Making tools

by Frater Auxilior Arti

In the old days, a magician had to be a craftsman adept in a number of trades to put together all that he might need, and that aspect of magic making is little changed. I present here an excerpt of an article from the Companions of the Glyph website designed to give clear direction in the matter of magickal tools. If there is sufficient interest, I’d be happy to present other articles regarding the manufacture of other implements of the lodge. Although we here have access to a whole plethora of luthier’s tools in the Orphic Airs workshop, these items can be built with a modicum of common tools, none fancier than a variable-speed drill.

The Burin

Start with a common throwing knife bought for less than $10 at the sort of shop that used to specialize in cigarette papers, posters and marijuana pipes but now is forced by law to specialize in small weapons (this is progress?). It even came with a sheath for your boot.

With this as a sort of "blank", we proceeded to fashion a guard from two pieces of thin copper (ours were used in connection with the manufacture of electronic circuit boards, but a craft shop will possibly have the like) in the required shape. They were carefully epoxied together, sandwiching the blade and hilt between, clamped with clothespins. After it dried overnight, the spaces between the plates were back-filled with epoxy about the consistency of putty and sculpted until there was a bead standing proud of the edges where before there was a gap. After letting this dry overnight and cleaning it up a bit with an emery board, the handle was considered.

While one could wrap the handle with successive turns of leather, we chose to create our handle out of poly resin sculpting compound (Sculpey), fashioning a slender snake that wraps about the hilt from knop to hilt. It was finished with enamel paints and given a keen edge. Of course, one can just as well use an antique dagger or letter opener too, with little or no artistic modification, but where's the fun in that?

The Disk

There's no real good way around it--you've got to cut a perfect circle about 5" in diameter. If you're lucky, you might find a big, wooden plug at your hobby store or out in back of the local furniture manufacturer, but we never could, so we used a band saw, then laboriously ground away the less-than perfect parts with sandpaper and file. We can think of a number of other options less exacting , but we like one option best: obtain the roundest branch one can find (please don't cut it off a living tree) and saw twice through it with parallel cuts with whatever tools you can muster. Birch typically has a very round profile and so does lodge-pole pine, Madrone and Myrtlewood. Avoid Oak, Maple and Joshua trees for reasons that should be obvious. Once one has a round and polished disk, one needs to decorate it. While one can carefully paint the desired design upon the Disk, we, unabashed children of technology that we are, elected to use a paint program on our computer to create the appropriate design, then shipped it to a color jet printer to be affixed to the disk by the technique known as deco page.

Deco page (say "deck-o-pahzsh") is an underrated medium. It's origins lie in France and a great number of very fine historical objets de art survive which use the technique to good advantage. It is little more than the art of sticking paper and other very small, thin things to surfaces with varnish, lacquer or something similar. While it was once a smelly process for sure, there is now a range of products one can find in an art store that accomplishes the same task with no toxic fumes and a long-lasting, non-yellowing finish.

Once deco paged to the awaiting surface, the entire disk is treated with numerous coats of the finishing material, or perhaps just sprayed over with a few coats of spray varnish or polyurethane.

The Cup

Generally speaking, the Cup is the easiest to obtain, being quite possibly the simple result of an import store purchase--there's certainly enough of them out there. Our particular cup however, was not obtained in that way. Desiring to build an 8-fold feature into it, we made ours from a wooden candlestick holder blank and a 8-sided, glass votive holder. The two were attached with epoxy (it may be desirable to scuff up the glass a bit with sandpaper first where the epoxy touches it), the whole then carefully painted deep blue before being appointed with a rim of textured white sea-foam (acrylic artist's paints) and a black/orange sea serpent (enamels).

The Wand

This is a subject that could fill a page of this size by itself. Let us first consider the elegant, yet simple Manzanita or Madrone wand, cut from the straightest section one can find of a worthy limb. These woods are quite red and a bit of clever finishing can make them redder still. We have envisioned one such rod intricately carved with a Dremel and appropriate bit to resemble a long, swaddling of flames, further reinforcing the association of fire.

