Monday, November 2, 2009

Gandalf's Staff... A Picture Tutorial

This is the picture I used as inspiration for my staff project. I admit we initially looked for fallen tree limbs or drift wood along the beach for an acceptable staff. But as that plan failed, we decided to make one.

When my son announced he wanted to be Gandalf the Grey for Halloween, my husband and I were excited. We both thought the little guy would make an excellent Gandalf. Of course we had to go overboard on the costume, because that is what we are about here. If it isn't worth going to the extreme, then you might as well skip it. Sometimes I regret that exuberance, but not this time. Out of all the things he could have picked, it would have been hard to come up with a costume that gripped my imagination like this one. So I grabbed my glue gun, sewing machine and got to work.

My favorite part of his costume ended up being the lighted staff. I took pictures while I was making it for anyone who might feel they need something like a homemade lighted Gandalf staff in their lives. It is sort of involved and has a large supply list, but I figure if you are the type of person who is interested in making one of these, then you are also probably the type of person that has a stash of wire, paper towel rolls, velcro and crystal type rocks. It is just a guess (or perhaps a hope?) that I can't be the only odd craft/hobby supply junkie out there that has a love for MacGyver-like projects. Right? So anyway, I dedicate this tutorial to any like minded geeks crafters out there in blog land.

What you will need:

Paper Towel Roll
Tongue depressor type stick
Duct tape
Hot glue gun - avoid dollar store ones, trust me
Lots of hot glue sticks
Crystal type rock for the top
Xacto knife
Regular tape
Fake flickering tealight candle that doesn't get hot when lit (mine runs on a watch battery)
Adhesive Velcro on a roll
Acrylic paint
Mod Podge
A dowel rod that is painted to match or walking stick to put this on top of when finished
Burn Gel - I recommend this brand. It is awesome. Hey, this project calls for a lot of hot glue. Just saying.
10 cups of tea
3 mini Milky Way Bars (because at some point during this project, chocolate will save your sanity)

This tutorial is for the the lit end of the staff that I attached to a walking stick with velcro once finished. I had planned on attaching it to a dowel that I had painted to match more seamlessly, but time got away from me and the walking stick was good enough. Okay, got your supplies? Ready to start?

First cut four slits large enough for a tongue depressor to fit through cross ways from each other. Then cut the tongue depressor mostly flush with the paper towel roll. Do this twice for each set of slits. Tape into place by fixing a plain piece of tape on the depressor by squeezing the paper towel roll a bit to expose the depressor, add tape then pop the towel roll back into shape and tape to the outside face. Do this with two pieces to form an X type shelf inside the roll. It should look like this...

Next, secure the slits and regular taped area with duct tape.

Using a Xacto knife cut a little door that will fit the fake tealight candle.

Here is a picture of what we are trying to accomplish here. The tongue depressor X is a little shelf that the tealight will sit on and this little light will be what subtly lights the crystal when it is dark.

Here is a photo of the fake tealight, in case you don't really follow what I am referring to. I found it in the Halloween decoration aisle and I got two of them for $1.26. They are probably half off right now. Hurry! Go stock up. But in case you miss them, I've seen them out for the holiday season as well, only the base is more likely to be red or green.

Next, duct tape the paper roll around where the door is to secure it. And duct tape the door, extending it a little further past the opening to create a place to add velcro. This is how you will close and secure the door to both hold in the tealight and cover the light. Add the velcro to the roll and the door. I covered the whole end of the door to prevent it from curling up and exposing the light.

Now with the wire and the crystal, make a base for your crystal to sit on. I used four pieces of wire with eight spider-like extensions coming from it. The crystal has to sit on this so make sure it won't slip through the base. It will be later secured with a LOT of hot glue, but it still needs to be pretty secure for the next pain in the butt part.

Here is a view of the other side for reference. No wire on the face as you don't want the wire to show in the end product. It is basically just resting in this little base, not stuck fast in there yet. Do NOT trim the wire too short. If it is a bit long it will be easier to do the next step. Lesson I learned the hard way.

Next I secured it with a bit of hot glue. Notice the discolored glue left over from my daughter's orange witch hat. This is also the moment that I went through my first dollar store glue gun, got my first burn and ate my first Milky Way.

Next punch the same number of holes as wires in the tube above the door, in equal distances around the tube. I had eight wires, so I punched eight holes.

Cut slits in the top of the tube, much like flower petals. At this time, four will work. You might need to cut pretty close to the holes to get the stupid wires to go into them. At least I did.

Welcome to the hardest part of this tutorial. Try to get the wires through the holes. Here is what I learned. Tweezers really help get the wires through the little holes. It also helps to go over the holes using a xacto knife from the inside and make them larger. The crystal will probably pop off from the hot glue, but that doesn't really matter at this point. Bend the ends of the wire once you get it through the hole so it won't pop back out. Here is a picture I took once I finally figured out the bending the end of the wire trick. I complain about this step, but it really didn't take that long. Just a bit more frustrating than the rest of the project is all.

Secure with a bit of hot glue on the top. Don't cover the crystal, but really fill in around the sides. Think of it as a hot glue 'setting' to the stone. Here is where I killed the second dollar store glue gun and delayed any more hot gluing I had to do until I could procure a new one. Hence the rest of my pictures are rather bad due to the fact that I finished this after dark and had no natural light to take pictures by. But here is a shot of how the crystal sits atop of the tealight.

