essay: Thoughts About Wands by Amy Z.
Most human magic is done using a wand. It is possible to cast spells without using a wand, but for most wizards results are unfocused (CR). House-elves and goblins are not permitted to carry wands, which is a matter of some resentment, at least for the latter (GF9, DH24).
Wands are created from wood with some magical substance at its heart. Wands are classified by means of four characteristics: length, type of wood, quality of motion when waved, and type of magical ingredient. In Britain, the most well-known wandmaker is Mr. Ollivander (PS5, GF18). His shop, Ollivander's (Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.) is located in Diagon Alley. Another European wandmaker is Gregorovitch (GF18). When a wand is damaged or broken, its effects can be unpredictable, even if patched together with Spellotape (CS, esp. CS16). If the damage was magically-caused, the it may be irreparable (DH18, DH24).
Although there is no specific rule about which kind of wood a person's wand should be, some wands are particularly well suited to their owners. Notes about specific wands are given below.
some famous wands and their characteristics
pleasantly springy, 12 1/4", single hair from the tail of a particularly
fine male unicorn
See note below on Cedric's wand core. Cedric, who is friendly and unassuming, carries a wand which is described as "pleasant."
Lestrange, Bellatrix Black:
walnut, 12 3/4", unyielding,
Taken from her by Ron Weasley at Malfoy Manor, who Disarmed her using Wormtail's wand. Since Mr. Ollivander identified it so precisely, it seems likely that he originally made the wand (DH23, DH24).
Longbottom, Neville's wands:
first one (obtained prior to September 1991, broken June 1996)
new one (July 1996) cherry, unicorn tail hair
Neville's original wand was his father's old wand and meant a great deal to his grandmother Augusta (his father's mother). This wand was broken by Antonin Dolohov during the battle of the Department of Mysteries in June 1996. Neville's poor magic ability in his first years at Hogwarts may be in part because of the fact that he was using someone else's wand, not one which had specifically chosen him.
Ollivander, Garrick : Hornbeam and dragon heartstring, twelve and three-quarter inches, slightly bendy (Pm)
chestnut, 9 1/4", brittle,
Made for him by Mr. Ollivander (who was forced to do so) and in the end taken from him by Ron Weasley by main force rather than by magic (DH23, DH24).
Riddle, Tom Marvolo (Voldemort):
yew, 13 1/2", single
phoenix tail feather (from Fawkes)
Harry's and Voldemort's wands are "brothers" because they have cores of not only the same substance but from exactly the same source. When they are forced to fight each other, the Priori Incantatem effect is produced. Yew trees are known for their long lives. They symbolize death, but also resurrection. (JKR)
Umbridge, Dolores' wand
While not identified specifically, Umbridge's wand was described as "unusually short." Umbridge herself is unusually short, and perhaps her wand's characterisitcs suggest that her magical ability comes up wanting as well. We never do see her perform any particularly effective magic spells, after all.
Weasley, Ron's wands:
first one (obtained August 1991, broken 1st September 1992): ash
new one (31st August, 1993): willow, 14", unicorn tail hair (PA3)
Ron's original wand was a hand-me-down from his older brother Charlie. It was made of ash (see note). This wand broke when the flying Ford Anglia crashed into the Whomping Willow on the 1st of September, 1996. See also entry for Pettigrew, Peter.
"Yeah," said Hagrid, glancing up, too. "Listen, I'm glad we've run inter yeh, Ronan, 'cause there's a unicorn bin hurt -- you seen anythin'?"
Ronan didn't answer immediately. He stared unblinkingly upward, then sighed again.
"Always the innocent are the first victims," he said. "So it has been for ages past, so it is now."
The willow wand is the second wand, the wand that was specifically purchased for him with part of Mr Weasley's winnings from the Daily Prophet contest. As for Ron's original wand, Rowling said the following on her website:
I gave Harry a wand made of holly wood back in 1990, when I first drafted chapter six of Philosopher's Stone...Some time after I had given Harry his holly-and-phoenix wand I came across a description of how the Celts had assigned trees to different parts of the year and discovered that, entirely by coincidence, I had assigned Harry the "correct" wood for his day of birth. I therefore decided to give Ron and Hermione Celtic wand woods, too. Ron, who was born in the February 18 - March 17 period, was given an ash wand (I think I had originally marked him down for beech)...