Moving further up the scale of complexity, we come to a design I manufactured a few years ago, when I desired to make a simple, traditional baton-style fire wand. A length of dowel about 1.5" in diameter was cut to about 18" in length. Next, a package of 4 furniture skids sized to fit the dowel were purchased, along with two plastic tips of the sort which are designed to replace those missing from garden furniture. The furniture skids were turned bottom-to-bottom, epoxied together, then epoxied/nailed to the ends of the dowel, the plastic tips being epoxied to the ends.

The wand is then painted with primer (because of the plastic) and sprayed down with asmany coats of fire-engine red paint as one cares to add. The result is quite elegant. The wand used by the Aurum Solis is quite complex, being two pyramids stuck to a certain depth onto a shaft of copper tubing--not an easy task! While the specific instructions can be found in Mysteria Magica, we can add some remarks about constructing the pyramid...

We considered two methods for the manufacture of the pyramid, one involvingthe casting of plaster in a form; the other involved sawing them from a block of wood. In the latter, we decided that a chop saw was best, starting with square, hardwood stock, then carefully snagging off each of the faces at the appropriate angle leaving a tiny square at the pinnacle--not a point. Cross cut the stock just below the bottom of the pyramid so you have room to make a few mistakes in the sanding. At this point, you have something that's vaguely pyramidal in shape, but the closer it is to perfect, the better. You might plan to cut a number of these to get the hang of it, selecting out the two best ones to carry on into the final stages of construction. This involves a whole lot of sanding on a 60 or 80-grit paper taped to a very flat surface. The size of these pieces are such that we cannot recommend using a power tool on them for reasons of safety. As soon as you get the shape right (and check it often), switch up to 180 , then 220-grit paper to put a good polish on it. A few coats of sanding sealer, sanded between coats with 220, will give it a polished look and ready it to take paint.

In the case of the casting method, things proceed a lot differently. We laid out the four triangles on a sheet of corrugated cardboard, cut them out with an Xacto knife, then taped them together such that they formed a pyramid. Before we did this, however, we covered the inside portions of the panels with plastic tape so that the plaster of paris would not stick to our cardboard mold. It takes a great deal of care to get it all taped up so that it will maintain a true form throughout the time required to set up the plaster of paris. The molds are then placed point-down in the opening of a jar that is just about wide enough to accommodate it, then filled with the plaster until it stands well proud of the mold, yet does not spill--you'll need that excess for the subsequent sanding and this is a good time to remind that the entire mold should be made slightly larger than needed, so as to give leeway to the subsequent sanding effort. The jar opening should allow the form to settle into a very regular shape, but if it doesn’t, you can pinch it and mess with it until it measures true. This measurement is accomplished by taking a measuring tool and measuring the distance from one corner to the opposite corner across the center and then comparing that measurement to one made from the other two sets of corners. When the measurements are equal, the form is square.

Once the pyramid is sanded to shape, regardless of how you achieve that form, you must find the exact center of the bottom and this is done by carefully ruling a line from corner to opposite corner. The center will be where the lines cross. Drill a small pilot hole with a slow-speed drill, then switch out the bits to make the actual hole at the appropriate depth and of a width that will accept the handle. From here, you are next saddled with the task of attaching the ends to the handle.

One method might involve constructing a precision gluing jig that would hold the parts in correct alignment until the glue dries, but we chose a simpler route. Using epoxy, we were able to mix it a bit in advance of when we expected to use it and allowed it to stiffen up quite a bit. Once we got the shaft clamped into a purely vertical position (checking with level or plumb), we mounted the end upon the shaft with a fairly small amount of epoxy, then monitored it over the course of 30 minutes, adjusting the angle all the while as the epoxy hardened. One needs to look at it from all angles to make sure everything is square. The process is repeated on the other end before painting.

Remember—always wear safety glasses, hearing and dust protection, roll up your sleeves and tie back your hair. Dull tools are more dangerous than sharp ones, so keep that in mind also. Good ventilation is a must around most solvents and paints. Enjoy!