It has been a year since I started working on the lathe making pens and other small turnings. My Delta Shopmaster Midi-Lathe has performed admirably, cranking out 167 pens, multiple small turnings, and more recently bowls. I want to thank everyone who decided to make one of these their own or thought enough of the quality to gift them to others. I am having as much fun with this today as the day I started last June, and will continue to produce one of a kind fine writing instruments and other turnings. Thanks again!
This has been a busy, yet oddly satisfying weekend. Friday around 2:58pm E.S.T. I hit critical mass and could do no more work. I became aware that if I stayed at the office I would probably do more damage to my client systems then good, as I was getting dumber by the minute. It's been close to chaotic since my other Linux administrator left for greener pastures a few weeks ago and Friday I just couldn't do anymore. Leaving the office a little after 3:00pm, I stopped to Woodcraft on my home to pick up some wine bottle stopper kits, some pretty wood to make said stoppers, and to have the guys identify the wood you see in this picture. The consensus is either a Kingwood with s strip of sapwood running through it, or Bolivian Rosewood. I am going with the latter. I occasionally pick up a 5lb bag of wood scraps perfect for pen blanks from Woodcraft, but the problem is that they are almost never labeled regarding species. So I occasionally grab a piece of one that I can't identify and see how it turns. This one was especially nice, so I had to find out what it was. I also talked with one of the store owners for a while about putting some of my work on display in their cases. I will probably go back this week and put a few select pens on display. I was very flattered they asked me.

I was home by a little after 4:00pm and decided to unwind by playing a little Evil Dead: Fistful of Boomstick on the PS/2 for a bit before Pizza Friday kicked in. Later, with Pizza acquired, we kicked back for the night with Dr. Who and Battlestar Galactica (great mid-season ending, I could beat Ron Moore for not starting the season back up until 2009...fracking 2009!).
I do love a nice Saturday afternoon, a gentle breeze, mild temperatures, the sound of the lathe spinning away...From left to right, the first is a Wall Street II Platinum kit with a herringbone pattern segmented cut. This is the first time I have tried this pattern, and I honestly thought it would fall apart more then one during the operation. The woods are a various scrap that I had lying around the garage, most of which I probably would never put on the lathe by themselves, but combined they look pretty nice. The finish was a coat of CA, followed by the Beal Buffing system. I first tried a friction wax, but that was near disastrous as the heated wood pieces started to expand. Sand paper is your friend...the next couple is a new kit for me, it is a ceramic rollerball called a Ligero. It is a very thick pen, but feels quite good when writing. The dressing is an white and black acrylic called "Classic". These are intended as a wedding present for a cousin. The last pen is a Platinum European Ballpoint with "Dreamscape" Acrylic. The box is a rosewood "lift" style. This one was commissioned by a friend.
After nine days away from the lathe on a well deserved and much needed vacation to Yellowstone National Park, I had a couple of kits lying around that needed to be turned/finished. From left to right, a Copper Wall Street II dressed in Amboyna Burl. I really did not think much of these kits when I first saw them, but the heavy weight and great balance really make for a nice writing instrument. The hardware really frames the wood quite well also. The second is a Platinum Cigar dressed in Aqua Acrylic. Both pens are ballpoint twist mechanisms.
This has been a week, being down most of it with a spring cold acquired sometime Monday when my wife and I went out to catch a late matinée of Iron Man. Today was the first day I felt well enough to play in the shop, so I took advantage of that with a few blanks set up from last weekend. The pen on the far right was actually turned last Sunday after I spent the day documenting all of the models and serial numbers for all of my power tools (quite the collection at this point, probably a good thing to have). It is an Acrylic 'Purple Rain' ballpoint twist Platinum Cigar finished with only wet sanded 12.5K grit micromesh. These are hefty pens but feel very solid when put to paper. The next two were turned this afternoon. The middle pen is an Aromatic Cedar ballpoint twist Gunmetal Slim Line finished with CA/Danish and High Speed Friction Wax. The pen on the left is a Bocote (I think), ballpoint twist Gunmetal Slim Line also finished with CA/Danish and High Speed Friction Wax. These are general inventory pens and are available from my website. I think if the weather remains good this week, I may get back to bowl turning. I still have three good sized cherry blanks and I finally got my grinding rig all setup for quick and accurate grinding of my bowl gouges. These tend to dull very quickly when turning semi-green wood, so I spent a little extra for a V pocket jig to make it faster.
