Monday, February 18, 2013

Flick and Swish - A Wand Review

For those of you who don't know, I am a Potterfan. I own two copies of each of the books (one hardcover and one paperback), I have two shelves dedicated to HP-related nick-knacks and swag, and I've attended a convention half-way across the country.

So it should come as little surprise to most of you that I own a wand. I've owned a wand since my senior year of high school when I received an Alivan's wand for my birthday. As I'm not really one for cosplay, it's mostly been a shelf-sitter, though I did take it with me to Chicago for the Terminus convention in 2008. Still, on my trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter I had every intention of buying a new wand, one that was 'official', but after a horrendous experience on the Hogwarts ride I declined supporting the park further.

Fast-forward to last year and the release of Pottermore. My favorite section thus-far has been the extensive wand-lore section, detailing each wand wood Ollivander uses and why. The site assigned my wand as Laurel, which fits me pretty spot-on:
It is said that a laurel wand cannot perform a dishonourable act, although in the quest for glory (a not uncommon goal for those best suited to these wands), I have known laurel wands perform powerful and sometimes lethal magic. Laurel wands are sometimes called fickle, but this is unfair. The laurel wand seems unable to tolerate laziness in a possessor, and it is in such conditions that it is most easily and willingly won away. Otherwise, it will cleave happily to its first match forever, and indeed has the unusual and engaging attribute of issuing a spontaneous lightning strike if another witch or wizard attempts to steal it. [Pottermore]
And so I've been doing my best to save money to one day purchase an accurate wand, either from Pottermore or some other artisan. In fact, there are quite a few wandmakers (and artisans of other spiffy HP crafts) on deviantART, and I've taken to following a few both there and on Facebook.

One of the artisans, Rumble and Roar Wandmakers [Facebook, dA], held a contest a couple weeks ago and I was lucky enough to win one of his basic in-stock wands. Between the available wands [Oak, Poplar, Cherry or Walnut] I decided that Oak was the best fit:
A wand for good times and bad, this is a friend as loyal as the wizard who deserves it. Wands of English oak demand partners of strength, courage and fidelity. Less well-known is the propensity for owners of English oak wands to have powerful intuition, and, often, an affinity with the magic of the natural world, with the creatures and plants that are necessary to wizardkind for both magic and pleasure. The oak tree is called King of the Forest from the winter solstice up until the summer solstice, and its wood should only be collected during that time. It is said that Merlin’s wand was of English oak (though his grave has never been found, so this cannot be proven). [Pottermore]
And upon its arrival late last week, I became the proud owner of two wands:

Rumble and Roar Oak1
Oak, 12 1/2 inches, sturdy and balanced
Alivan's Cherry & Maple1
Cherry & Maple, 13 1/2 inches, surprisingly swishy

The Rumble and Roar wand is on the left, the Alivan's is on the right. As you can see, each is very distinct and has its own endearing characteristics.

Rumble and Roar Oak2The RaR Oak wand is hefty—not too heavy, not too light. The handle stretches nearly half-way up the wand, giving it a good balance in the hand. The longer handle does make it look a bit stubby, but as I tend to rest my index finger just below the double rings, I'm pleased with the increased area providing me a stronger and more confident grip.

The visible wood grain is simply gorgeous. There's no mistaking this for a resin or clay wand by a cursory glance. The feel of the wood is unmistakable as well. It's sanded down and coated, yes, but there's still the rough natural feel of wood and the grain throughout the handle and shaft. What's more, this is one solid piece of wood. It's been coated in different finishes, but you can tell that the grain not only continues from top to bottom, but is seamless as well.

Finally, though it's not easy to tell with a picture, the wand is not perfectly finished. In a 360 degree rotation, there are inconsistencies: the top section of the handle, just before transitioning to the shaft, is not the same width all the way around; the wand proper doesn't taper off uniformly toward the tip; and in the right light you can see a noticeable ridge near the top of the wand. But in my eye, this only serves to highlight the wand's uniqueness, its character, its handmade charm. It simply seems more authentic to the technically inept wizards of olde that a wand wouldn't be completely smooth, evenly tapered, or without a crook, bow or notch here and there.

Alivan's Cherry & Maple2The Alivan's Cherry and Maple wand, on the other hand, is practically flawless. It's been sanded down so finely that I can only find one teensy rough patch at the tip. Most of the wood grain (though I don't know if those trees have as distinct patterns as oak) has either been sanded away or coated over, such that the couple distinctions on the handle look more like flaws or damage than part of the wood itself.

The wand is extremely light, probably half-that of the oak despite its increased length. This could be because the wand is thinner overall, and for more of the length (having a shorter handle), or because cherry and maple are simply not as dense (again, I don't really know woods). The significantly shorter handle does give it a more traditional appearance, but it is slightly too small to fit my hand throwing off the weight ratio slightly. It feels more like a toy than a tool.

Finally, there's the fact that it is made up of two separate woods. While this does give a very striking and pleasing appearance, there is the fear of a separation. I admit that I have tested the connection a bit and found a little give when twisting. Granted, I'd never try or want to try to actually break the wand, but it does seem more likely than if it were one solid piece. On my cross-country trek, I had this wand wrapped up in more padding than I did my laptop.

Now if nothing else, Alivan's has blown everybody else out of the water with their packaging and branding.
Your Alivans wand comes complete with two piece blue Collectors Box, Velvet Wand Satchel with satin lining (embroidered with gold Alivans crest)...and a numbered Certificate of Authenticity which (on the back side) details the magical properties of your chosen hardwood. [Alivan's]
Comparison Wands

So where does that leave me? Well, I have two wands each with their own pros and cons. The Rumble and Roar wand looks authentic and feels sturdy enough for conventions and travel, but does have a rougher texture and is a bit asymmetrical. The Alivan's wand looks much more polished and display-worthy, but is a bit light and seemingly fragile for my liking. For the time-being I'll be holding on to both, though if I find a Laurel wand at LeakyCon this summer, I might consider parting with one...

Regardless of my preferences, though, both companies offer customization and other products (brooms, pipes, WB licensed merch, sonic screwdrivers...), as well as excellent customer service and even the occasional contest for a free wand. So if you're in the market for a wand of your own be sure to check out these Master Wandmakers before you make a decision.