As The Lathe Turns #39: Time To Back Up A Bit

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Blog entry by William posted 06-27-2013 11:26 PM 1403 reads 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 38: How NOT To Turn A Bowl Part 39 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 40: Not My Best Day »

Have any of you ever noticed that when things start going wrong, they keep going wrong? For me, once it starts, it keeps going until I just all of a sudden have a victory, or I back it up a bit. Since the failures keep coming, I figured it was time to throw it in reverse.
What do I mean by that?
I have a tendency to want to do things that are challenging. Some may argue that I sometimes even push the envelope too much, too quickly, on things. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I know from experience though that this makes me sometimes need to back it up and get back to the basics of what I’m trying to do.
The multi wood pen I done a recently is going to a friend of mine. I wanted one for display though and had more blanks I had left over from gluing up all those strips of wood. These blanks look nice, but are a challenge to turn. I was careful about gluing them, but with the grain running all directions, it’s almost like turning burl. No matter what angle of attack you use with your sharpest gouge, there is tear out if you are not careful and all the luck is there, and the stars align perfectly, and all that jazz.

This was the second pen I tried turning today. The first one literally blew apart on the lathe. This one, although you can’t tell it by the picture, is a reject as well. I kept having to sand the front end of the pen more and more as pieces kept blowing off. This wound up making the front end just short enough that I had a hard time judging how far to press the advance mechanism in. As my recent luck would have it, I ended up pressing it just a tad too far. With the pen retracted all the way, you can hold the pen perfectly vertical and write with it. The end of the ink cartridge is right there at the tip. I refuse to put something like this in my display. Those of you who know me know that I don’t allow things to leave my shop in other’s hands if it isn’t right.
Don’t worry. Pens like this one, that are usable but not right; they don’t go in the trash. They go in my truck for me to use myself. I said I wouldn’t allow things like this leave in other people’s hands. I didn’t say I wouldn’t use it.
Anyway, I decided to just back up and turn a basic pen instead of trying anything fancy or different. Of course, since doing all the different styles I have now done, I don’t do just simple, one wood species pens, unless it has some awesome grain. So I looked through my blanks and picked two woods that I have had good luck with in the past, walnut and maple. I did not try anything crazy here. I simply sliced the walnut down the length at an angle and glued a strip of maple in.

It isn’t much, but just to do something without problems, like I’ve had lately, felt good.
That went well, but then I was thinking of what I wanted to do next. I decided that, while I thinking about it, to mount up between centers a piece of scrap wood and do some practice exercises. Sometimes I think it’s good just to practice techniques. Even if you know how to do something, practice will either keep you good, or help you improve it in some way.

Next, I liked the way that last pen had turned out, so I wanted to do something else. I thought about more crazy stuff, but settled on doing something similar to the last pen. Just keep it simple. Sometimes simple seems more elegant than the craziest of designs.
This blank is walnut and box elder. Since the box elder is bent pretty good while being pressed between the two pieces of walnut, I thought it would be a good idea to leave this blank overnight. It may self destruct on it’s own if I unclamp it too soon. I took it out of the voce, snapped a photo, and put it right back in to leave till tomorrow.

This is a piece of pipe a good friend gave me a while back to try turning. It looks like PVC, but has a more rubbery feel to it. I think it will make a neat pen if I can turn it without any issues.
I had tried a small piece of it before, unsuccessfully. I thought I’d give it another shot.

Here are the two blanks glued up. I’m leaving them overnight too. The last time I tried turning this, the tube let go in one of the blanks. I always scuff up the tubes before gluing them, but I think the type of material here may have had something to do with it. I’m hoping the extra curing time will help the situation.
So that’s two blanks for tomorrow, hopefully. We’ll have to wait and see how they turn out.


10 comments so far

View DIYaholic's profile


19623 posts in 2700 days

#1 posted 06-27-2013 11:45 PM

I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep tonight….
Or if I’ll have “pipe” dreams all night!!!

Eagerly awaiting the outcome of your latest experimentation!!!

-- 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 2867 days

#2 posted 06-27-2013 11:46 PM

Thanks Randy.
As long as my health allows me to get to the shop tomorrow, we will definately see how it goes.


View Chips's profile


199 posts in 3737 days

#3 posted 06-27-2013 11:55 PM

I’m going to watch this close too.

