As The Lathe Turns #21: Solutions, And a Couple Of New Mistakes

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Blog entry by William posted 03-22-2013 01:18 PM 1922 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 20: My First Pen From A Kit Part 21 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 22: Learning To Adapt »

I am a day late posting this. I got down in my back yesterday evening. Rain was coming in this morning. Changes in weather effect my back greatly. Anyway, I’ll be typing this up as if it was last night.

I jumped right into the fray of things today with preparing multiple blanks before doing anything else. I wanted to turn today without having to stop, cut, drill, and wait for glue to set.

The first pen of today, I made one of the wood blanks longer by the length of the width of the center ring. Does that make sense? Anyway, I done so in an attempt to eliminate the center ring because, you may remember me saying, one of my kits was missing that ring.
I glued the tube in all the way to one end on the longer blank. The twist mechanism in the writing end of the pen sticks out plenty enough to still seat into the longer blank with the space left without the tube. If you think about if, of course it will. It is only going the same distance to get to the tube as if you had a center ring on it anyway. So it works out the same.
This pen is walnut. It was made from a piece from my scrap ben. That, by the way is the one problem I see with turning pens. I was already a wood hoarder. Now I see even the scrap pieces as potential projects.
I almost messed this pen up. While the glue was setting on the blanks, I used a scrap piece of wood and practiced more trying to perfect the CA glue finish technique. It turned out wonderfully on the scrap wood. So I tried it on this walnut. It turned out looking like crap. I don’t know what went wrong. I have been told now that I need water thin glue for the finish. I only have locally bought Super Glue (brand name) at the moment. So for now, I’ll stick with my shellac based finish until I can get some thinner glue to try again.
Anyway, I took a long coffee break while waiting for that glue to fully cure so I could sand it back off the walnut. That stuff does not like to be sanded off. However, I was happy with this pen and did not want to lose the blanks or the tubes. I think it turned out extremely nice though without the center ring.

My next pen, and now my new favorite wood, is cocobolo. This wood was from the free blanks that was sent with my pen kit order. The blanks looked beautiful in their own right. When turned though, it looks different, and completely amazing. This wood has presented me with a new issue. Now I want to try any wood I can get my hands on. If and when I can sell some of my pens, I definately want to try a few new (to me) exotic blanks from time to time.
I have seen some beautiful wood before, but this just took my breath away. No, not literally. I had done some reading up on it already, but in case anyone else hasn’t, use respiratory protection when turning or working with cocobolo.
You may also notice that I like the walnut pen so much without the center ring that I also turned this one without it.
I still have nine more cocobolo blanks. I can’t wait to see what beautiful grain each of them presents.

Then my first mistake for the day. This was, I repeat WAS, birdseye maple. I stopped as I was getting near the end of the turning and grabbed my newly sharpened detail gouge. This was a mistake. I learned an important lesson. If you sharpen your tool, start using it before being almost finished. That way, you get a feel for the cut before getting too close to the tube.
With the tool being so sharp, and my not having that feel for the newly sharpened tool just yet, I sliced off too quickly, got a tad too close to the tube insert on the end. It may be a little hard to see in this photo, but if I had put this pen together, that missing chip of wood would have stuck out like sore thumb.
So I set this aside. I had a thought though. I may be able to turn the wood completely off the tube and reuse the tubes. I could also order more tubes and not mess with it. I don’t know if it’s even worth messing with. I’m going to give it a try anyway though when I get a chance.

The first pen is cedar and the next one is pecan. There is a reason these are pictured together. Let me tell you what happened.
Somehow my blanks got mixed up on the table. I was halfway through turning a pen when I realized, the front piece was cedar and the back piece was pecan. It was too late to do anything about it though. So I just made another turning, with the front piece pecan and the back piece cedar, and then assembled both pens with the right blanks matching each other.
The pecan done just as expected, but I learned yet another lesson with the cedar. Cedar is an extremely soft wood. Someone with long fingernails could probably carved cedar with their fingernails. I learned that, when working with very soft woods, leave your turned blank more proud than normal of your bushing, and then sand down to final size. I have been doing this anyway, but I will in the future do it more so with the cedar. It just so happens that the cedar sands SO fast, that I was removing too much material and, if I had went all the way through all the grits, it would have been smaller than the hardware that went on the pen. So, to keep it to size, I wound up skipping every other grit. This left tiny scratches in the finished piece.
It still looked nice, but I could never attempt to sell something like this with visible scratches in the finish. All is well though. You see, cedar is my wife’s favorite wood. So she was all too happy to take it home and keep it for herself.

I made the next pen out of box elder. This wood was sent to me some time ago by a friend and fellow Lumberjock, Marty.
I was interested in how it would look. Well, there was but one way to find out. This is a beautiful wood for flat work. For a pen, not so much. It is pretty, but kind of plain looking. So I edded some burned in lines to it to give it some kind of color.

After the failure with the maple earlier in the day, I glued up another blank with it. I just had to see what this beautiful wood was going to look like as a pen. It was absolutely stunning. As a matter of fact, after seeing it, it kind of made me sad that I messed up the first attempt at it. This is such a beautiful wood. However, I only have enough scraps of it to make a couple more pens from it before it’s all gone.
This wood came from another friend, and also a Lumberjock, Jeff.

That’s it. These pens are turning out to be the perfect project for me. Now if only I can figure out how to sell them so I can keep doing them.
They are easy.
They keep me busy.
I can do them standing or sitting so they don’t hurt my back much.
There are so many ways to modify, and do them differently.
You can use some of the tiniest scraps to make them. I’ve even been thinking of gluing up some even smaller scraps of different colors.
They are beautiful projects that make perfect gifts.
Did I mention they are fun?


