I recently decided to make a magic wand with my son as a small project. He's been showing it off a bit (despite being very simple/basic), and now we've been asked to make a bunch more for family/friends.

Before I do, I'd like to know if there's an easier or more effective way to do this. They're being made from 1/2" oak dowels (straight from a big box store), about a foot or so long:

basic wand

I didn't want to use a lathe, mainly because it's so thin in some areas. So, I ended up using the outer edge of a disc sander to shape most of it. It was somewhat tedious, and it's not as symmetrical and "smooth" as I'd like. There's also a limit on the angle/shape of "cuts", since I can only hold it to the sander at so much of an angle.

They would all be a bit differently shaped, with varying handle sizes, groove locations, etc. So I'm guessing anything that uses some sort of shaped jig wouldn't work.

So, my main questions are: Would it be safe on a lathe to go down to about half diameter? If not, what would the best tool for the job be?

  • 6
    "The wand chooses the [diameter]... it's not always clear why." - Ollivander
    – null
    May 8, 2015 at 15:51
  • 6
    @null Finding the unicorn hair to embed in this thing was a real pain.
    – Geobits
    May 8, 2015 at 16:10

3 Answers 3


I've made several wands on my lathe and it works just fine. I've gotten them down to close to a 1/4" thickness.

However, there is vibration and chatter that happens so, you have a couple options. One includes spending money, getting a steady rest makes it SO easy that if you are going to do a bunch it might be worth it, there are even plans for making your own fairly cheaply.

The other is to just slow down when you are getting close to the final shape, use a lot of sand paper and keep your chisels very sharp.

Edit: by using the lathe I also will cut 3/4" square pieces out of a board and turn them round, saving a little on the cost of materials.

  • Never used a steady rest, but it looks like it would help a lot. I'm not sure I'll be doing enough of these to justify buying/making one, though (esp. since the lathe is a family member's, not mine). I'll give the lathe a shot, though.
    – Geobits
    May 8, 2015 at 15:26
  • @Geobits I've discovered that steady's are awesome, especially for spindle work.
    – bowlturner
    May 8, 2015 at 15:40

I cannot attest to the use of the lathe for something that small. That is bowlturner's domain after all. This answer also touches on making dowels with a lathe so, in theory, it could be turned.

I'm getting into more hand tools myself and if I was to approach this I might use variations of the following approaches.

  1. Spoke shave: They are meant for shaping wooden rods and shafts so using them for making wands would be akin to the spoke shaves use. However it might be harder on small dowel given the diameter. Still, it could work. More than likely I would use ...

  2. Power Drill/Driver as a lathe: Chuck of a decent drill would hold that dowel. There could be an issue with how straight your piece is to start but given the length I don't see the fly-out being a big issue. I would use this to try and make the groves you have in your picture as well. I don't think you can use turning tools or even a chisel this way safely. You could wrap sandpaper around a block to get a 90 degree angle to sand in the grooves. A rasp would also help to remove the larger portions.

With the same idea you could also use a drill press as that is also used as a turning substitute and has more consistent RPM and free both your hands.

Note on Uniformity

I would embrace the uniqueness of the non-symmetrical non-uniform design as it adds character.

  • 1
    +1 for embracing a lack of symmetry. This is magic, after all. May 11, 2015 at 4:47

Given that you're using a hardwood, one foot of material can be turned down to 1/4" (6mm). Make sure that the entire piece is very round and vibration free when you start, and try to keep the spinning mass low (ie, reduce it evenly - don't make one area thin, then move on to the next).

This article shows a similar, perhaps more challenging turning, but demonstrates that it is readily possible:


... pencil-thin, no steadyrest, large ring, turned from single piece.

Honeydipper with integral stops and loose jar lid, turned from single piece http://www.finewoodworking.com/assets/uploads/posts/118202/IMG_4395_web_lg.gif

  • Because links can go stale, it's preferred to include all of the essential parts directly in the answer itself, and use the link for reference. See How to answer for other tips.
    – drs
    May 10, 2015 at 17:26
  • True, but didn't have a reasonable thought about how to do that. Trying.
    – keshlam
    May 10, 2015 at 18:17
  • I know what you mean. In that case, sometimes it's good enough just to post the link as comment on the question.
    – drs
    May 10, 2015 at 19:10
  • 1
    @keshlam I've made significant edits to the answer, hopefully you find them acceptable, but feel free to roll back if my changes are unacceptable. I'd post a separate answer myself, but yours is close enough I felt an edit to improve yours was a better option.
    – Adam Davis
    May 11, 2015 at 12:30
  • 1
    Works for me. Pity there's no collaborative-answer point system.
    – keshlam
    May 11, 2015 at 14:29

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