-- Make every day the best day of your life. Chips, Mississippi

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2715 days

#4 posted 06-28-2013 12:16 AM

That walnut with the maple stripe is one of my favorites!

Not too sure about that black plastic pipe though. But that’s why they make Fords and Chevys .

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

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3328 days

#5 posted 06-28-2013 01:40 AM

well i wondered where you were and what you were doing, i dont think you will be able to make a pen out of them fishes…although the scales might look cool…just insert the think in the lathe with its mouth open and the other end, well i think you can guess, gently put the tail vice in the other end…and turn at a medium speed..i will wait for the results…and then i will move to make sure im safe from the terror of the wild man from Mississippi,…well maybe you should not try the fish thing…hey its a wild and crazy idea, maybe i should think of the wild and crazy things you could do and email that list to you…but you will have to guarantee that you choose to do them, i would not be the blame…lol..ok im done…hey someone has to give you a hard time, as i know nobody probably does…:)

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2867 days

#6 posted 06-28-2013 01:54 AM

Thanks Chips. And thanks for the black pipe. Oh, did I forget to mention that to everyone? Chips is the one who gave me the pipe.

Andy, I’m glad you like the pen. Wait till tomorrow. I think the one I have clamped up will be an interesting one as well. The curve on a square blank always makes for an interesting look on the finished round pen. We’ll see.

Grizz, you forget that I am the father of eight kids. Giving me a hard time isn’t easy. If your list consists of turning things like fish though, you’ll be close. Just wait though. The waters haven’t started going down at Steele Bayou yet. When they do, the spoonbill will be running. I’ll be sure to post a photo just for you if I catch one of those monsters this year.


View clieb91's profile


3520 posts in 3960 days

#7 posted 06-28-2013 02:01 AM

William I really like the Maple/Walnut pen. I really do have to try a few things like that. What glue do you use to put those together with?

Some basics is always a good thing once in a while. We sometimes seem to get too busy and forget where we are heading. Look forward to seeing tomorrow’s turnings. Hope you can make it into the shop.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2867 days

#8 posted 06-28-2013 03:04 AM

Chris, I use CA glue to glue this one.
I use different glues though dependong on what I’m doing with pen blanks. For flat surfaces that I don’t mind waiting till the next day on, I’ll sometimes use tightbond. For most things, I use CA glue simply because it’s quicker. If I want an instant bond, accelerator helps out, but I have found that on something like this with pressure, the accelerator speed up cure time, but makes the bond too brittle.
If I’m gluing something that I need gap filling but won’t have much pressure to it, and don’t mind waiting overnight, I’ll sometimes use Gorilla White Glue. It’s a poly-something (can’t remember) glue.
As for the CA glue. I use medium for glue ups like this. It is a strong bond and gives me a little more open time to get things clamped up. I use thin if I’m need to fill small cracks and also for my finishes. I use thick for gluing in the tubes into blanks.
All that being said, nothing is set in stone. I experiment with different glues on a neverending basis.

Ok, I just realized I really started rambling there. For this particular glueup, on both the walnut pens (the one I turned today and the one I have clamped up for tomorrow) I used medium CA glue.


View clieb91's profile


3520 posts in 3960 days

#9 posted 06-29-2013 02:41 AM

William, Thanks for the info.. all of it.
I use very little CA as I am in a basement shop and hate the smell of it. For this though I think I will try some. I use the Gorilla Glue to glue in my blanks. Someone in a course mentioned and the fact thatit expands it can fill in stuff inside the blanks.
Have an experiment going on with Epoxy I will be posting soon.

-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2867 days

#10 posted 06-29-2013 10:07 PM

I don’t care for epoxy. I can’t really give a reason besides I just don’t like it.

Now, as for Gorilla glue. Have you tried the white stuff? It is clear, acts just like regular gorilla glue, and dries white. It is great.
If I was more patient, I would use CA glue for only finishing. The only reason I see a need for it for my other work is that I want the glue set in a hurry. If I am gluing up something that I know, before I start gluing, will be left overnight, I forego the CA glue and use wood glue if it is wood to wood, and gorilla glue for everything else.

I would still use CA glue for the finish though. Since I finally got the hang of applying that correctly, I have yet to find or see a better finish for pens. I have also used CA glue on a few tool handles and it is more durable than anything I’ve ever tried before for that purpose.


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