Saruman Staff Prop – Lord of The Rings Build
It’s been a bit quiet in here over the last 6 weeks, in part because Charlotte and I moved to a new house (the less said about that the better) but mostly I’ve been waylaid by building a new workshop. Yes dear reader, a new space for my tools to live, the poor little souls have been in storage for nearly 2 years. At the risk of lurching dangerously towards the point of the article, I’ll cut the anecdote short. So having built this damn workshop, I thought it would be fitting to christen it with a nice quick project, something that I might actually finish before we move house again. I’ve wanted a Saruman staff prop, for a long time but have never managed to find a glass “ball” the correct shape and size. Consequently, some level of compromise would be needed if I wanted to get this build finished quickly.
My Saruman staff prop should probably be described as an “inspired by” rather than an accurate copy. Eagle eyed readers and those of you following along in 7D will have noticed that the glass element in my prop is spherical, rather than egg shaped. Having been forced to make this compromise, I thought I’d make one more stylistic change that I’ve always thought would look better. Saruman’s Staff in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films has 4 points, but I’ve always thought it would look better with 3.
How I Built My Saruman Staff Prop
The head of the staff is constructed entirely from 3mm MDF. The main reason for this is that I had some in stock and didn’t fancy waiting around for the postman to deliver some 3mm acrylic. These shapes were all cut out on the bandsaw, but a coping saw, fretsaw or aggressive chewing would also work.
These are the three intermediate fins that sit between the main parts of the trident. I made templates for the staff head parts in illustrator, taken directly from images of the movie prop. If you want to make your own Saruman staff prop, feel free to modify my plans to suit your needs. You can download them here.
The first two parts of the trident being superglued together. Prior to this photo I made a jig to allow myself to sand a V shape onto the joining faces, to maximise the contact area when I glued it all together. A block of wood with a 120 degree angle is sat in place to make sure all three points of the trident are equally spaced.
Before the last piece is secured in place, the ball must be inserted. I’ve left mine free floating, which keeps the glass very, very clean. However, it also makes it a pain to mask later. If I were making another Saruman staff prop, I’d probably glue it in place. But then again, I’d probably make a complete cock up of it!
I glued in those little bad boy intermediate fins next. I sanded in a V shaped profile as with the main fins. I didn’t take a photo of this because photographing moving workshop machines usually ends up in horrific spleen injuries.
Onto the staff part of the Saruman staff prop. I used some 25mm PVC conduit I had in stock. In retrospect, using aluminium conduit would have been a better bet. I cut a slot into each of the main fins to allow them to sit down onto the staff handle.
I cracked out the Kneadatite to flesh out the cone shape. Kneadatite is probably better known as Green Stuff and is used by the wargaming community to sculpt figures and ruin carpets. Essentially it’s like Sculpey or Milliput, only it holds details a little better.
This exciting photograph shows the process of filling and sanding. Do a lot of this until things get smoother than your grandad’s pick up lines.
Filler primer up next. This is like regular primer, but it goes on a bit thicker, which gives you more material to sand back.
Remember I mentioned that the crystal ball was a bit of a pain to mask. Well this is what you end up with. The first coat of black primer on the Saruman staff prop and it’s starting to look good.
Top coat of paint has gone on and the masking take has made its way to the bin. Echelente! I had to clean up a little bit of overspray onto the crystal ball. As its made of glass this is easily achieved with a bit of white spirit.
There you have it, my take on an iconic bit of cinema history. While my obsessive-compulsive side knows that this isn’t screen accurate, I’m happy with the choices I’ve made from an aesthetic perspective. Time will tell if I decide to build a more accurate Saruman staff prop, but in the meantime, this has found a home on top of some book cases in our living room. Anyhow, in the words of the Wizard himself… “the hour grows late”.
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Prop Builder, garage dweller and 3 times international misspelling champyon
I’ve been making things since I was old enough to pronounce Lego. Consequently my maker life has been spent constructing, kit-bashing and scratch-building anything and everything that has taken my fancy. After dedicating my time to Wargaming, Model Armour & Railways, I stumbled across what has now become an obsession – Prop building.