The ideal situation is almost always to choose a tree that is on your property. If not that, one that is in a public park is your next best choice. In Memphis, where I currently live, nature grows rampantly and I prune my trees often so I have lots of stock to select from. I prefer to pick a tree that I can go back and visit later. I consider the wooden tools I make to be children of that tree, forever linked to it. From time to time, I go back to the tree that donated the wood for my tool and give it an offering of nitrate-rich water from my koi pond to continue showing my appreciation to my tool's parent. By feeding the tree, I feed my tool.
Getting to know the tree is an important step in creating a useful tool from it. I'm crazy about the trees in my backyard; each has such a delightful and unique personality. My latest staff comes from a crabapple tree in my backyard that has these delicate white flowers in the spring, and a fine, smooth, waxy white wood that is supple under the fingers. In the spring, I delight in watching its leaves unfold and its blossoms awaken. This staff is excellent for Moon magics, especially as it is of the apple family and apples are a well known symbol relating to the mysteries of Avalon. I crafted a wand not too long ago from a red Japanese maple in my yard. The tree is stunning with its spread of ruby red leaves, each shaped like a star. This particular maple has a distinctly lofty feel to it, so the wand I made from this tree is for Mercury magic. I likewise have a wand from a verdant and lush ash tree for Jupiter magic, and a heavy, rough oak staff that is good for thumping on the ground and doing some very earthy magic. Before dedicating a wand to a single purpose, I like to listen to the tree and see what kinds of impressions it gives me about the best use of its wood.
My primary wand is from a holly bush in my backyard, and I love the hard, smooth wood in cool yellowish tones. Wands are a tool which in their basic nature relate to the element of fire, even though different types of woods have characteristics that relate to other spheres of influences. The holly is one of the fieriest plants I know. I rarely prune my hollies because I need to wear protective gear to do so. Holly is planted around our house right outside of the windows. It's a fierce warrior of a plant. Anyone who would try to break into our home through those windows would surely suffer terribly at its hands. I think it's only fitting that despite my carefulness, I scratched myself and drew blood when I harvested a branch from a holly for my wand.
I worked for many, many hours on that holly. I carved and shaped it to a fine pointed tip. I sanded it to a buttery smooth finish, working up through the fine grades of sandpaper. Shaping and sanding the holly gave me a chance to really get to know the nature of the plant underneath. I got to smell the nuances in the wood and feel the textures unique to this tree. As I sanded and polished, I felt my energy blending into the wand, all the while falling in love with the beauty of this plant.
After I was finished, I rubbed a liberal amount of hazelnut oil into the wand to give it a glossy finish. Every week or so, I like to feed my wand as well, giving it a fresh coat of hazelnut oil. Different woods like different types of oils. My maple likes grapeseed oil. My crabapple staff prefers olive oil, as does my ash wand. Feeding the wand helps keep the wood from drying and cracking, and it also gives you a chance to give your wand a magical re-charge.
Eventually, I will create a wand to correspond to each of the planets, and probably many more for other purposes. It's a magical act that is wholly enjoyable to me. I find the whole process of seeking out, selecting, working and bonding to a wood that I craft with to be magically rewarding and empowering to the tools I create.
“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.” - George Washington Carver