I don’t know about you, but every single day when I wake up, I thank God for my health. I still have enough eyesight and the stamina to do what needs to get done in life. I am also grateful for the amount of work that keeps me occupied and productive these days. As I know I cannot take things for granted, ever.
In addition to the things I make for Nielsen Magic, from time to time I get requests and commissions for special projects.
Recently, I received a call from the IBM (International Brotherhood of Magicians) with the request that I make the “Presidential Wand” for the outgoing president of the organization. The president passes his responsibility to the next leader of the organization at a certain date, and the wand is given to him as a gift. We agreed on a fair fee, and they told me it had to be ready within three weeks.
I normally, don’t make magic wands. The reason: Everyone makes wands. The market is saturated with them. You can purchase inexpensive ones – for magicians and even Harry Potter enthusiasts – in novelty stores. Or you can buy Sherwood wands that are exquisite pieces of craftsmanship.
But this project was special: It involved making a wand, and a display stand with enough space to put a commemorative plaque on it.
The recipient would be the 2019 – 2020 President of the IBM, Mr. Alex Zander.
At the age of 27, Alex became the youngest elected President of the organization. With wisdom beyond years, he was truly the kind of leader the club needed to take the organization to the 21st century. I met him at last year’s convention in Arizona, and “the kid” had so much energy and enthusiasm, that it inspired all those around him. With his leadership, IBM’s online presence has been more prominent – which helped them with the current Covid-19 situation – and he has brought in a new younger magician crowd by increasing the reach of teen seminars, which will change the aging demographics of our current magic club. His marketing on social media has been quite evident throughout his tenure as well. He has made quite an impact on the IBM.
It would have been easy to just grab any good ol’ piece of wood, turn it, make it look pretty, and hand it to the IBM for their president.
However, I wanted something more special for Alex. It took me one week, thinking constantly of what would be the perfect magic wand for him. (See, why I seldom take custom work? The stress to do a good job is overpowering!)
Then came my savior… My dear friend Denny, who is a wonderful woodworker and tool wiz, who told me about a large pile of burl maple he had. I said: “Maple? BURL MAPLE?!” That’s it!!! Maple will be perfect for Alex’s wand! “Can I have a piece?” Denny said: “I’ll bring you an entire board!” Wow…
Alex is from Canada. What better wood than a beautiful piece of maple to be used for his Presidential Wand. I also had a few exotics on hand, and decided to use ebony – which is a hard and easy to turn material. Ebony is black, and it would make a nice contrast to the much lighter maple wood.
Wands are quite a challenge when you add tips to them. You see, it is difficult to glue end grain of one material to the end grain of another. Ebony and maple are not that compatible. Ebony is a very oily wood and hard as nails. Maple burl is hard, but because of the burls, one doesn’t know what one is going to get with that wood. Both materials have to be reinforced with either a dowel joint, or with metal. I did the latter by tapping the end grain sections to be able to screw them together with a metal piece, and while I was at it, I added a small brass inlay.
The finish is tricky, as I wanted to provide a durable finish that will last a lifetime. My choice: cyanoacrylate or CA finish. CA is very easy to apply in smaller objects like pens or seam rippers. It was a challenge to apply it on a longer object, as it becomes sticky and almost dries upon contact.
For the stand, I was thinking of tall fancy ones, or a presentation box, but I then remembered the stand that Paul Lembo made for a series of wands he made for John Calvert many years ago. It was simple and elegant, and did not detract from this very special magic wand. A similar design would be perfect, I thought. The wood of choice for the stand: Walnut. Walnut is a dark wood, which would offer the perfect contrast to the light maple wand. The stand would also have ample space for a special plaque.
For you folks that like to watch videos, here is a video of the process.
There you have it. The making of a special magic wand for a very special person, Alex. Good luck Mr. Alex Zander on all your future endeavors and I look forward to them all.
– Lupe Nielsen
(July 26, 2020)