A dear friend commissioned me to make a sculpted letter opener and ballpoint pen set out of Purpleheart wood. Purpleheart is an interesting hardwood as it continues to intensify in color as it oxidizes. It is also a pleasure to turn as it has a fairly tight grain and takes the skew very well. The sculpted kits leave a little to be desired though. While I do like the finished product, the 8mm tubes and hardware and awkward transmission make it a bear to assemble. I also do not really care for kits which require a tenon all the way down to the brass. But, I was still happy to do this and glad she thought of me.
Today was a great Sunday indeed. I was up by 8:30 and enjoyed a cup of coffee before making a mega batch of waffles (always nice to have them throughout the week as a breakfast option). By 11:00 I was off to mow the lawn for the first time this spring. It looks a little ratty yet, but it'll get better. I also managed to finish the rebuild of the window frame for my neighbor. It's not pretty, but it should do the job. Afterwards, Jen was deep in glass bead creating, so I turned out a few more pens. The top row is two gold Gatsby style twist ballpoints with Amboyna Burl. The other two I had were claimed within a couple of days, so I turned a few more which I suspect will go fast as well. The next row has a black enamel slim line pen and pencil set with Spalted Pecan. This set is for my own personal use. With all the pens I have turned, I have only one that I ever carry with me. This set will fit nicely in my messenger bag. The other image is a mechanical shop/sketch pencil dressed in Padauk (which may already be spoken for). A few more turnings latter this week (a commission for a friend) and I also anticipate the arrival of my Delta variable speed bench grinder which will make sharpening the lathe tools effortless.

Here are a few turnings for the week of April 26th. The weather has been fantastic lately, and I am trying to take advantage of it while I can. We are expecting slight below average temps this coming week, so I am trying to finish up a few kits. Plus I really need to mow the lawn on Sunday, so I'll have limited lathe time. On to the pens: The first row is a pair of Corian Slim Style with Copper hardware. The styling is slightly different on each pen (I try to have a little fun with these pens) and the finish is wet sanded with micro-mesh to 12,000 grit. Row two is a pair of Wall Street II Chrome ballpoint twist kits from Woodcraft. These kits go by many different names (such as the Gatsby I have posted previously) but they all are very well balanced with good weight/heft. The pen on the left is a Maple Burl (click images to embiggen) which was found in a Woodcraft grab bag (nice find) and the pen on the right is African Blackwood. Both kits are finished with CA and a HUT high speed friction wax. The third row starts with a Black Enamel Atlas pen with Red and Black Acrylic (turned specifically for Jen, I sold a Black and Red acrylic she had been wanting for months now, so I had to turn one for her). It was finished with micro-mesh to 12,000 grit. The other item on the third row is a first for me, a chrome bottle stopper dressed in Quina, an exotic hardwood with a deep red hue, sometimes with purple highlights and high natural luster. It has a spicy scent, and is a source of balsam used in perfumes (now you all know what Quina is). The finish is sanded to 600 grit and polished with the Beal Buffing System. It was a fun turning project, although I know realize that I have gotten quite lazy in my spindle turning skills as I have been working solely on pens. I think I'll be getting a few more of these kits to work on my skills.

With spring in the air and the tulips in bloom, I thought a couple of nice Tulip Wood pens would be in order. Tulip wood is a Brazilian hard wood with a pinkish to yellowish heartwood with pronounced stripes of violet, salmon, and rose. Grain is interlocked and irregular with a medium to fine texture and a pleasantly mild fragrance when cut. From left to right, a Gold Atlas and a Gold/Black Gatsby. Both pens are twist-style ballpoint (Parker cartridges) and have a very good weight to them. In addition to the pens (I also turned a couple of Corian slim lines not pictured here), I chucked up two of the cherry bowls I turned yesterday and sanded them a bit and applied some danish oil finish. It really does make the grain pop.
My woodcraft Bowl Turning class was today! I have been looking forward to this for a while now, as I am always eager to learn new techniques, and the last bowl attempt I tried on my own sent the blank sailing through air to the back corner of the garage (we can't go there, that's spider country). I realized I might benefit from a proper lesson from an experienced wood worker. Our instructor was Dave Peebles, a local Northwest Ohioan and full time wood turner. His many years of experience and endless turning knowledge was exactly what I needed. We discussed various safety techniques and learned the proper use of a bowl gouge. Now, for the neat freaks out there, you may want to seriously avoid turning bowls. The mountains of shavings produced would probably make such a person hyperventilate. At one point I realized it was piled around my feet and shins (which was bit reminiscent of when my older siblings tied me to a tree on a camping trip and feigned setting me aflame, or maybe the wood was to green to burn...I'm sure I had it coming...but I digress). I do realize that I need to get a tool grinder and lathe tool angle attachment. When you can have your gouges and chisels sharp in less then 30 seconds, this is a must...hmmm, have they mailed those stimulus checks yet? I completed two bowls which still need sanding and finishing, and started the profile on a third. Dave also gave us three additional seven inch cherry blanks which I plan on making use of over the next couple of weeks...
How could I resist? The weather was even warmer this afternoon then on Tuesday! That combined with having setup extra blanks on Monday meant I could turn a few more pens today. From left to right: A classic fountain pen with postable cap and black enamel hardware dressed in spalted pecan. This was a new kit for me to try which assembled pretty nicely, although I think the manufacturer cheated by not including a refillable pump. The second is a sister to the Amboyna Burl Gatsby pen I turned on Tuesday. I tried to get a bit more detail on the swirled grain patterns but cannot get the camera to capture the depth. Trust me when I say this is a beautiful piece of wood which I think I'll be ordering more of in the future.
Spring is in full swing in Northwest Ohio. We have had two wonderful days in a row, which I have taken advantage of by opening the garage, blowing the dust off the power tools and prepping some blanks. It's been a long winter, and the new kits and stock sitting in a box since January will mock me no longer. I had enough time after work today to turn a couple of pens (from left to right): These pen style are both firsts for me. The first is a style called "The Gatsby", although it also goes by Wall Street and/or Sierra depending on who makes/sells the kit. It takes a shorter wood blank (which is nice since you can get two pens out of well figured blank) and is a twist ballpoint mechanism. The pen is dressed in an Amboyna Burl, a rare, exotic hardwood that grows in Southeast Asia and has a fragrant aroma. It can vary in color from yellow to golden brown to red, and is generally considered excellent for both turning and finishing. The second style is a "Big Ben", although this will also go by different names and is commonly referred to as a Cigar style. This pen is dressed in a Figured Bubinga, also known as African Rosewood, is medium red-brown with lighter red to purple veining. Look for new pens now that the garage is officially open once more!
After a few weeks of below freezing weather, today was actually tolerable to be in the garage. Having cabin fever and being away from the lathe for almost four weeks, I took advantage and cranked out a handful of pens. This will help replenish my inventory after a great Christmas season, although two of them are already spoken for. From left to right, a Platinum European with Acrylic "Cloud I", a Platinum European with Spalted Pecan, and a Gold slimline with Tulipwood. I was hoping to have a segmented pen to show off, but that met an untimely demise on the drill press. I might be able to salvage some if it, so possibly another pen to show i a few days.
A fellow co-worker cleaned me out of my Corian pens, so I wanted to turn a few more to have on hand. I also turned a few bloodwood pens while I was at it. I figure I might as well get as much done in the garage as I possibly can while it's still tolerable. I think I need to get some electric socks...even with my winter boots on, my feet are the first part to get noticeably cold, reducing the amount of time I want to spend in the garage. I also suspect my pen turning time will be quickly eroded by the Solstice gift my sweetie got me: A Nintendo DS Lite (black)...yes, I see much gaming in my future :) Anyhow, there are couple of bloodwood with chrome hardware, an Aqua Corian with chrome hardware, Midnight Corian with black Titanium, Cocoa Corian with Copper, and a Corina pen and "click" pencil with black enamel.
A few more pens turned out today because I just can't seem to sit still. This morning we woke to around 8 inches of snow blowing and drifting through Northwest Ohio. It seemed like a good morning to sip some coffee and watch the plows clear the roads. I baked our favorite Dutch Baby oven popover for breakfast and finally got the motivation to shovel snow from the sidewalk. I should break down and get a snow thrower, but I tell myself this is good exercise and also good for the environment...(repeats to self again)...needless to say, my arms are like jell-o this evening. But that did not stop me from turning a few blanks I've had setup for a couple of weeks now (they were sitting there mocking me...they needed to be put on the lathe...really). From left to right: Corian Black Enamel Click Pencil, Corian Copper Ballpoint Twist Pen, Corian Gunmetal Ballpoint Twist Pen, and last, my very first Baron Rollerball. This is a platinum kit dressed in cocobola. I was surprised by the number of parts that go into its construction, which makes for a heavy, yet solid feeling pen.
Winter has come to Northwest Ohio with a vengeance (as it has throughout most of the midwest). But despite the snow and cold, I was able to get a few pens turned this week. I has an order placed for seven Bloodwood pens which I completed turning today, but since I am still waiting on the kits to be delivered, the pictures will have to wait. I do have some pictures though. Pictured left to right: Black Enamel Slim Line with Spalted Pecan, Chrome Slim Line with Aromatic Cedar, Gunmetal Fun Line with Black Walnut, and the last is a Sculpted Designer with Cinnamon Burl. The cinnamon burl pen was very fun to turn as it has a great aroma and very nice grain.
Today is the first day of a six day weekend for me. The weather in Northwest Ohio was a bit damp, but certainly mild today. I took advantage of this by working out in the shop experimenting with a grab bag of Corian samples. A coworker has connections to a Corian rep who got me eight 4 x 4 inch squares to experiment with. I find Corian much more forgiving then acrylic. It takes heat from the tools and drill bits a whole lot better then most acrylics I work with. As long as I keep my tools sharp, it turns very nicely. The finishing process is identical to acrylic, using micro-mesh up to 12500 grit (wet sanding). Here are a few examples from left to right: A Platinum Atlas kit with Green Corian (this is actually two pieces glued for thickness, you simply cannot find the glue lines after a good sanding and polish), a chrome slim line, a black enamel slim line, and last an actual acrylic with Platinum European hardware. I also replaced the blade in my band saw this morning. It had the factory blade which had horrible drift. I upgraded to a nicer 1/2inch blade for straight cuts which is dead on accurate now. My segmented turnings are going to get a lot more intricate now!
A few turnings for today, first we have a segmented classic fountain pen with gold and black hardware dressed in African Blackwood and Purpleheart. The cuts were made on my band saw rather then the miter saw I normally use since it does not have the kerf of the miter saw. I am still learning to use the band saw, so the cuts were not as clean as I would have liked. The oils in the Blackwood proved to be challenging as well, even with epoxy it was a bear to get it to stick together. Next is a simple chrome slim style pen with a dyed tiger maple. I wanted to try this, but the only dye/tint I had was a green. It still turned out pretty nice and has some really interesting patterns. The third pen is a gold slim style with Cocobolo. This was a commission for a co-worker who likes the look of that wood. The last is a European style blue and white acrylic swirl with platinum hardware. This is very close to the style of the first acrylic I ever turned. I really like that pattern and wanted to cut another one now that my skills have improved.
With the weather turning colder and the "Turn for the Troops" event, I only had a little time to turn some pens out today. From left to right, a Purpleheart and Yellowheart segmented Classic Fountain Pen, a gold plated slim line dressed with Aromatic Cedar and a center piece of purple acrylic, and an African Blackwood platinum European segmented turning using a white veneer for a classy curve (a commission for a friend).
Woodcraft in Toledo had their first "Turn for the Troops" event today. I got a chance to volunteer my time to help people who had little or no experience on the lathe. I do quite a bit of shopping there for pen parts, and I often take in my work to show off to the staff. One of them asked me if I wouldn't mind volunteering to help people new to the lathe. I was flattered as I have really only been turning pens since June and I really don't consider myself an expert. I was thrilled to be able to help as it's a really good cause. The least I can do is donate a Saturday. Jen also baked some yummy cookies for me to take in (I think she was the most popular person there). I was able to help around ten people turn out some pretty nice pens which will be sent to the troops overseas for the holidays. I even had time and enough energy to turn one myself as well as taking in four pens from my inventory to donate.