxxon DB250 Micro Woodturning Lathe, which is too small to make the wand from one piece of wood. So instead I am going to make the handle and wand part seperately.
First I printed the attached template of the Sonic Wand, cut it out and assembled it using clear tape. This was then used for any and all measuring purposes. I also had a picture of each of the original Sonic Screwdrivers as an additional reference just in case.
For the handle I needed about 18cm of 25mm round beech wood, but that did not include a bit of wood for the lathes' chuck/vise to grip on to. Therefore I went with something like 22cm.
For the wand part I needed 18cm of 15mm round beech wood. Again, I cut something around 22cm.
I used a miniature table saw (Proxxon KS115 Bench Circular Saw) to cut the wood to size.
While you can use a hand saw it is hard to get a nice, square cut and a crooked one makes it a bit harder to properly place the wood in the lathe, at least it makes it harder with my lathe.
Using some center marking contraption that came with my lathe I marked the center of the wood and chucked it in, making sure it runs smoothly (test with low RPMs). Reposition if it does not run smoothly.
To prevent my lathe from moving around too much I placed it on a rubber mat. Proper procedure would have been to bolt it down on a bench which I'd have done if I had one.
Step 2: Rolling, rolling, rolling (well, turning actually, but who cares)
I used the pictured turning tools (tube, pointed and finishing tool) for all of the turning.
With the lathe turned off I held my paper template against the fixed wood and used a pencil to mark the beginning and end of the respective wand parts as well as any points where a major change in diameter occured.
Removing the template I turned on the lathe with the lowest RPM setting and used the pencil to make those marks into full rings so that I could see them better.
The tube tool was then used to reduce the beech rod to the given diameters. In between I stoped the lathe and used a caliper to check the diameters.
Once those were achieved, I stopped the lathe again to hold the template against it and mark any other major structures, such as the rounded rings of the Tenths' Screwdriver, and worked those out with the tube tool as well.
Next I went in with the finishing and pointed tool to smooth out any curves or turn the parts which could not be turned with the rather large tube tool. For 'square steps' and slopes I mainly used the pointed tool while all rounded features were finished with the finishing tool.
Lastly, I turned the lathe off again, positioned the tool rest out of the way, set the lathe to the lowest RPM and used 120 grit sandpaper to give the parts a quick rundown and to smooth out any imperfections from lathing. I was quite careful and never applied pressure, I let the lathe to the work for me. Keep in mind that this is kind of dangerous, so be careful if you attempt to do this as well.
About disc / belt sanders:
Even moreso than a small lathe like mine, these are horrifying pieces of power tools.
Depending on the speed and grit they can strip your skin and flesh right down to the bone (and don't think they'll stop there for long) if you slip or are simply not careful enough. The worst thing about it is that sometimes you do not even notice when you are touching the disc/belt and before you do you're rid of some of your skin. Trust me on this one, I experienced it first-hand.
If you are sanding small pieces, consider if it's not better to sand them by hand. If you absolutely have to get close, consider using gloves (do not even think about using rubber ones) or using pliers or something to hold the workpiece instead.
And never, ever take your eyes off the sander (or your power tool in general) while you are working with it / it is turned on.
Step 1: Fuuuuusion
The wood lathe left markings on the center of the Screwdrivers, so I could use those for centering purposes when drilling 5mm holes at the bottom parts of the screwdrivers.
I inserted a 5mm wooden dowel and some wood glue to glue both pieces together into what you see in the picture and matching the schematics / templates I drew.
Step 2: Adding the groove
The Tenths' Screwdriver has a groove at its side.
Initially I tried to more or less freehand it with a dremel, but failed miserably resulting in this hole you can see, which I have to take care of later.
Thinking about it a bit I instead chose to use wood carving knives to make the notch/fuller/whatever it's called. This worked much, much better.
Step 3: Make a button
Using a table saw I cut off a small piece of 10x10mm square beech wood and used a disc sander to sand it down to resemble the button on the Tenths' Screwdriver.
I then wrapped 120 grit sandpaper around the Tenths' Screwdriver with the sandpaper side out and ran the button over it in a linear fashion to shape its bottom side into a curve to match the Screwdriver.
After sufficiently rounding the bottom of the button I attached it to the Screwdriver using wood glue. I know the positioning is wrong (it should have been on the other end), but it's way more comfortable for the hand where it is now.