Here's a shot I took while testing the glow of the crystal when in a dark room. The tealight I have flickers like a candle, so it was an especially cool effect, but one I can't capture with my camera.

Still with me? I broke this project up over the course of a couple days. Probably a good time to share that... By the way, soon we will be using a lot of hot glue. Get your burn gel and newly purchased six dollar hot glue gun that can handle a heavy duty project. It is a good time to find something around the house to set your staff end on so you can work hands free. I took my knife sharpener that is like a long screw driver and put it into a ceramic container upside down to put the wand on so I didn't have to hold it. A hammer in a container should work too. Just something heavy. You do NOT want it tipping over while you are covering it in hot glue!

This next step, I cut the 'petals' into eight thinner pieces and twisted them a bit. I then gave them more shape using duct tape. I looked at the picture of the staff online and tried to capture the same sort of look of the 'branches' of the staff. You can see the staff picture in the background up on my computer to see what I mean.

There is a step here that I didn't photograph. Now is the time to fit your staff end on the base of your chosen stick, whether it is a walking stick or dowel cut to size. We won't be leaving it on here, but we have to fit our top to the base at this point because soon we will cover the whole thing in hot glue and it won't be adjustable after that. Cut two slits in the bottom of the paper towel roll and duct tape it to fit around the dowel. Not so tight that it is hard to get on, but snug enough that it isn't rocking around on top. Then add a strip of hook velcro to the top end of the dowel (walking stick in my case) and loop velcro up inside the staff. I used scissors to place it up in there. This worked perfectly to secure the end of the staff to the walking stick. It didn't budge but removed easily when I needed to mess with the tealight to turn it on and off.

Hot glue time! Now cover the thing in hot glue. Fill out the branches. Drizzle it down the sides. Go ahead and put hot glue on and around the door, but try not to cover it too much where it opens. You will end up covering it some and once it is dry you can cut it open with a xacto and scissors. Actually, covering it a little bit and then cutting it open helps to hide the opening better. Just keep in mind it is a bit tedious to cut through hot glue, so less is more around the opening. Here is my hot glued staff topper held up near the picture on the computer.

Once the glue is dry (it doesn't take that long), then paint a base coat with acrylic paint. I used black since it is a dark staff. I used a ton of paint to fill in all the little valleys that the glue gun made. The base coat took a few hours to dry.

Once the base coat is dry use a mix of browns and yellows over the staff topper to get your desired look. I used a dry brush technique and kept adding color with a dry brush and wiping off the excess. It doesn't have to be perfect. The following picture isn't very accurate to how it ended up because it was taken at night. The actual staff is much less varied in tone. But this gives the general idea. Let it dry. I let it sit overnight. (The velcro door in these photos always seems to show, but in actuality it closes quite tight and you don't see it at all. However, using black velcro would help mask it even better. I only had white on hand.) BTW - In this picture you can see how the base tapers in where I cinched it to fit on top of the walking stick in the step I failed to picture.

Seal the whole thing (except the crystal) with mod podge. This helps protect the paint from scratching off the hot glue and offers a bit of a protection. It rained a bit during trick or treating and the staff held up perfectly. Mod podge isn't water proof by any means, but it is much better than just leaving it and gives it a finished look. I used a matte finish mod podge.

Once it is dry, turn your tealight on and put it in the staff. Velcro the end of your staff to your dowel or walking stick and VOILA! You have a happy little Gandalf. (He's smiling on the inside.)

P.S. I am aware that my Gandalf has a gnomish look about him. He is rather sensitive I figured dealing with a mustache would be too much for him. I also couldn't figure out how to do a brim to his hat that didn't look like a witch type brim. So I skipped it. But all in all, it was a very successful costume. Especially because it was forty degrees here and his double layers of fleece and wool wig and beard kept him toasty warm!

Inevitably there are people reading this wondering... WHY? Why do all of this for a costume. Well, it isn't really just for the costume. My kid would have been happy with the plain walking stick. It was really just the joy in the craft journey. Brainstorming the idea and figuring how to do it. It keeps me out of my husband's hair. It keeps me from organizing the sock drawer. It is fun. I have a million excuses, but really it just come down to the fact that I just wanted to. I start plenty of things like this only to have them completely bomb, this one just happened to work out, so I thought I'd share. So for all those like minded, somewhat manic, LOTR loving, craft supply hoarding folk out there all three of you... this tutorial is for you. Happy crafting!


Mod Podge Amy said...

That is so awesome! Your little Gandalf is just cute as a button by the way.

Mommylion said...

Thank you, Amy :) I am so glad you commented because it lead me to your awesome blog. What a cool place, so many great ideas!

thetoymaker said...

This made my day! Absolutely magic!

Can't wait till next year's costume.


Mommylion said...

Thank you, Marilyn! Your comment made my day!

My family adores your website and I find your creative and generous spirit so inspirational. Thank you for dropping by. :)

Abbie said...

What a cute little Gandalf! Great costume!

candyn said...

Thanks, Abbie. I had fun making it and he had fun wearing it, so it was a win/win creation. :)