I am always trying to think of little lessons to give out as I learn all of this. Today, I want to share what I believe to be the most important lesson I’ve learned about wood turning. Adapt. If something goes wrong, set it aside and think on it a while. Then adapt it to do something different. If you’re wondering what made me think that one up, read on about today’s adventures.
First up today was a piece of bloodwood. I think this is a beautiful wood. I had a tiny piece of scrap of it. It is the hard wood that was given to me to use as guide blocks on my shop built band saw. This is the edge of the board that I sat aside. It was such a pretty wood that, even though the piece was small, I could not bring myself to throw it out. I knew I’d get to use it one day.
I was sweating bullet though after yesterday’s mess up though. I only had enough bloodwood for this pen and maybe one more. So a failure here would have been very disheartening to me. As you can see though, all went well.
In this photo, the piece of wood on the right, is my second pen, and first failure of the day. On the left is the piece of wood off of the failure from yesterday. In the middle is the four tubes from the two pens that were messed up on. I put the damaged pens back on the mandrell, sharpened my smallest skew up, and sliced the wood off the tubes. I went slow and careful, and now had four tubes that would have otherwise been useless. Then I sat all this on the bench to consider while I moved on. You’ll have to read on to find out the destiny of these, now salvaged, tubes.
Next up was another piece of cocobolo. I love this wood so much that I’m tempted to take the rest of the ten pieces I started with and just turn all of them. I’m trying to stretch them out though so I can think of new ways to use them as I go. Since I turned one yesterday with no center band, I looked at the satin gold kit today and thought it would look good with this wood with the band.
At this point I was starting to get quite a few pens piled up on my bench. I was looking through pen kits trying to decide what to use next when I almost bumped one off the side of the bench. I didn’t wish for any of them to hit the concrete floor in my shop. So I figured it was time I stopped what I was doing and find a better way of keeping up with them. Mike, someone who has been very helpful to me, suggested that I build a display stand for my pens. This is what I came up with on the spur of the moment. With some more thought, I may come up with something better at a later date. For now though, this keeps them safe and displays them nicely for anyone who comes to my shop. This now sits in my front room, where all my finished work is, to display the pens. They are no longer sitting on my bench in the shop waiting to be damaged.
Now, remember those salvaged pen tubes?
I’d been thinking about those tubes ever since I retrieved them out of the messed up pen blanks. Should I just redo what I’d originally started to do with them? Should I play it safe with them since they were to be reused and do something extremely simple? Neither of these options appealed to me. I now had two sets of pen tubes that would have otherwise went in the garbage. This was the perfect opportunity to try aq couple of ideas I had been thinking about.
This is a walnut pen. It is hard for you to see in the photo probably, but the grain does not run the length of the pen. It runs more of a diagonal, at an angle. The reason for this was to see if I really could use an odd scrap I had of walnut to make a pen.
This scrap was cut at an odd angle for a table top pattern I made long time ago. It’s another one of those pieces I just couldn’t throw away. The wood itself came from a tree that was taken down by a tornado in a friend’s yard about ten years ago. He had it milled into lumber, stacked and stickered out behind his shop. Then he barely used any of it. About ninety percent of the wood went to waste due to rot and beetles. This is one of the few pieces that survived.
The point was that I realized something I had been wondering. No, I was not limited to wood of a certain length, running with the grain. As long as I could get blanks of a certain size, no matter how the grain run, could I use it? Well let’s see.
That brings me to the last pen of today.
If you seen the birdseye maple pen from yesterday, this is a piece of scrap off the exact same piece of wood. It was wide, but not nearly long enough for regular pen blanks. So I had the idea of cutting it the exact opposite of a normal pen blank. The grain ran across the blank instead of the length of it. I absolutely love how it turned out and am anxious to try this technique with other woods just to see what I get.
I had to rethink this one as I was doing it though. First of all, I cut the blanks longer than needed. I guess you could say wider than needed depending how you look at it since the grain is running sideways instead of longways. I hope you understand what I’m saying.
Anyway, I done this because I knew I was going to have chip out problems when I drilled the blank. I always have at least a tiny bit of chip out when drilling this direction in a hard wood, so I wasn’t takingt chances. Remember I am almost out of this beautiful wood. This way, after drilling the blank, and I did have a tiny bit of chipout as expected, I was able to then go to the table saw and trim that chip out right off. This left me a perfect pen blank, with the grain running across.
Next, for the turning. I intentionally made these blanks one inch by one inch. I done so because I wanted extra playing room for me to see just how it was going to turn. As I expected, it cut very rough because I was now cutting end grain on two sides of the pen blank. Remember though that I learned a lot about grind angles and tool presentation on end grain when I was learning to turn bowl? I used my smallest bowl gouge and adjusted my tool rest and was able to work these blanks just as well as if the grain was running the length.
So now I know. I will probably still sweat bullets when I’m working with something I am extremely limited on, like the birdseye maple, blood wood, or some other medium I may aquire. From now on though, I don’t think I’ll be quite as nervous about messing up tubes by not turning a blank correctly. I learned today that with a little bit of time, they are easily salvaged.
In also learned a little something about wood choices. Now, I am no longer limited by wood length and width. I can go the other way, or diaganally if needed.
Also, I’ve got other ideas. The pen I cut with the walnut running at an angle? Since reading a comment from Doe on the previous post, I thought about cutting contrasting woods at angles and gluing them up into blanks. The possibilities are endless. Pretty soon I’ll figure out a way to take my lathe shavings and make blanks.
That last line was a joke by the way. I don’t think I will get that desperate. If I thought I needed to waste that much glue to use shavings, I think I’d come out cheaper just buying blanks.