Also this position allows for a nice dual-wielding as in hold it 'normally' for a wand impression, turn it around for a Sonic Screwdriver impression.
Step 4: Adding the cross-bracings
I took another piece of 10x10mm square wood and used my miniature table saw to carefully quarter it, effectively getting something like 4x4mm square wood pieces.
To make sure I'll be able to stay away from both the table saw and the disc sander I used a long piece of the 10x10mm wood, pushed it in headfirst for about 5cm (even though I only need 2-3cm) and then cut the 4x4mm quarters off of the 10x10mm piece. Now the 4x4mm pieces were long enough for me to grip on for sanding purposes.
The 4x4mm pieces were sanded down and given slopes/bevels to resemble the Tenths' Screwdriver using my disc sander. I used a small hand saw to cut them to their final size, but I think a cutter knife could've worked as well.
The missing slope/bevel from the side just cut was added manually with sandpaper.
A bit of wood glue and they were securely attached to the top part of the Tenths' Screwdriver, just below where the crystal will be.
Different possibilites for the emitter
I really wasn't sure on how to make this part properly as there are several possibilities and I had to weight advantages and disadvantages against each other.
The easiest solution would have been to get a cabochon of the correct color and size, then glue it to the Screwdriver. Unfortunately finding a cabochon of the correct color and size is neither easy nor (that) cheap.
My next idea was to make a master, a mold and then cast the crystal as I walt it to be. I'd likely get it right eventually, but it would need several iterations and unfortunately the resin I have takes 2-3 days to cure. I didn't want to spend two weeks until I finally get it right. Also, silicon and resin are expensive and I wanted to keep overall costs low.
Another idea that came to me was using a glass marble. They are usually cheap, readily available and should offer a wide variety of colors. Indeed I did find the right size marble. Two possibilities presented themselves here. First one was to grind the marble down into a hemisphere, but that approach was quickly abandoned as my tools proved to be inefficient for this task. The second possibility was to take a piece of wood and lathe something of a holder/adapter which would hold the marble. I succeeded in that, but it brought the downside that I would have had to cut off part of my already-made wand to account for the added length and it would have added some instability as yet another part would be glued.
My last idea was to get glass decoration stones - again, cheap and readily available in needed size and color. The advantage here is that I would only need to dremel a small cavity/skip to fit the stone. Only problem here is making it fit properly.
With the marble-adapter already made and the glass stone version being less destructive I decided to try the latter and, in case it goes wrong, fall back to the former.
Step 1: Finding the right stone
Having bought a package with at least one hundred of those glass decoration stones I chose one which was round (90% eliminated) and about the same diameter as the part of the Screwdriver where I'll be attaching it (8 stones left).
As those stones aren't plain domes but instead have an inward curve towards the flat bottom as well, they will need a recess to be embedded flush.
Step 2: Carving the recess
I started carving the recess using my dremel and a small carving bit (looks like a sphere consisting of several blades) but that bit was pretty small and it took ages. Remembering that I have some woodcarving knives (really cheap ones, but better than nothing) I tried those and lo and behold, they work great! Who would've thought woodcarving knives are good for carving wood, right? Makes me want to invest a bit of money into good ones as it was fun to shape the wood with them.
Anyway, I used the sharper small tube to remove most of the material and create a ~3mm deep recess at the end of the Screwdriver so that the stone fit perfectly flush. A V-shaped carver was used to fix the edges, thin them down and let them have a more or less uniformly thick, straight "wall". If I had a forstner bit this would've been easier, but oh well, it worked perfectly anyway.
Remember, there is pretty much nothing you cannot do with basic tools - it will most likely just take more time and elbow grease to achieve similar results. That being said, bliss is a shop full of high-quality tools (if only I'd have either of those).
Step 3: Minor touch-ups
The edges of recess were smoothed using 120 grit sandpaper.
I applied some aluminum tape to the back of the stone that I'll be using to increase its light reflection properties and make it shine just a little bit brighter.
Step 1: Hide the crimes
Remember that time I slipped with the dremel and drilled a hole into the Screwdriver where there shouldn't have been one? Yeah, time to get rid of that and a few other spots.
As I will paint the Tenths' Screwdriver silver / metal anyway the wood grain is not important, meaning I can get away with using other materials to fix my previous mistakes. For this I used Kneadadite Green Stuff, which I applied with a variety of modelmaking tools. Keeping your fingers and tools wet while doing so will prevent the Green Stuff from sticking to your fingers/tools.
