In fiction, wand makers like Ollivander and Gregorovitch use a wide selection of magical cores and woods not just geographically available to them, but also based upon their personal preference and research. We like to think that translates into real-world wandmaking when traits of the wandmakers themselves really shine through their work.
Both with backgrounds in engineering, Janet and Ed Bareiss achieve this with their superior handmade wands. Together, they built Orchard Works wand shop.
Their wand making business began after their daughter asked to have magic wands at her ninth birthday party and from there grew into what it is today. They have made wands not just for fans of the Wizarding World, but also for muggles, major companies, practitioners of Wicca, and even actors from the Harry Potter franchise.
We had the pleasure of visiting at their invitation, along with our friends Hayley and Michael Burson. We spent the morning at their workshop in Stafford Springs, CT (which, coincidentally is the charming New England town where Savanah was married).
Once there, we surveyed a room full of finished wands and a ceiling-high organizer containing common and rare wood. Woods have natural smells to them, many of which come out when exposed to heat or sunlight. Some of the best-smelling woods are cocobolo, Lignum Vitae, and rosewood. At Orchard Works, only a select few are painted or stained— nearly all the wands they use have naturally-occurring colors, some in impossibly rich hues like that of purpleheart wood.
Ed does much of the wood work, manufacturing perfectly balanced wands and
ergonomic designs. Janet has such a keen eye for detail and is responsible for the very finest finishing you’ll see on every wand.
We descended a staircase into a basement workshop with stone walls and a warm smell of sawdust. The five of us surveyed the various tools on the workbench and paper designs pinned above it. There weren’t any fanciful machines that pop out ready-made wands in sight. This was a work station of someone who truly loves and appreciates their craft enough to create things both handmade and well-made.
It’s not unusual for a wand maker to use four different grades of sandpaper per wand. Without a lathe, it takes forever to make an Elder Wand. On a good day, shaping an Elder Wand by hand might take two or three hours, but can take up to four.
Ed asked if we had a request for the wand making demo. After some good suggestions, we settled on Michael’s Pottermore wand, which at the time, existed only in digital form on the now-defunct website.
There was hesitation in my writing this blog post, because I felt that even a stronger writer than I would find it difficult to convey how involved Ed’s demonstration was. It is a whole process— you have to move your whole body to make a wand, in getting the curves and textures just right. He stood, stooped, pushed, and pulled his way around the sanding belt. A workout, a dance, call it what you will— but don’t call it easy work.
If you like the smell of burning ebony, the Orchard Works workshop is the place to be. “Ebony is one of my favorite woods to work with”, our host explained. There is plenty of competition, as they keep 140 different woods in stock. While talking, Ed nicked his finger on sanding belt machine.
Savanah, out of curiosity, asked, “How often do you do that?”
With a cheeky grin, Ed admitted, “Daily.”
Astonishingly, within twenty minutes Ed whipped up an exact replica of the Pottermore wand. There are more details of his personal wand on Michael’s own blog post, which you can read here.
He started on a second wand, this time an original design. The workshop was filled with the sounds of drilling, like at the dentist, and a light, warm smell of burning wood again.
After a long chat, touring the workshop, and a very special reveal, the wand was finished and presented to its new owner. Hayley’s wand was ash, with a resemblance to a unicorn horn the way it smoothly transitions into a spiral.
As we wrapped up our demo, we thanked Ed and Janet for their generosity and their valuable time. Ed was so friendly and informative from start to finish. His daughter was going to see, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” the day of our visit. We hoped we weren’t keeping him from seeing it with her, but he assured us he’s, “not really a movie person”.
“What kind of medium do you prefer, books, television, more of the outdoors?”, I asked him.
He gestured at his work bench and around his workshop. “This is my happy place.”