Monday, November 19, 2012

DIY Gandalf the Grey Staff

After I decided that yes, I did want to throw myself a Tolkien-themed birthday party, I got all excited because that meant that I could go all out making props for the photobooth I want to have. Two of the most iconic props from the Peter Jackson movies are the wizard staffs, so I thought I'd start there. Since the Hobbit movie will feature Gandalf the Grey, and not the later, TTT & ROTK bleached version, I decided to make his wooden staff instead of his arguably cooler (but also more difficult) white staff.

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I started with looking around teh interwebs to see if anyone else had made a staff. I found these three tutorials, but none of them looked enough like the movie version for my taste. After some serious brainstorming, trips to Home Depot and Michael's, and several hours over several days, I finally made one that's satisfactorily "real." In case anyone should want to make their own, I put together a step-by-step Instructable on my process. Or you can just enjoy my picture collage.

To make the staff's twisty branches, I used brown paper bag strips and masking tape. Cheap acrylic craft paint made it wood-like, and watered-down black paint is excellent for adding a weathered look. 
To make the glowing crystal, I covered a LED light with clear packing tape that I "frosted" with a watered down silver/white paint. It looks fantastic in the daytime and in the dark! 

Cost breakdown: $3.50 for the wooden dowel, $6 for the 4-pack of LED lights (each lasts 8-12 hours), and I already had the masking tape, clear packing tape, paint, and paper bag at home. So that brings my total cost to less than $10, and even if I had to purchase all of the supplies instead of using things from my crafting stash, I don't think it would cost more than $20 if you were judicious with the use of Michael's and Joann's coupons. Not bad, especially considering that the collectible version is at least seven times that much. 

My final staff doesn't look exactly like the movie version, but I think it's close enough to be readily recognizable if one is familiar with the movies. I'm especially pleased that it actually lights up, although taking the LED out of the packing tape "crystal" to turn it off is pretty fussy. I suppose I could have actually wired it up to a hidden switch so that I could just click it on and off, but I don't think I care enough. I also made a Saruman staff, but that one is honestly not as cool-looking as my Gandalf staff, probably because it doesn't light up, plus I used craft foam, which is not high-class material. Then again, brown paper bags and masking tape aren't high-class either...

DIY gandalf the grey wizard staff
If only this staff were a little more portable -- I could bring it into class and threaten my students who are in danger of failing.

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47 comments:

  1. This is the biggest, heaping bowl of awesomesauce ever. I have no idea how you do all this crafty stuff, but I'm jealous as hell.

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    1. Thanks! After the manic sewing of the last month, I suddenly had the urge to get my hands dirty with paint :)

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  2. Freaking. Rad. I am having total nerd girl envy here. I love, love, love the crystal- it looks so good!
    And a side note: so wish I had one of these when I was teaching senior modern history- I would have used that sucker a few times!

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    1. Ooh, yes, this would be perfect for any teacher! I bet you were an awesome history teacher!

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  3. Wonderful, just wonderful, and far better than the other tutes you linked to. Is it geeky to be really annoyed by geeks who post tutorials with lots of spelling mistakes? Because I am really annoyed. Dremel, for instance only has one m. It's just so wrong.

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    1. I get annoyed with spelling mistakes all the time! I'm totally with you on the Dremel thing!

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  4. Wow, this looks great! I can't believe you made that (and with stuff that most people have laying around their houses)! Great job, dude!

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    1. Thank you! It was the result of a LOT of brainstorming...

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  5. Oh wow - that light-up crystal is the coolest thing ever! Not only did you make a staff that looks better than the others floating around the web, yours has got to be the most budget friendly! I want to come to your party just to see it in person!

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    1. Someday, Brooke, someday...we will actually meet in person, I hope!

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  6. WOW! I want one :) It's very very good!

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  7. Very very very very very very cool. OMG. That is cool.

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  8. That is such a cool staff! Maybe you could even turn it into a permanent lamp?

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    1. That would be pretty awesome, if only I had the wherewithal to figure out an easier way to turn it on and off! Hmm, time to break out my lab supplies from the chapter on electricity...

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  9. Oh my goodness, that's fantastic!!

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  10. Wow that is really cool, way to be resourceful with the craft supplies, I would
    have never thought of using tape to make a crystal!

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    1. It was like a movie -- I was drifting off to sleep and then suddenly snapped wide awake with the idea of using packing tape -- not even joking. I was just concerned if I would still remember when I woke up!

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  11. That is pretty much the coolest thing ever.

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  12. LOVE IT! I so wish I could come to your birthday party!

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    1. I wish you could too! I'm sad that our SF meetup couldn't happen :(

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  13. Wow. Just wow. Your talents continue to impress me! And you know, I live in Wellington where one can't turn around without tripping over a special effects guy or animator or model maker who worked on LOTR or Avatar. This is amazing and will be a huge hit at your party :)

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    1. That must be amazing...I remember being in college and wishing that I could be in NZ and volunteer to I don't know, fetch coffee for them or something, just so I could be involved in the movie-making is some way!

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  14. That's so awesome! I really think you should make a smaller version for those errant students. :)

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    1. Thanks! If I just keep this one intact long enough, I can eventually move it into my classroom!

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  15. Your Gandalf staff certainly makes the other tutorials look like crap. Hooray for Trader Joe's bag repurposing!

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    1. TJ bags are the best. And while my original aim in making this staff wasn't to have a staff-making showdown, well, I won't deny that I'm not immensely pleased at how much more realistic mine looks...

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  16. Genius! Also, love that last line.

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  17. VERY cool. Thank you for showing the step by step photos. Your lit up crystal construction is genius!
    Cheers!

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    1. I'm glad my process was came across clearly in my photos...so often I don't think of documenting until I'm done with something. Thanks!

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  18. You are sad. But in an totes amazeballs way. I'm jealous.

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    1. Hahaha, I'm pretty sure my husband feels the same way!

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  19. While browsing Amazon, I stumbled onto this:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Hobbit-Cake-Topper-Kit/dp/B009VK8CEQ/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1353551174&sr=8-11&keywords=hobbit+film

    Thought I'd pass it on to you, just in case you need a cake topper for your party!

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    1. Thanks, Alisa! I don't know that I'll do a cake for my party, but if I ever do, this will be awesome!

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  20. So cool! You're the MacGyver of crafting props.

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    1. Wow, that's a huge compliment...I loved MacGyver as a kid!

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  21. Major LOLs at the idea of "You Shall Not Pass" to failing high school students. You just made my evening!

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  22. Nothing made from packing tape should look that awesome!

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  23. EPIC. Seriously epic and absolutely wonderful!!! Your talent and creativity knows no bounds!

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  24. Is this not Radagast's staff? Gandalf's has different look, saw Hobbit part 2 yesterday again, and took notice.
    And sry, english is not my first language if there are typos.

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    1. This is Gandalf's staff in the original LOTR trilogy. I made this before the Hobbit movies came out, where they mysteriously gave the two wizards similar staffs, but Gandalf's was different.

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  25. I thing that is a good post, but you never say how It's made, and I want to do.
    If you want to do the gandalf the withe staff of: http://elpiratillacansino.blogspot.com.es/2014/02/como-hacer-la-vara-de-gandalf-el-blanco.html

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    1. Actually, if you read the post I have a link to the step-by-step Instructable showing how I made this. http://www.instructables.com/id/Gandalf-the-Grey-Wizard-Staff/

      Your staff looks cool, but I could say the same thing about you not showing the steps for how you made yours :)

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  26. this was very helpful for my gandalf costume but do you know any better way to put the light in so the switch is more reachable?

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