John Vickery searching the woods
A little Dartmoor magic
Meet the man who's caught under the spell of Dartmoor. John Vickery makes wands, walking sticks and staffs from wood that he collects on the moor.
Wands, wizards' staffs and walking sticks are all part of a day's work for Dartmoor craftsman John Vickery.
Thanks to the Internet and the popularity of the Harry Potter stories, his tiny cottage industry has been getting interest from all around the world.
Dartmoor is such a magical, mystical place, it's no surprise that the moor is where John chooses to collect wood to make his magic wands.
A finished wand
And since the Harry Potter stories became a worldwide phenomenon, he's seen a distinct increase in sales.
John knows he owes a great deal of thanks to JK Rowling. "Of the wands I make, around half are sold to Harry Potter wannabes," he says. "The rest are sold to serious magicians."
The Internet has made a difference too. John's wands are now being bought by people all around the world.
He hesitates to call them magic wands. He compares them to a computer. "I supply the hardware," he said. "It's the user who supplies the software!"
Some of John's clients insist on wood for wands being cut and collected at particular times of the moon's cycle and he's happy to oblige.
"I don't usually cut for wands on a waning moon," he explained. "That's not a good time."
John makes walking sticks, thumb sticks, wizards' staffs, and shepherds' crooks too. All from his workshop - an outhouse in his back garden.
"It takes about a year to make a wand or walking stick," says John. "After I've collected the wood it needs to dry out for 12 months and then it's straightened before I start work on it."
Measuring the gap at the end of the crook
John's keen to keep to the traditional methods too. His shepherds' crooks rely on pre-decimalisation coins.
He uses old pennies and halfpennies to measure the gaps in the crook that are used for hooking the animals' legs.
But despite the increase in trade, John's not expecting to become a rich man on his pickings. "It's a hobby," he said. "With all the costs involved I probably make about £1.50 an hour.
"But that's not the point. I thoroughly enjoy the walk in the woods, making the sticks and meeting people at the local agricultural shows, where I still sell some of the finished products, it's a lot of fun."
Some might say it's magical.
last updated: 11/03/2008 at 14:24