Make your own magic wand with glowing, spell-casting tip!
When the elementary school variety show producer (yes, producer — we take this seriously!) asked if I could build lighted magic wand props for the show, I said, “Heck yes!” Here's how I went about making inexpensive yet robust wand props that would look good on stage and survive several performances.
Follow this guide to learn how to build your own magic wand!
Step 1: Parts, Materials, and Tools
Here's what you'll need to make your own magic wand:
For the inner frame and light:
- Inexpensive AAA or AA LED penlight with cap switch on the end, plus batteries I used the Dorcy aluminum penlight
- 10mm white diffused LED
- stranded wire in black and red
- soldering iron and solder
- diagonal flush cutters or wire cutters
- wire strippers
- heat shrink tubing
- Three street sweeper bristles (found on your local streets) or other stiff wire or metal stock
- Zip ties, wire twists, or strong tape, such as gaffer tape
For the exterior:
- kraft paper
- masking tape
- white glue
- wood stain or brown paint and brushes
The penlight serves as a great starting point, instead of building everything from scratch. It acts as a battery holder, sturdy handle, and on/off switch.
Step 2: Rewire the Penlight - Part 1
You're going to now make an extension cord for your large LED.
Unscrew the bulb housing and remove it from the penlight. You'll see that the included LED has the positive (long) leg touching the top of the batteries when mounted, and the negative (short) leg touching the inside of the light housing which contacts the ground of the battery stack.
Remove the original 5mm LED from it's housing.
Trim the legs of your new 10mm LED to about half length (be sure to keep the long leg long and short leg short even after modification). Save the trimmed leads to use later.
Bend the tip of one lead slightly and push it through the plastic LED housing so that it will contact the top of the battery when the cap is screwed back on later.
Solder a length of red stranded wire (a bit longer than your final desired length of your wand) to the lead you just pushed through the plastic housing, and then insulate with heat shrink tubing.
Step 3: Rewire the Penlight - Part 2
Use the other lead you trimmed from the 10mm LED to create the negative contact to ground. Bend one end into a hook (this gives you something onto which you can twist the wire). Solder a black stranded wire (the same length as before) to this lead. Insulate the lead with heat shrink tubing, then press and bend it to the side of the plastic LED housing so it will make solid contact with the inner barrel of the penlight when reinserted.
Bundle the wires, leads, and housing together with another length of heat shrink tubing.
It's time to test it out! Slip the penlight front cap over the wires, pressing the plastic bulb housing in place. Thread the front cap onto the barrel (make sure the batteries are still in place). Hold or clip the red wire to the long leg of your 10mm LED, and the black wire to the short leg.
Click the penlight switch on and the LED will light up!
Step 4: Build the Wand Structure
Attach the three street sweeper bristles or other wires to form the extended shaft of the wand. Secure them to the penlight barrel with zip ties. Later, you'll secure the end to the LED with a wide piece of heat shrink tubing, but no need to add it yet.
Step 5: Wire the LED
Slip a piece of heat shrink tubing over each of the wires before you commence soldering. It's always a bummer to realized this after the fact.
Solder and heat shrink the red wire to the long lead of the 10mm LED.
Solder and heat shrink the black wire to the short lead of the 10mm LED.
Step 6: Secure the LED to the Wand
Place the LED at the end of the wire wand structure. Slip heat shrink tubing over both and then heat it up to secure. Note, there are better ways to activate the tubing than the side of your soldering iron, but it works in a bind if you don't have a proper heat gun or lighter!
Step 7: Test the Wand
Make sure everything is working, and that you have no shorts when you wave the wand around. It'll be best to fix any problems now before covering things up in the next steps.
Step 8: Wrap the Wand in Paper
Wrap the wand in craft paper, making sure to leave the end cap accessible for battery changes and operating the switch. Don't cover the LED, either.
You can wrinkle, twist, and fold the paper to create organic, knotty wood-like patterns. Use white glue to secure the seam.
Wrap the ends with masking tape for extra security, then hide the tape with small strips of the kraft paper and glue those seams as well. (This is visible in the next step.)
Step 9: Stain, Paint, and Finish the Wand Surface
Use wood stain and paint to brush on layers of color and shading. For an organic, higher-contrast look leave some areas of the kraft paper unpainted. Since these were originally built for stage use I exaggerated the contrast a bit more than I would for up-close use.
Once the stain and paint have dried, brush or spray on some polyurethane. This will give the wand a varnished, look of hard wood that has been well used and smoothed over time. It'll also protect the paper from moisture to some degree.
Step 10: Cast Spells With Your Wand
Your wand is complete! Enjoy doing magic and making the tip glow with just the right spell!