As The Lathe Turns #22: Learning To Adapt

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by William posted 03-23-2013 01:54 AM 1719 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 21: Solutions, And a Couple Of New Mistakes Part 22 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 23: People Spoke, So I Listened »

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.


11 comments so far

View DIYaholic's profile


19618 posts in 2669 days

#1 posted 03-23-2013 02:19 AM

Good save!!!

For what it’s worth, i suggest a stepped or tiered display, thereby making all pens more visible. Just a thought.

-- 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 William's profile


9949 posts in 2837 days

#2 posted 03-23-2013 02:25 AM

That is SORT of the idea I had here Randy, but it didn’t turn out quite like I wanted.
If you notice, each of the three rows of holes are offset to the left by three eighths of an inch.
Instead of making them more visible though, I think it just puts too much in the line of site, and makes them look jumbled together.
My next disply will be three different heights of display, as in like a set of stairs. I think that’s what you’re talking about.


View nancyann's profile


106 posts in 1888 days

#3 posted 03-23-2013 02:30 AM

The pens are very professional, just love them. I have never wood turned, but love the effects from it. You do beautiful work.

-- Nancy Antley

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2684 days

#4 posted 03-23-2013 03:13 AM

Good save on that birdseye! I like it but the ringless are still my favorites.

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

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2837 days

#5 posted 03-23-2013 03:27 AM

Andy, I’m realizing that and will definately be making more of the band less pens in the future. Hey, I have to give my public what they want to see. (that is a joke by the way, you can laugh now)

Nancy, thank you. I only recently got into turning. It is as addicting as scrolling is. I now look at any piece of wood that is too small for me to use for scrolling and wonder what I can turn with it. This is madness.


View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3328 days

#6 posted 03-23-2013 10:24 AM

My favorite was that last one, so you are surely on to something there William. It seems you are always thinking ahead and trying out new things. A great way to have fun and to continually learn new skills. That is called creativity, and you have plenty of that William! The pen stand looks great too. I’m sure that will also be further developed as time goes by.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2837 days

#7 posted 03-23-2013 12:04 PM

Thank you Stefang.
The last one is my favorite as well. It looks like marble to me. I will be trying other woods with the grain running across like that just to see what kind of effect I get. However, as it seems like most people like the ones without the center band, I have to make more of those. Actually, that’s a good thing in my opinion. It shows off more of the wood, which I think is the best feature of all these pens anyway.


View Doe's profile


1402 posts in 2824 days

#8 posted 03-23-2013 12:57 PM

Wow! The angled pen is amazing. The thought of doing that myself gives me the heebie-jeebies.

As for the shavings joke, what would happen if you used some bloodwood (or sapele or walnut) and maple shavings and mixed them with epoxy and packed the mess around a rough turned piece of what you have a lot of? I don’t think it needs to be a thick layer but it might give you a speckledy sort of look if it works (sort of Corian-like). If there are voids, you can filll them with straight epoxy or repeat the mixture business. Maybe that’s a goofy stupid idea but I thought I’d throw it out there . . .

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2837 days

#9 posted 03-23-2013 01:17 PM

Ok, you caught me. The shavings joke is only a joke because it came from Lisa after a different suggestion I made. I have an old milkcrate on a shelf in my shop. It has scraps of wood from my scrolling that are too small for anything, but of woods that are pretty enough that I don’t want to throw them away. I think the thickest thing in there is probably a sixteenth of an inch. Some of it is more of a veneer thickness. There’s all kinds of stuff in there that I’ve always said I’d find a use for. I am thinking of the best glue and technique now to glue all that up into pen blanks. I think it would make for a fascinating striped pen. That is when Lisa asks how long it will be before I’m gluing up saw dust for blanks.
We both laughed at that because I may actually do something like you described one day. You never know what crazy ideas I may come up with. As my wife puts it, I am a dangerous man when left to my own devices.

As for the angled pen or the sideways grain one, they are not as difficult as they sound. The only two catches I found were the drilling and cutting tools.
I had to use bowl gouges for the cutting to get a clean cut. I guess the angle could be reground on a spindle gouge for this, but I don’t want to mess up a spindle gouge when I have the ones for bowls. I guess a skew could also be used to slice across the end grain, but I am just more comfortable with my gouges.
As for drilling, I forgot to mention that I originally messed up a blank by trying to cut to length and then drill. It caused enough tearout that there would have been tearout gaps on the pen. You have to leave the blank long, drill, and then trim to size. You’ll still have tear out, but it is just trimmed away before mounting the blank on the lathe.
Oh, one more thing. Since you’ll have to trim up to a quarter inch to get rid of that tear out, if you’re trying to match the grain closely (something I always try to do) then you’ll want to make sure to start your drilling from the ends of the blanks that will be meeting in the middle.


View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2798 days

#10 posted 03-24-2013 08:56 PM

Nicely done. William. I like the heck outta your very simple, very effective display board. Wow, it don’t get any better than that. I may borrow that idea, at least my version of it. :)

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

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2837 days

#11 posted 03-25-2013 01:24 AM

Thanks Roger.
Borrow away. It’s just something I came up with on the quick. I plan on taking the time to put some thought into a better one someday soon.


Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics