Introduction: Wizard's Staff From a Giant Cabbage

Picture of Wizard's Staff From a Giant Cabbage

This Halloween, I turned a giant cabbage, an LED flashlight and a Christmas ornament into a gnarled wizard's staff that shines with an eerie moonish glow. My kids are going trick-or-treating as Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger (and Commander Rex, clone trooper, but that`s another story), so I made some of KaptinScarlet's brilliant magic wands for them. While doing so, I was inspired to make this much larger version.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

6' long dried cabbage stem
Clear plastic spherical Christmas ornament
Upholstery stuffing
LED flashlight or similar (I used this little 9 LED one from DealExtreme)
Wire, solder, paint, polyurethane, strip of cloth/leather

Sharp knife
Drill with a variety of bits
Soldering iron
Hot glue gun

Step 2: 6' #%&*! Cabbage Stem?!!

Picture of 6' #%&*! Cabbage Stem?!!

Er, yes. The staff is made from the dried stem of a walking stick cabbage. They take about a year to grow to 8 ft long. They are one crazy vegetable, and I recommend growing some just for the hell of it (I bought mine here). Let it go to seed, and they'll produce many thousands of viable seeds - they`ll grow in your lawn, under the deck, in cracks in the pavement. The stems dry hard, super light and amazingly strong. Just trim off the roots and leaves and dry in your airing cupboard for, oh, six months or so...

Step 3: Protect the End

Picture of Protect the End

I used the base of the cabbage stem as the top of my staff. The other end was not woody all the way through - instead, it has a fibrous center (see pictures). I protected it by making a shoe out of sugru, the hackers silicone of choice. It cures firm and grippy and sticks to just about anything. I wanted it to look organic, like it had been dipped in tar or something, so I smeared the sugru up the sides and left it to cure for a day.

Step 4: Prepare the Cabbage

Picture of Prepare the Cabbage

Trim the cabbage stem to length, and bore a hole with a spade bit in one end, the same size and depth as the head of your flashlight. Cut out a hole partway down the stem with a chisel, large enough to accommodate the battery pack. Just below that, bore a hole large enough to hold the push button switch. Bore a long hole from the end down to the battery pack hole. The pictures will guide you through the process.

Step 5: Add the Flashlight Head

Picture of Add the Flashlight Head

Take your flashlight apart. Discard the tubular aluminum body and lanyard. Drill a hole through the side at the end with the LEDs. Solder one wire to the spring and one wire to itself, after threading it through the hole. Thread both wires down through the long hole to the battery pack. Add a big glob of hot glue to the hole at the end of the staff and stick the flashlight head into it. 

Step 6: Add the Battery Pack

Picture of Add the Battery Pack

Carve out a cavity for the battery pack at the end of the hole you drilled down through the top. You want a reasonably snug fit.

Step 7: Add the Switch

Picture of Add the Switch

Drill a hole below the battery pack cavity, just large enough for the pushbutton switch. It should overlap slightly - there will be a friction contact with the switch casing and the battery pack. Solder one of the wires to the spring - I cut the spring down first. Then hot glue the whole thing into the hole.
Solder the remaining wire to the top of the battery pack (check your polarities first), then push the battery pack in so the other end is pushed firmly against the aluminium body of the switch. You should be good to go - fire it up! If the fit isn't tight enough, add layers of tape to the wire end until it is.

Step 8: Make Orb

Picture of Make Orb

I just cut a hole of the right size in a clear plastic spherical Christmas ornament (I`m sure a knife would work; I used a ridiculously overpowered power tool). To make the orb glow, rather than just have the light shine straight through, I filled the orb with upholstery stuffing from a cushion. Glue the ornament in place with lots of hot glue, make sure it`s straight, and leave to dry. The stuffing does a great job of diffusing the light and giving the staff a nice glow.

Step 9: Finish

Picture of Finish

Use hot glue to decorate the top of the staff and the orb, then dress it up with metallic paint. The staff can be sanded - we`ve made other staves that end up silky smooth - but this one I wanted warts and all. I polyurethaned it for protection from the elements. To hide the battery pack and switch, I just wrapped that part of the staff - it`s where you grip it, anyway - with a strip of cloth. It`s tied with a knot so it can be undone and the batteries replaced.

Step 10: Brandish at Halloween

Picture of Brandish at Halloween

Give the staff to your favorite wizard or witch, so they can trick or treat armed and illuminated...

