A long time ago, on a Boy Scout camping trip at the beach, we were hiking along the road when I found the lower half of an abandoned fishing pole lying there and decided to keep it as a walking stick and a wizard staff (You Shall Not Pass!).
This staff then ended up sitting around in my garage for over a decade, only coming out occasionally for Halloween or a rennaisance fair or what have you. Until I got a 3D printer and decided that now I had the power to make it into an even better wizard staff.
I started out with my calipers measuring out the end of the fishing rod where I wanted to add a topper piece so I would have the dimensions right to make a perfect fit and then headed to FreeCAD. I chose to switch to FreeCAD over Fusion 360 because I prefer to keep my own files over having them in the Autodesk Cloud and because FreeCAD works on Linux, which is what I used for pretty much anything other than video games.
The design I came up with had a two-part shell that would bolt around the top of the fishing pole, and then a separate top piece that attached over those parts. The inside of the two-part shell included a battery compartment, because I wanted the staff to light up. For a housing over the LED bulb, I designed the staff to hold a ping-pong ball, as that would give me a smoother sphere than anything I could possibly 3D print (and my family had lots of them available).
The design is somewhat inspired by the depiction of Saruman’s staff in the Lord of the Rings movies, however it is entirely my own design, with some significant differences.
Here’s the design when it was getting close to finished, though not the final one:
The biggest change after this point was chaning the outside surfaces of the spikes to be curved instead of straight. It’s a small difference but makes it look 1000% more wicked.
The final design had three main 3D printed pieces and five smaller ones. The three main pieces are the front and back of the clamshell body and the spiky top piece. The other parts are a door for the battery compartment and 4 little tabs that attach to the spikes to hold the ping-pong ball in place on the top.
I designed the parts so that the nuts that would hold everything together would slot into voids in the parts while it was being printed. That way I could make it so I would only have bolt holes in the back while still making it possible to disassemble the whole thing if necessary, unlike if I glued it. I then just told the slicer to pause printing at certain layers so I could insert the nuts before it closed off the internal spaces for them.
Once I had finalized the design, I needed to print it. This was literally the third thing I’d ever custom designed for 3D printing, so I was nervous about it working out right, since on other occasions I have had to use hand tools to modify parts to make them fit after the fact, and this was a pretty big set of parts that took a while to print. Also, because the parts contained embedded nuts, recovering those if the print failed in some way would mean having to cut things up to get them back out.
Here’s the print for the front half of the clamshell, just after inserting the nuts:
Luckily, I apparently got all of my dimensions right the first time, because the whole thing slotted together nice and snugly. Hooray!
Next the “electronics”. This project doesn’t involve any computers, the whole circuit here is a battery, resistor, LED, and switch. The battery compartment was modeled into the clamshell halves and was designed to use a pair of battery compartment spring plates that I recovered from an old broken toy. I then just ran wires from there and soldered them to the other components. For the switch, there was a ledge in the back half of the clamshell to screw it down to and a little hole in the battery compartment cover that allows you to access the switch without opening it up. The LED goes in a socket made from a pair of female jumpper wires (like you might use with an Arduino or breadboard), and then is covered over by the pingpong ball.
Here’s what the finished product looks like:
And of course, doing my best Dresden impression.