Our Cub District's Summer Camp usually has a theme to the activities (or "bases", as we call them).
When we chose "Harry Potter" as the theme, I grabbed the chance of making magic wands as a base.
There are, of course, many other excellent wand-making instructables, but they tend to assume that you will not be working in a tent, in a field, without electricity.
This is my take on the trope, biased towards basic Scouting skills.
Step 1: Preparation
- A ball of natural cord, string or twine.
- Scissors (to cut the string).
- A roll of masking tape and a pen.
- (Optional) Sandpaper
- (Optional) Files or sandpaper files.
- (Optional) Enough small, sharp knives for the size of the group.
When collecting twigs, pay careful attention to the campsite rules and be respectful of the woodland environment. Do not cut branches or twigs from trees without permission, and never rip them off. Collect them from dead trees or fallen branches.
Step 2: Gathering Wands
A wand reflects the wielder, so the first thing to do is send the Cubs off to find *their* wand.
They need a stick or twig that feels "right" to them - not too long, not too short, not too fat, not too thin. Discourage staffs, as the Cubs will end up waving them around in unsupervised excitement, and skulls may be cracked. Tell them that only senior wizards are allowed staffs (and, anyway, a magic staff actually has a wand hidden inside it).
Remember to remind your Cubs of any site rules; boundaries that must not be crossed, not to take branches from live trees etc.
Step 3: The Least Optional Step
You are going to add a grip to the wand by whipping it.
Whipping is how rope-workers prevent natural-fibre ropes from fraying, binding the strands together with a narrower cord (you can't melt the end of a piece of hemp with your lighter). There are many kinds of whipping, but the easiest is perfect whipping. Read these instructions whilst looking at the photos.
- Take about eight to ten feet of string, and fold over about five inches, to make a (closed) loop.
- Lay the loop along the handle of your wand, with the bend of the loop pointing towards the tip of the wand, and the two ends hanging down. You may want to use sticky tape to hold the string in place, but it is not vital.
- Take the longest end, and start wrapping it tightly around the wand and the short end. You must leave part of the short end sticking out, or the whipping will fail.
- Wrap reasonably tightly and closely until you get close to the bend (loop) in the string.
- Thread the long end through the loop, keeping the tension on it.
- Pull the short end of the string. This will tighten the loop, trapping the longer end.
- Trim the trapped end to about two or three inches.
- Pull on the shorter end some more, and the trapped end will get pulled inside the coils of string. Too not pull too far, just far enough to make the cut end disappear, or the whipping will unravel.
- Trim off the end you were pulling.
Potentially, your wand is complete. Congratulations.
Step 4: The Most Optional Step
You will be dealing with Cubs of greatly-varying ability, inclination and behaviour, probably in large groups, possibly without adult assisstance. It is your call whether you use this step, but, if you can, your Cubs will enjoy telling their friends and family about being allowed to play with sharp knives. However, if you are unsure how to instruct your Cubs to work safely with knives, I strongly recommend you leave this step for another time.
Wands can be decorated several ways, but the Scoutiest way to do it is to whittle or carve with a sharp knife.
A nice effect is to just cut through, and remove, narrow strips of bark.
Press the knife-blade into the bark at two 45 degree angles - 45º to the bark, working away from your body, and at 45º to the wand itself. Twist the wand, and the knife should cut a spiral up the wood.
Reverse the wand, press the blade in next to the first cut, and spiral back down the wood, staying close to the first cut.
You should now be able to lift a strip of bark from between the cuts, leaving a pale-coloured spiral pattern up the wand.
Step 5: The Middlingly Optional Step
If you want your Cubs to carve wands, but sharp knives are not an option, then you can use sandpaper files.
Give your Cubs a smallish piece of sandpaper, which they can wrap around a twig, or fold in half, and use to file away bark and wood, in whatever patterns they like.
This step can be combined with Step 4, to give a much wider range of possible finishes, but if your Cubs are young, or unfamiliar to you (at a typical District camp, 75% of the Cubs I deal with will be from other packs), then stick with this step instead if knives.
Remember, if you are using sandpaper, sandpaper files or ordinary files, they clog easily with wet wood. You will need to collect sticks well in advance and set them somewhere warm to dry out.
Step 6: The Step You Dare Not Miss
At a District Camp, we can have 80-100 Cubs. That's 80-100 wands, many of which will be near-identical.
Fold a strip of masking tape around every wand, or around the hanging loop if they made one, and write the Cubs' names and pack on the tape. They can take the tape off when they go home, but should leave it on at camp - after all, terrible things can happen if you use another wizard's wand...