Thanks to Caitlinsdad, who had the excellent idea of adding the plastic bugs!

Step 11: Another Prop - Same Idea, Different Application

Picture of Another Prop - Same Idea, Different Application

I found on the day of Halloween that the flashlight hack works well for other props, too. At 1 pm, my smallest son decided he needed a blaster for his Captain Rex costume (of Star Wars the Clone Wars fame). We found this page and he wanted a DC-17 that lit up, just like the one in the picture...
Anyway, given what I'd learned from making the staff, it was an easy build, and by 3 pm, it was done and spray painted. I'm not inclined to write a whole instructable, but I've gotten into the habit of snapping photos as I go, and attached to this step are lots of photos. Basically, the blaster was made from scraps, the same kind of flashlight as the staff uses, and some PVC fittings as a scope. The pushbutton switch has been repurposed as a trigger. My son thought it was awesome, and despite the rushed job, the blaster looked great out trick or treating - and of course served as a handy flashlight.


Macready (author)2015-01-13

I've never heard of a walking stick cabbage (appropriate name)! Thanks for showing me something new. Great tutorial - the staff looks fantastic!

makendo (author)Macready2015-01-13

Thanks. Yeah, they're a pretty amazing vegetable.

daltonjcw (author)2012-09-20

What is the mask that is not quite a Guy Fawkes mask?

makendo (author)daltonjcw2012-09-21

I think it's just a dollar store vampire mask.

eschneck (author)2010-10-31

*Excellent* touch with the excess hot glue "fingers" holding the orb. All in all a very nice and simple setup - thanks for sharing!

makendo (author)eschneck2010-11-03

Hey, thanks. A word of warning about the hot glue fingers though - initially I had the gun on the "hot" setting and the ornament started to melt!

Kozz (author)2010-10-26

Nicely done. I've also never seen a cabbage of that kind. I can imagine if I were a more talented electronics guy, it'd be cool to put an LED directly in the center of the sphere, and wire in a reed-switch that would only activate with one of those magnetic magician's rings.

mcshawnboy (author)Kozz2010-10-29

A Pagan magazine called "Green Egg" of Ukiah,CA ( use to have a column "Techno-Pagan" an issue I recall had an LED cluster RTV'd to terminated quartz crystal powered by a smoke detector battery & the switch was akin to what you mentioned. Insulated clear magnet wire was decoratively embedded into walking stick parallel to each other w/ the circuit completed by holding a ring to a spot where the insulation was removed. I couldn't find my copy or locate the it in their back issues.

thinkdunson (author)Kozz2010-10-28

or you could wire up an infrared circuit so that when an object gets closer, the light gets brighter… then have it dim or flicker when you wave your hand mysteriously around the orb.

makendo (author)thinkdunson2010-10-28

Both good ideas. You should execute them, for sure.

Questor (author)2010-10-28

I'm wondering if the spun glass we use around the holidays, "angle hair" I think,
would glow any different.

makendo (author)Questor2010-10-28

Probably similar, but you could test it out by getting a bunch and shining a flashlight into it. If it is actually glass, it should work well and and maybe look sparkly rather than cloudy.

kallithdragonna (author)2010-10-28

Great Instructable! Ever thought of using El wire? I imagine the battery pack is about the same and would allow you to add all types of light twisting up around your staff. Although your first work is absolutely superb! No chance of bettering it, just changing!

makendo (author)kallithdragonna2010-10-28

Thanks! No, I haven't even seen EL wire (except on instructables), but agreed, it would look great.

karlpinturr (author)2010-10-28

Serendipitous, or what? On Tuesday (26th), I was searching for - and ordered - Jersey Walking-stick cabbage SEEDS!!! And then, today (28th), I get the Instructables newsletter with the link to this...

As the name implies, they are mainly associated with the island of Jersey, and were used to make walking-sticks - which is the main reason I was looking for them.

But I'd forgotten that about 20 years ago, I did a few, more intricate, designs for Wizard, Elf, Goblin etc. staffs that I thought about using these plants for.

So, thank you, makendo, for re-igniting something...

Now, I wonder how a colour-changing LED would look..?

makendo (author)karlpinturr2010-10-28

Enjoy - they're great fun to grow. Some tips:
Remove the lower leaves regularly to make them grow taller.
If you want a straight stick, stake them. They stand up fine without staking, but they'll be bent.
ALL of the seeds seem to grow, so space out the planting. If they're packed together, they grow long and skinny.
Don't treat them too well, or they'll grow too thick. The one I'm holding in Step 2 is more of a giant club than a staff...
I'm sure the colour-changing LED would look great.

karlpinturr (author)makendo2010-10-28

Thanks for that - I hadn't realised removing the leaves would actually do anything, or that they need staking to grow straight (though I should have guessed that bit).

I did see somewhere that if you plant them at an angle (when planting-out or thinning), they'll end up with a bit of an angle at the base, which is useful for my Goblin Staff, at least.

But I've really gone to town on the combining of Instructables since reading yours, and I've seen the Plasma-Ball staff - AND EL Wire...

I'm thinking of combining your Staff and 'switch' to light the EL Wire and then the Plasma Ball - not that I have ANY of the bits just yet (or know how to build in enough of a delay to make the power appear to travel up the staff...

And I have no idea where the colour-changing LED could come in -

Then again, small Plasma-Balls seem nigh on impossible to get hold of at anything like a reasonable price, so,maybe... lots of LED's (only some colour-changing), plus some hidden buttons which, pressed in various sequences, would give different effects (about 30 would be possible, in total, I think - from a single button being pressed, through every combination, to all five)...

Agh! I'm imagining way beyond my capabilities - to say nothing of finances (nothing new there!)... But I've got something like a minimum of 18 months before they'd be ready to work on, so, maybe I can learn what I need to know by then.

Lensman01 (author)2010-10-28

Sooo, maybe should be planning Halloween 2012 then? 8 months to grow and 6 to dry lol

Great instructable though

makendo (author)Lensman012010-10-28

Yes... sorry. But let one go to seed and you'll have a lifetime supply!
And thanks.

Puzzledd (author)2010-10-27

Brilliant idea: so clever - really effective! :D

Kryptonite (author)2010-10-27

I love it! Best use for cabbage, ever. I love your job on the end as well, takes me back to my wizarding days.

caitlinsdad (author)2010-10-26

This looks interesting. You should hot glue on one of those small rubber animals like a slithering snake, lizard or big spider attracted to the light where it would cast a nice silhouette or shadow.

makendo (author)caitlinsdad2010-10-26

Great idea - I've added plastic bugs, and they look great (see last step). They don't cast a shadow as such, because the glow is too diffuse, but the effect makes the staff much creepier. Thanks!

caitlinsdad (author)makendo2010-10-26

It would make a better first shot for your instructable. Nice.

makendo (author)caitlinsdad2010-10-26


aramanthe (author)2010-10-26

This is pretty brilliant! I know what's growing in my garden next year... :D

InquisitorBC (author)2010-10-26

Yeah, looks great. Reminds me of how when i was a kid me and my brothers would beat each other with the stems of old Giant sunflowers. What type of climate are you in?

makendo (author)InquisitorBC2010-10-26

Thanks. We're in the Pacific Northwest, so mild winters and dry summers. These cabbages survive the winter just fine.

InquisitorBC (author)makendo2010-10-26

Ah so you are in more central Washington/oregon?

makendo (author)InquisitorBC2010-10-26

Nope, southern Vancouver Island. I should have guessed from your username that you're familiar with the area.

InquisitorBC (author)makendo2010-10-26

Sorry my dear Canadian friend, I am american. I had chosen this name before i realized it would cause points of confusion. And I just have been to lazy to change it. This is cool though, If my dorm complex had a garden i would definitly look into buying some seeds. But sadly it does not.

l8nite (author)2010-10-26

This is just cool on so many levels

hauntedworkshop (author)2010-10-26

Greatest photo tag ever: "The room stunk of cabbage after cutting this hole. Try explaining that away to your family!"
Nicely done.

makendo (author)hauntedworkshop2010-10-26

Thanks. It was pure comedy at the time, too :)

Dr. Pepper (author)2010-10-26

super cool

Vladimyr (author)2010-10-26

Excellent project and very well done Instructable. I too am off to Google "walking stick cabbage" now. I've GOT to have one of those growing in my yard next year.

makendo (author)Vladimyr2010-10-26

You should grow one, for sure. Just claim you planted a regular cabbage and have no idea what happened.

RedneckEngineer (author)2010-10-26

This looks Great! I've never heard of the cabbage so I learned a bit too. Now off to Google to study up on it...

makendo (author)RedneckEngineer2010-10-26

Thanks! I bought the seeds from here, and there's some useful info there too. No Wikipedia entry - most unusual!

About This Instructable




Bio: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture
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