As The Lathe Turns #33: Promises And Challenges

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Blog entry by William posted 05-24-2013 03:32 AM 1621 reads 0 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 32: A Gift From a Friend Part 33 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 34: The One Piece »

Today I needed to get to work on some deer antlers and fulfill a promise I’d made. You see, I told several people that if they’d find me some deer antlers, I’d make them a pen. I had done one a while back. I still had to make one for my son though who had located me some antlers. I also wanted to make one for my display for anyone who comes to my shop to look at them.

This is the one I made for my son. I was only able to get this one pen out of three racks of antlers. I got the pen done because a promise is a promise. However, I had to show him what I’m looking for in antlers so he’ll know what to look for next time.
The antlers he’d brought me were all bleached out from age. Most of them were almost completely white. When they are that bleached out, the outer parts of the antler becomes brittle, while the inside becomes soft. I have already found out from experience that this sometimes makes for interesting projectiles coming from the lathe. I was glad I was able to get the pen done for him though. At least he tried.

This is the one I made for my display. I pick shapes for these pens to try and leave at least a tiny bit somewhere on the pen of the outer part of the antler. This gives an area to show that it is in fact deer antler. Otherwise, in my opinion, it would just look like dirty ivory.
If you look at the outer antler on this pen and the first one above, you can see the difference in color. This pen has a more natural look to it while the first one has a color that is light enough that it almost looks to me like a defect instead of antler.


I got these two pens done and was thinking on what I wanted to do next. I decided to tackle a different animal, the zebra. No I don’t have any zebra parts to turn. I have some zebra wood though that has been driving me nuts.
A while back, I went to Picken’s Hardwood. It is a little piece of heaven on earth in Clinton Mississippi. They have more species of hard woods in one place than I’ve ever seen.
While there, I picked up a piece of zebra wood for next to nothing. It was so cheap because the grain was running the wrong way. What I mean is, when making pens, it is preferable to have the grain running along the length of the pen. This piece I bought had it running the opposite direction. It was a small off cut from a board and wasn’t much good for anything else. I was told by the lady there that it probably wouldn’t be good for pens either. That sounded like a challenge to me, and I like challenges.

It was a success!
Now let me tell the truth about why this excited me so much.
I bought the blank and cut it up as carefully as I could. I wound up with four pen blanks out of it. This was the fourth attempt at making this pen, so it was my last blank in this style.
I try to tell about all my adventures. What I don’t always tell is all my misadventures. This zebra wood pen is a good example of that. Three different times now I’ve tried making this pen. Three different times I would get almost done and the blank would blow apart on the tubes. It is a pretty hard wood. I was keeping my tools as sharp as I could. When it got close though, it seemed to always be too much for the cross grain to handle.
I set about it this time though with a different plan. I turned it down as a small a cylinder as I was comfortable with to start with. Then I start making the tapering cuts towards the ends with a freshly sharpened skew chisel. Before getting too close though, I put the tools aways and went to eighty grit sandpaper. I finished getting the blanks down to size using the sandpaper. Then of course I went through the grits to get a good finishable surface.
between the Abranet abrasive I told about yesterday, and my improving skills at applying a CA glue finish, I am extremely happy how this one turned out.


22 comments so far

View DIYaholic's profile


19657 posts in 2824 days

#1 posted 05-24-2013 03:49 AM

Not only did you overcome the “wrong direction” grain…..
You went on to do it justice, by leaving out the center ring!!!

Yeah, you are right William…..
You are a crappy wood worker! I don’t want no stinkin’ pool table!!!

-- 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


9950 posts in 2992 days

#2 posted 05-24-2013 03:57 AM

If everyone felt as you and I do Randy, none of the pens would have center rings. I like them better without it too. I have to make some that others will like though. Now, the deer antler pens I would use the center ring anyway. Since the two sections come from different parts of the antler rack, the colors would not match up right without the center ring.
And yes, I agree I’m a crappy wood worker.

Nevermind about the crappy wood worker jokes friends. It’s an inside joke. Randy wants a pool table. I just want to throw him in the pool.


View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2763 days

#3 posted 05-24-2013 04:44 AM

william i like the antler pens but that zebra is my pick , the Abranet seem to work well the finish looks great ,you must of worked to a fine grit it shines

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View stefang's profile


15953 posts in 3484 days

#4 posted 05-24-2013 08:23 AM

I love the zebra wood one best, but the antler is nice too.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3584 days

#5 posted 05-24-2013 11:42 AM

Nice pens William, something the write home about.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2225 days

#6 posted 05-24-2013 12:15 PM

The zebra pen is fantastic. I could only hope to become such a lousy woodworker.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View Woodknack's profile


12373 posts in 2529 days

#7 posted 05-24-2013 04:55 PM

Way to persevere on that zebrawood!

-- Rick M,

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2992 days

#8 posted 05-24-2013 06:04 PM

Thank you all.
I liked the zebra wood pen best as well. I am going to have to see if I can find some more of their “messed up” wood.
As for the grits, I am using the Abranet, working from 80 grit, up all the way to 600 grit. Then after that I am using sandpaper starting at 800 grit and going through 2000 grit. Is this excessive? Well some of you have heard me say this before. I believe that anything worth doing is worth over-doing.


View oldnovice's profile


7205 posts in 3517 days

#9 posted 05-24-2013 07:12 PM

William these are outrageous looking pens. Did you take a dust collection precautions when doing the antler ones? When I lived in Germany many, many, many years ago I had some traditional German outfits with antler buttons as that was part of what them traditional.

I don’t want to HORN in on your material choices but if you are looking for new material … try paper! No kidding paper counter top material is similar to other man made counter top material without the grit.

I get cut offs for a reasonable price compared to Corian and others. It comes in many colors and thicknesses plus it can be finished to high gloss, satin, or low luster.

I got my cut my pnly requirements were minimum size and color. I had to pay for the next largest piece of cut off otherwise there would be another cut off charge.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2992 days

#10 posted 05-24-2013 09:51 PM

Novice, I don’t have dust collection in my shop exactly, but I do wear my respirator when working with a lot of materials, such as antler.
Thanks for the paper counter top advice. I will keep that one in mind. I am always trying new ideas. A good friend gave me a piece of real thick plastic pipe today I am going to try and turn.


View oldnovice's profile


7205 posts in 3517 days

#11 posted 05-24-2013 10:25 PM

William it’ fun to work with that stuff because you expect Corian like noise when your cutting and there is virtually none, more like plastic.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2992 days

#12 posted 05-24-2013 10:33 PM

I’ll keep that in mind.
I am gathering another material for a trial at a process I seen in an article about making a pen blank from leather.
I’ve seen all kinds of crazy stuff, from corn cobs to glued up pastas. I have fun trying new things though and see so much to do with it. I am still being constantly amazed at all the different woods I’ve been able to try since starting to turn pens, and still have more to go.


View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2839 days

#13 posted 05-25-2013 12:22 AM

That zebrawood pen is now my favorite! No center ring is a good thing in my opinion.

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

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2992 days

#14 posted 05-25-2013 02:06 AM

Thank you Andy.
And I agree about the no center ring thing. I think I will start making them about 50/50. That ought to satisfy everyone, and me.


View oldnovice's profile


7205 posts in 3517 days

#15 posted 05-25-2013 03:39 AM

William you said , ”I am gathering another material for a trial at a process I seen in an article about making a pen blank from leather.”

Really, that must be one heck of a piece of leather to stay stiff while turning.

When I worked as a summer intern, back in 1968, used to turn rubber parts by freezing it first and turned out some really, pardon the pun, cool parts.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

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