Step 2: Smooth sailing
Having let the Green Stuff dry I used some 120 grit sandpaper to smooth all surfaces as best as possible to prepare them for painting. Any surfaces that will end up getting touched a lot (read: the grip) got extra attention.
Step 3: Masking
Only the Tenths' Screwdriver will get painted silver, so Romana's Screwdriver was hidden away beneath masking tape to prevent it from getting spraypainted by accident.
Great! Now we're ready to apply some primer.
About spray painting and sanding:
Spray paint, paint particles, sanding particles and the gasses released during spray painting are bad for your health.
To prevent anything from getting into your eyes or lungs and irritate them or cause any kind of long-term damage, be sure to use safety goggles, a painter's mask and to work in a well-ventilated area. There is a reason why everyone in the industry is running around with a respirator or is hooked up to a fresh air system and tends to wear a face mask or full body suit.
Also, some paints are irritating to your skin or just plain hard to get off, so rubber gloves usage is advised.
Seriously, investing in safety equipment is the very first thing any maker should do. It pays off so quickly, is one of the most worthwhile investments and you will never, ever regret it. Don't skimp on safety, otherwise it will come back to bite you one day.
Step 1: Spray. Sand. Repeat. (pictures #1 and #2)
The first thing I do when I intend to paint anything made from wood is to give it a couple of layers of primer to seal any pores. I add the layers up until there's a nice, thick coat, then use 180 grit sandpaper to sand it smooth. Four layers were enough for me to do a good enough job. Each layer got so much paint that the paint looked damp, sometimes even downright wet. I did not mind that as I wanted to build up some thickness and would sand down any excess anyway.
Afterwards I give the surface a couple more light coats with the primer and go in with 240 or even finer grit sandpaper to get it really smooth. Again, about four coats seemed to do the trick. Now when I say 'light coat' this means spraying from at least 30cm and only spraying on so much paint that the surface looks a bit damp at most, preferably it'll look dry and colored. If it looks wet or the paint starts running you overdid it.
The primer seals the woods' pores, makes the surface smoother and allows other paint to stick better. I tend to use a gray primer as it quickly reveals any bumps and blemishes.
Step 2: Base color (picture #3)
Now that a nice, smooth surface has been achieved it is time to give the Tenths' Screwdriver its base color. Normally this would be silver so silver spray paint would work, but I will go a slightly different route which hopefully will end up looking better.
In order to do that I give the Screwdriver another four light coats of flat black spray paint and let them dry throughly. Sanding was not required anymore, it looked good enough for me. Any bumps and cracks left will just add to the structure later on.
Step 3: Wood staining (picture #4)
So far Romana's Screwdriver has been woefully neglected. It is high time to remedy this.
As Romana's Screwdriver forms the wand part, I want to make it look like wood. In order for it to look more interesting I am coloring it with some wood stain.
I started out with a layer of teak-colored wood stain, applying it with a paintbrush and giving the wood a good soak for about one minute, then wipe off the excess using a paper towel. The wet wood swelled up and revealed a lot of splinters that previous sanding did not remove. I let the wood dry first, then hit it with 180 grit sandpaper.
This lightened the wood stain beyond what I wanted, so I gave it another layer, this time using dark walnut wood stain. The procedure for this layer was the same as previously.
Step 1: Silver for the win (picture #1)
With the black base color I had originally intended to drybrush the Tenths' Screwdriver to give it an aged silver metal look. For that I used silver acrylic paint, dipped the tip of the brush into it and then spread that paint on my pallet as much as possible so only a hint of paint stayed on the brush, then brushed that onto the Screwdriver. Unfortunately there was so much wood grain left that the result looked bad. Like, really, really bad. Horrible even.
So I started adding more and more color until I got a silver base layer done. If I knew it'd come this far I would've just spraypainted it silver in the first place and saved myself some time and effort.
This reminded me once more that while I am decent and building all kinds of structures, I suck at painting. Which is a problem, as this is where any prop really comes to life. I need to work on that. I must find my painting sensei!
Step 2: Add some grime (picture #2)
My sensei took the form of a Warhammer-enthusiastic buddy of mine who quickly taught me a couple of tricks about painting and weathering.
After discussing the painting scheme with him and checking back with the friend who'll end up with the finished wand we collectively decided that a slightly more beat-up look was in order.