18 comments so far

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2669 days

#1 posted 03-22-2013 01:31 PM

William you seem to be getting the hang of this pen turning, some beautiful pens ,liked the cedar one ,always thought it would be a hard wood to turn ,but it looks great but that cocobolo is some pretty wood too

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#2 posted 03-22-2013 01:37 PM

Thanks Eddie.
I have been meaning to tell you. All the pen turning takes place on the lathe that you gave me.
I have the other lathe set up for larger things like bowls, and all the small stuff, like pens, I do on the Ridgid.


View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3390 days

#3 posted 03-22-2013 01:41 PM

Hi William. You might try making a beautiful display for your pens that can sit on a store counter and which you can replenish as they are sold, then you just have to find some stores that would like to sell them. You could talk to some business people around who might want to give them out as gifts to their valued customers or even to their employees on special occasions. I’m sure there are lots of other ways to sell them too, but this is just an example of the possibilities.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3074 days

#4 posted 03-22-2013 01:47 PM

These are really nice William, I especially like the ones without the center rings! Pen turning is something I haven’t gotten into and do not feel any inclination to do so! Good luck with them.

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#5 posted 03-22-2013 02:00 PM

In time, I will try these suggestions Mike. I do want to get a good bit made up and have been thinking of making a display for them. Thanks you for the suggestions too.

Bearpie. Thank you. I wasn’t planning on getting into pens either. My wife wanted one, so I stumbled blindly into it, not realizing what I was getting myself into.
It just occured to me. My wife is the one who got me into scrolling as well. That woman is something else!


View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2912 days

#6 posted 03-22-2013 02:03 PM

William thos pens without the ring look very nice
really shows the grain

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2669 days

#7 posted 03-22-2013 02:10 PM

you got that old Ridgid turning some stuff ,happy to see it turning out some builds ,if i can get caught up ,you may try to get some of them over here when i go to the Bonnie and Clydes show ,i almost had some inventory build up but sold it and now my daughter is getting married on the 4 th of april and building a arbor for the wedding so ,i hope to make the Bonnie and Clyde on the 14,15 16 th april if i can get built back up on stuff ,mike may be on to something there

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View DIYaholic's profile


19624 posts in 2731 days

#8 posted 03-22-2013 02:23 PM

I REALLY like the ringless pen. I’m not a fan of a thick pen, as I prefer thinner pens. I also am not a fan of the thin ring on a thick pen, so the ringless pen is my favorite!!!

Do the rings come in a larger diameter???

Great looking pens & great info for a “future” turning newbie!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View boxcarmarty's profile


16374 posts in 2416 days

#9 posted 03-22-2013 03:50 PM

Nice looking pens. Do you have any box elder left with the red streaks in it? If not, I’ll see if I have any more that I can send ya…..

-- My mind is like lighting, one brilliant flash, then its gone.....

View JL7's profile


8672 posts in 3021 days

#10 posted 03-22-2013 09:44 PM

Looking good there William…...the ringless design is cool…..they’re all cool…...I feel sorry for the wood scraps in your shop… seems like it’s just a matter of time now before they get their “turn”........:)

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View Doe's profile


1408 posts in 2886 days

#11 posted 03-22-2013 10:43 PM

I really like the ringless ones!

As for birdseye maple, my husband made a 50 cal pen and a chunk came off of it. He used the big parting tool to get down to the tube and added a contrasting wood to replace the ugly spot that was at the writing end. It looked like it was on purpose instead of an accident. I can’t remember the original wood (maybe mahogany), but the added bit was ebony. How about trying a bit of leftover cocobolo if you have it? The stripe of pecan would also be a nice contrast to the dotty-ness of the maple.

Do you know what the wood is that Jeff sent you? It’s really beautiful.

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#12 posted 03-23-2013 01:08 AM

Thank you Jamie.

Eddie, I have that old Ridgid churning out projects, as you can see. The pen mandrel pretty much stays housed on it now.

Randy, it looks like a lot of people like the ringless ones. If those start to sell, they may just become my favorite as well.

Marty, I’m afraid that the red streaked wood was the first I used for various things. It was the first to go and long gone now.

Jeff, no wood is safe now. I’ve even been thinking of ways to use any and all wood. Wait until today’s blog entry. I had a piece of walnut that was not long enough or long enough because it was cut on an angle. Wait until you see what I done with it. It is nice. I’ve considered gluing up material too. Before long I may be making a sawdust pen.

Doe, the wood Jeff sent was birdseye maple. The wood Marty sent was box elder. I figured you recognized the maple, so which one are you asking about, the one with nice figure? Or the light colored wood that I added burn lines to?
I will keep that in mind about parting off the damaged spot and using a contrasting wood. I used those tubes today though. Wait until I type up today’s blog. I think you’ll like how I handled that problem as well.

Thank you all. I have been wanting to glue up some bowl blanks for two days now and just haven’t gotten around to it. I’ve been having too much fun with pens. Be sure to catch the next installment. I am pleasantly surprised with today’s results.


View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2746 days

#13 posted 03-23-2013 01:41 AM

Add my vote for the “ringless” style. It looks a lot better than the ring in the middle style to my eye. The walnut and birdseye are my favorites.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#14 posted 03-23-2013 02:17 AM

Thanks Andy.
If you like the birdseye, you have to go see what I done with it today.
If you’re in a hurry, it’s the last photo on the blog entry.


View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2860 days

#15 posted 03-24-2013 01:09 PM

I can see you’re havin a gr8 time with your lathe. Keep on spinnin

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

showing 1 through 15 of 18 comments

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