The first order of business is to clean up the ends and mill the blanks. Here, another jig comes into play. The polyurethane glue oozes out and bubbles on each end, so I load three pens (6 blanks) at a time into my little milling jig, clamp the package into my end vise, and go after them with my pen mill.
Note that the pen mill is a cutting tool, and must occasionally be sharpened. I sharpen mine about every 25 or so pens … sometime more depending on the stock my blanks were made of. Don’t know how to sharpen a pen mill? Just check out Cap’n Eddie Castelin’s video #93 ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q19YMZpGl9k ) ... all you gotta do is watch!
On to the fun stuff. For no particular reason, I grabbed blank #22 (hence the title for this blog) and loaded it on the mandrel.
Note that I am using a ‘Mandrel Saver” from PSI. Truth be told, I am not enthusiastic about this device (it is noisy), but it does keep me from losing the mandrel’s knurled nut in the pile of shavings under the lathe. It also speeds up production a bit.
All of the cutting work is done at 4000rpm (fastest speed possible with a Delta 46-460). I turn the blank round with a spindle roughing gouge.
Once the blank is round, out comes the 1/2” skew to take the blank down to about 1/2” in diameter.
Power down for a second to lay out accent lines. I don’t do any measuring … I just use a simple piece of index card from SWMBO’s recipe box to locate the middle of the blank. I only mark one line, and only enough to see a ghost of a line while the lathe is spinning.
Power up, and use the toe of the skew to create a tiny groove at the center line. I swing the skew about 1/16” to the left, make another tiny groove, then repeat 1/16” to the right.
With the accent lines started, I taper the ends of the blank so they are flush with the bushings.
Pull the tool rest out of the way, and score the lines with a wire burner …
Note the handles on both ends of the wire. Some guys just grip the wire with their fingers, but I don’t think that is wise. Even with something as small as a pen blank, a catch with the lathe spinning at 4000rpm could turn that wire into a miniature garrote that could do some serious damage to fingers and hands. I intend to leave with the same number of digits I came in with.
The next step is sanding … I reverse the lathe, slow the lathe down to the slowest speed, and usually start at 220-grit, working up to 800 grit.
I do follow a sanding regimen that I learned from Ron Brown. The coarsest grit I do first across the grain while the lathe is running. The second pass with the coarsest grit is done with the lathe stopped and with the grain of the wood. It only takes a few seconds, and does reduce the scratches. Subsequent grits are all done with the lathe running.
Now we are ready for finish.
I use a concoction called “O.B.’s Shine Juice” ... it is a mixture of shellac, denatured alcohol, and boiled linseed oil.
Note that I use a piece of paper towel to apply and buff out the finish. I never take a rag to the lathe … even though my lathe is only 1hp, a rag getting caught could pull my hand or arm into the spinning piece in the bat of an eyelash. To quote Cap’n Eddie, ”The only rags I take to the lathe are the ones I have on my back.”
“O.B.’s Shine Juice” is a ‘friction finish’ that produces a really nice finish that is inexpensive to make, quick to apply, and gives a very durable result. Cap’n Eddie tells you all there is to know about it in his video #89 … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taJbBmcaAZQ
I messed up here … I thought I had taken a picture of the last step in today’s work, but it wasn’t on the disk when I uploaded the pix from my Nikon. You’ll have to use your imagination.
When I take the turned blanks off the mandrel, I string them up (making sure to keep the grain match in the proper direction) on pieces of wire about 4 feet long, hanging from a shelf in my shop. I put about 8 sets of finished blanks on a wire … they look sort of like little sausages. I do this so I can keep turning without having to stop to assemble and test each pen as it is turned. I don’t know if it saves me any time, but when I have the urge to turn, I don’t like to stop.
-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"