Working with birch wood blanks to make hanging decorations.
Making spirit hangers can enhance any sacred space.
What is a "Spirit hanger"?
I call these spirit hangers as I use symbolic animals and shapes in pagan/druid themes. They are designed to hang in any area of the home but look especially good beside an altar. Of course, you do not have to use pagan themes. There are so many types of birch shape available to buy that you can choose your theme according to interest.
Choose your theme....
Birchwood blanks are easy to source and come in a range of sizes and shapes. You can either purchase these or buy the wood yourself and use a scroll saw to cut out your own designs. Assuming that you are a complete beginner, then the easiest way to get started is to buy some blanks and decorate them in your own style.
Birch blanks are cheap. They are thin laminated wood shapes which are easy to paint and drill. They can be stained or sanded and you can even use pen and ink on them. They are also great for decoupage and accept most glues and finishes.
This is what you will need in order to make a spirit hanger.
* Wire & wire cutters. Round nosed pliers are also a good idea. I use pure copper wire but all sorts are acceptable and this is a personal choice.
* Birch blanks- you can buy these drilled or drill them yourself with a small hobby drill (such as a Dremel). I drill my own as I like to have the holes at various angles.
* A selection of gemstone beads, feathers and other decorative items
* Acrylic paint, decoupage paper etc to decorate your wooden blanks
* If using text then you will need a waterproof pen.
Use a fine drill bit to drill your wood.
Decorate the Birch blanks:
Having chosen your wooden blanks then you need to decorate or finish them. You can use pretty much anything you like here. I use acrylic to make the animals have realism but there are no limitations to how you can decorate plain wood.
The animals in the pictures that I have finished are painted in acrylic paint. I then use waterproof pen (usually a Rotring type pen) to crosshatch and finish the details such as eyes and fur etc. I lightly sand the edges to give a slightly worn look and then seal them with a fine spray of sealant designed for soft pastel use. This step is not essential but it will protect the paint and ink.
If using paper decoupage then you will need something like ModPodge or even a fine layer of PVA glue to seal the paper.
Shorter Hare spirit hanger.
To shape and thread your hangers and beads, you will need to use pliers unless you have particularly strong fingers! I use wire cutters and a pair of round nosed pliers. I hand wrap the wire around each drilled piece of wood and finish the ends with the pliers. Once you have done a few of these it becomes very quick and easy to do.
The gemstones need to have large enough holes to fit the gauge of wire that you have chosen. To err on the side of caution, I tend to use a fairly thin copper wire which is able to pass through most beads but also is thick enough for strength. You do not want your hanger to break under the weight of the wood and gems.
Initially I tend to lay out the hanger so I can work out what order I am placing each part in. Once I have worked this out I start at the top and work downwards. I choose beads that work well with the colour of paint that I have used, or beads chosen for specific spiritual properties.
Turquoise nuggets work well with wood so I use those a lot. In fact all earthy shades looks great. For contrast you can add charms or larger focal ceramic or glass beads.
Thread the beads onto the wire and then connect each section together. Once you have finished one part you simply get a new piece of wire and start from the bottom of that piece of wood and begin a new row of beads. If you look at the picture you will see how it is done.
The gemstones and painted wood work well together:
A selection of beads and gems enhance the hanger.
More on bead choices:
The beads bring the whole hanger together so choose them wisely. You can group the beads according to their spiritual attributes or for a specific healing purpose. If that is a bit too "mumbo jumbo" for you then you can use them for their beauty and colour combinations....
I do not always know which beads that I will end up using as I tend to make it up as I go along. I mainly use gemstones but sometimes use vintage glass or some interesting lampwork if it fits my design.
Using wire for wrapping:
Wire wrapping not only holds beads and the birch wood shapes together, but it can also be used by itself to make an interesting shape or pendant. Spirals are easiest and there are little wire jogs available to buy to help you start this craft.
Wire work can also be used to create "cages" which enclose larger gemstones. The tools that you have used for this project ie round nosed pliers and wire cutters, are all that you need to start to learn how to wire wrap.
The short video to the right is a good introduction to a basic spiral shape using wire. As you can see the effects are quite stunning.
What theme do you prefer for hangers?
What theme do you prefer for hangers?
Want to cut your own wooden shapes?
If like me you wish to learn how to cut your own shapes from thin birch ply, then you will need a scroll saw. These amazing tools can create intricate patterns & cuts from thin wood.
Good instructional video on Scroll saw techniques.
Scroll saws- cut your own ply.
This is very similar to the one that I have and it is good value for money. I have used mine to cut violin bridges and make all sorts of shapes for pendants.
More on Spirit/power animals:
If you want to find out more about spirit/power animals then I recommend the short video below. It is basically a focused meditation. Using these spirit hangers can help you to attune to your spirit animal. Mine are sometimes made for people who work with specific animal energies, other times I use a theme to create an "energy"- ie for the Crone/Dark Goddess I tend to use crows, ravens, hares and moons with text. For a lighter more "springtime" feel, I would use hares, new moon shapes, softer gemstones and lighter colours.
How to find your spirit animal:
More on power animals:
- Ultimate Guide To Spirit Animals, Power Animals & Totems
This guide provides the most comprehensive source of information on spirit animals and their meaning. Find your spirit animal and discover more power animals and totems.
Lighthearted quiz to find your power animal:
- Find your Spirit Animal - an online quiz - Jeri Smith-Ready
Jeri Smith-Ready, author of the SHADE ghost trilogy for teens, the WVMP RADIO vampire series, and ASPECT OF CROW fantasy trilogy.
© 2013 spiritwood