For adding some age he added some black wash, which is very watery, quick-dry black paint that accumulates in recesses, edges and other such places where dirt would naturally accumulate. It was just brushed over the whole surface of the silver part and did its job practically on its own.
Step 3: I'm Blue (picture #3)
He proceeded to fill the recess with a dark blue paint and while it was still wet, added a layer of lighter blue paint, and another of even lighter blue paint. You have to imagine this process like circles: First circle is the largest, then a smaller one inside of that, and another smaller one inside of that one, each circle being one color, getting lighter towards the smaller circle. He told me that painting while the layer below is still wet the colors would mix and the result would look much more natural, which sounds logical, but really blew my mind right then as I wouldn't even have gotten that idea (yeah, I'm THAT oblivious about painting).
When those three layers of blue were about half-dry he added a very watery, dark blue wash over all of them to help with the transition.
Step 4: Redoing the black cap (picture #4)
As you may or may not have noticed there was an attempt to improve the black cap by drybrushing it silver, which failed miserably. I painted over the whole thing using black acrylic paint to 'reset' it (that's the good part about painting, you can almost always hit reset by just painting over it). I want this black cap to look like it's just black paint over metal, as in the Tenths' Screwdriver part being made completely from metal with just that cap having been painted black, by adding some scratches which reveal the silver metal below.
The scratches were added using a V-notch woodcarving knife, then painted black as the original wood was coming through. Next I used a fine brush to fill the scratch with silver acrylic paint, gave it a wash with water-diluted black acrylic paint then immediately wiped off as much as possible using a paper towel.
I continued by using drybrushing to highlight the edges of the scratches.
I'm not too happy about them, but it still looks way better than just a plain black cap.
Step 5: Highlighting (picture #5)
In order to make the edges pop out juuust a little bit more I drybrushed many of the edges, for instance all of the button edges, the cross-bracing edges and a couple of those rings that have a steeper rise using silver acrylic paint.
It's a really subtle effect that's barely noticeable, but makes the wand look a bit better.
Plus, it's not like this is much more work at this point. For easier recognition I drew boxes at all the edges I did highlight. Note that picture #4 was actually taken after picture #5, so for a comparison hightlights - no highlights you'll have to check back with pictures #1 - #3.
Step 1: Silver inlays (picture #1)
I cut some strips of aluminum tape wide enough to fit the wider notches of Romana's Screwdriver. In order to make the tape look a bit more beat up and fit the general look I first used 000 steel wool and rubbed it over the strips to make them look a bit more matte, then applied them to the notches.
As dirt would naturally accumulate in such places, I mixed black acrylic paint generously with water (somewhere around 1:2, 1:3 ratio) and applied it on the aluminum tape to simulate some dirt setting in.
Step 2: Fix the scratches (pictures #1 and #2)
I noticed that after drybrushing my scratches on the cap looked too fresh and new, so I further diluted my black wash to about 1:3, 1:4 ratio and gave the whole cap a quick runover. The result are much more natural-looking scratches with some dirt setting in.
Step 3: Seal it for good (pictures #3 and #4)
To prevent the paint from coming off and to protect the prop in general I decided to seal it by applying several thin coats of clear varnish to the whole prop. I think I went with five or six coats for good measure.
I used glossy varnish although I usually prefer matte varnish, but the choice has proven to be right:
The paintjob now looks incredible. The glossy varnish introduces additional reflections, aids with an oily/dirty look and really pronounces the texture. I am incredibly impressed at how much better the prop looks and feels with a mere five coats of varnish. Go for glossy varnish with this one, you won't regret it!
Step 4: Fit the crystal (pictures #5 and #6)
This is the last step to complete the Sonic Screwdriver Wand, finally possible after all that lathing, sanding, painting and sealing. You guessed it, it's time to attach the crystal.
In order for the glue to get a better grip I used a dremel with a round router bit to add a couple of dents / holes to the already uneven surface where the crystal is going to get attached.
Next I applied some rubber cement to the back of the glass decoration stone and lots inside the screwdriver and let it sit for a minute or two so that the glue could dry partially for a stronger bond (as per the glue's instructions). I set the glass stone into position, wiggled it around a bit to help spread the glue and then firmly pressed it in place and held it like that for a minute, after which I have let the glue dry for several hours.
Aaaand we're done here!
Enjoy your David Tennant & Romana Sonic Screwdriver Wand!