Are these not mighty impressive? Made by me, out of paper, glue, and paint. You can do it too.
Dash’s party is Harry-Potter-themed this year, with elements of Percy Jackson. Don’t ask me how all this will work out; planning is ongoing and involves a lot of negotiations because the type-A child has two type-A parents and everyone wants to run this thing.
But wands will be needed, obviously. I noodled around Pinterest for ages and found a good tutorial for wands using chopsticks and a glue gun, and then I procrastinated on ordering the chopsticks because deep down inside I had a vague notion that providing twenty ten-year-old boys with sticks to poke each others’ eyes out with was maybe not the best idea.
I mentioned this dilemma to a friend, who said her daughter had made paper wands at a party. Paper wands didn’t sound great – I imagined long floppy tearable things – but I googled it anyway. And lo! Instructions for wands made with paper that looked really great, and seemed achievable even by such crafting-averse people as me, given enough time and a modicum of preparation.
So, here’s the thing. This is not a craft for your party guests to do themselves. (Sadly, because that would be great.) It’s best to give yourself a few days to make them, so you can let each stage dry well and not stress yourself out over it. But, that said, there are some great things about it:
Children can help you, if they’re over about six, or maybe even younger. I’d advise you do the first one yourself to get the hang of it, but in general neatness is not important, so it’s an ideal way to let your kids help prep for the party.
Each wand really does turn out unique, because you never roll exactly the same way twice, and with a couple of paint colours you can mix lots of variations on “wood brown” (I kept thinking it looked like poo brown instead, but really it’s all in the eye of the beholder).
Enough blathering. I found the instructions on Instructables from CaptinSkarlet, who is clearly very clever indeed. You you should definitely read them too, for completeness, but I’m going to tell you my version, because I have photos, and it’s slightly different. Prepare to be amazed.
You will need:
- copy paper (as many sheets as you want wands, and a few over for messing up)
- double-sided sticky tape (you could use a glue stick, but the tape really does make it easier)
- a few different colours of thread, foil, or maybe a tiny feather for the inside (nobody sees this, but you know it’s there; makes all the difference)
- paper glue, like Elmer’s (liquid is better than a glue stick here because you need some smushability)
- kitchen paper or tissues for stuffing the wand to make it more rigid
- a glue gun (fun!)
- spray paint, any colour, but brown is ideal
- acrylic paint (or any non-water-soluble paint – apparently it’s emulsion in the UK/Ireland) in a couple of shades of brown and a black
- metallic markers or paint for the finishing touches
Most, though not all, of my supplies.
Step 1 – Tape
Stick a length of double-sided tape diagonally across a page of copy paper.
Step 2 – Add magic
Cut a length of thread (red thread is dragon heartstring) or some very thin strips of foil (unicorn hair) or take a feather (phoenix, of course) and stick it to the tape. This is the magical core of your wand.
Dragon heartstring this time
Step 3 – Start rolling your wand
Roll the paper tightly from the bottom left corner if you’ve taped as above, lengthways, so that it’s roughly parallel to the tape. Once you reach the tape it will stick well. Make one end slightly (or a lot) wider – this will probably happen without your even trying, and wands the kids rolled were much fatter and shorter than the long narrow ones I made. Variety is good, though you might have a personal preference.
Be careful at this stage to keep rolling tightly
Step 4 – Finish rolling
Put paper glue (Elmer’s or similar) all over the last third of the page and finish rolling. The glue will smush out to the edge so that it seals up nicely. Leave to dry for a while.
See how they’re all different?
[Take a break at this stage.]
Step 5 – Cut and stuff
Cut each end across in a straight line (as pictured above). Then stuff each end with small pieces of rolled-up tissue or kitchen paper, using the end of a small paintbrush (or whatever you have to hand) to push it down as far as you can. You might not be able to stuff the whole thing, but whatever you can do will help it be more rigid.
Stuffing with small pieces of rolled kitchen paper
Step 6 – Add decorative hot glue
Plug in your glue gun to heat up. Fill in the ends of the wand with glue, and then artistically drizzle bands or lines of glue on the wand to define a handle (the wider end) and make patterns. My 10yo is a glue-gun master, and I let the 7yo have a go (with supervision) and they were both fine with this, though they did go through the glue sticks at a greater rate than I would have alone. Again, more variety is a good thing, so this is fine. And accuracy is not the aim. Leave it for the glue to dry.
Mabel’s abstract ceramic masterpiece comes into its own as a glue-drying rest
[Take a break at this stage.]
Step 7 – Spray paint for rigidity
Spray paint time. This is not something you should let the kids help with. I did it outside on the deck and made them watch through the window while I held my breath: inhaling spray paint is no fun. The spray-paint step is just to make the wands more rigid – you’ll be painting over it, so it really doesn’t matter what colour you use. I got clear paint the first time, which basically just put a sheen on the paper. My small can ran out after about 18 wands, and I bought silver the next time, which looked uh-may-zing and was also more rigid. It was also easier to see where I’d missed with a colour, and in hindsight brown would minimize touch-ups later, so if you can, get brown. Let dry, turn over, and spray the other side. Let dry.
Primed with spray-paint (and a bunny, for interest)
[Take a break here too. See why it’s best to do it over a couple of days?]
Two browns and a black
Step 8 – Paint it “wooden”
I got some acrylic paint in Target, and mixed the dark brown, the light brown, and the black in different quantities as I went along, so that each wand was a different shade. The trickiest part is doing the ends and finding somewhere to put your fingers, and then propping them to dry so that the paint doesn’t touch. I went back and touched up the smudged parts when I painted my next set of wands; it doesn’t matter if your touching-up shade isn’t quite the same as your base shade. Leave to dry. (This needs to be a non-water-soluble paint because the next coat will be watery and you don’t want it to wash off the paint you’ve just put on.)
Painted wands drying
[Take a break! Yay for breaks!]
Step 9 – Black wash for fake aging
This is when you make the wand look old and yucky, because those are the best wands. Dash didn’t like the sound of this at first because he wanted his wand to be shiny and new, but in the end he let me do this for all of them. Mix some black acrylic paint with a few drops of water so that it’s thin and easy to swish on quickly. Swish it on to part of your wand quickly with a fat brush, and then wipe it off straight away with kitchen paper or a rag. (The black paint I got was accidentally a metallic black, which I really liked for this part because it left a sheen even where it was rubbed off.) You want the black to stay in the crevices of the glue bumps, to make it look aged and worn. Keep brushing on and smudging off until you’re happy with how it looks. Leave to dry.
The five on the left are pre-black-wash; the six on the right are post. You can see the difference, right?
Close-up of the black-wash
[Take a break. Though they dry pretty fast.]
Step 10 – Final touches
Decorate your wand! The most fun part, I think. I had some cool metallic markers that have probably been in the house since pre-kid days when I would buy fancy markers to write schmoopy love notes in B’s Valentine’s cards, and they proved to be perfect for this job. I really enjoyed deciding whether bronze, gold, or silver would look best with each “wood”, and then I just traced over the glue blobs with the markers. You could use metallic paint here too of course. Let dry.
Finally, astound your friends, amaze your enemies, and cast spells with aplomb. Stupefy!
Detail of wands