Rowling is talking about the time before the first book was finished, when she was planning the series. So she is saying that the wand Ron had at the beginning of the stories was made of ash. This was the wand that broke at the beginning of book two and which was replaced at the beginning of book three with a wand made of willow.
Rowling's comments on wand lore and allegiences:
"Essentially, I see wands as being quasi-sentient, you know? ... They're not exactly animate but they're close to it. As close to it as you can get in an object because they carry so much magic. So that's really the key point about a wand. Now, the reactions will vary from wand to wand. The Elder Wand is simply the most dispassionate and ruthless of wands in that it will only take into consideration strength. So one would expect a certain amount of loyalty from one's wand. So even if you were disarmed while carrying it, even if you lost a fight while carrying it, it has developed an affinity with you that it will not give up easily. If, however, a wand is won, properly won in an adult duel, then a wand may switch allegiance, and it will certainly work better even if it hasn't fully switched allegiance for the person who won it. So that of course is what happens when Harry takes Draco's wand from him, and that's what happens when ... Ron (takes) the blackthorn wand from the snatcher. So that would be sort of rough and ready, common, or garden, a wand favoring the person who had the skill to take it. It would favor them. However, the Elder Wand knows no loyalty except to strength. So it's completely unsentimental. It will only go where the power is. So if you win, then you've won the wand. So you don't need to kill with it. But, as is pointed out in the books, not least by Dumbledore because it is a wand of such immense power, almost inevitably, it attracts wizards who are prepared to kill and who will kill. And also it attracts wizards like Voldemort who confuse being prepared to murder with strength.
"I have been asked a lot of times, well what about Duelling Club and so on? Well I think it's clear there that in practice, where there's no real weight attached to the transference of a wand, where it's almost all for fun or purely for competition, there's no enormous significance attached in either wizard's mind to a wand flying out of someone's hand. But there are situations in which the emotional state of wizards where a lot hangs on a duel, that's something different. That's about real power and that's about transference that will have far-reaching effects in some cases. So I think the wand would behave differently then." (TLC2)
Wand information from Pottermore:
Garrick Ollivander uses only three types of material for wand cores; he refers to these as the Supreme Cores in his notes about wands. They are unicorn hair, dragon heartstring and phoenix feather. Ollivander, however, does remind those who would delve into the mystical magic of wandlore that "each wand is the composite of its wood, its core and the experience and nature of its owner; that tendencies of each may counterbalance or outweigh the other."
"Unicorn hair generally produces the most consistent magic, and is least subject to fluctuations and blockages ..."
"As a rule, dragon heartstrings produce wands with the most power, and which are capable of the most flamboyant spells. Dragon wands tend to learn more quickly than other types ..."
"This is the rarest core type. Phoenix feathers are capable of the greatest range of magic, though they may take longer than either unicorn or dragon cores to reveal this. They show the most initiative, sometimes acting of their own accord, a quality that many witches and wizards dislike ..."
Wand length and flexibility
"Most wands will be in the range of between nine and fourteen inches. While I have sold extremely short wands (eight inches and under) and very long wands (over fifteen inches), these are exceptionally rare. In the latter case, a physical peculiarity demanded the excessive wand length. However, abnormally short wands usually select those in whose character something is lacking, rather than because they are physically undersized (many small witches and wizards are chosen by longer wands). Wand flexibility or rigidity denotes the degree of adaptability and willingness to change possessed by the wand-and-owner pair ..."
Ollivander has written extensive notes about the various woods he uses for wands. Those woods are:
- Black Walnut
- English Oak
- Red Oak
- Silver lime
Many interesting details of these woods in the Harry Potter universe are available on Pottermore.