As The Lathe Turns #41: Walnut And Box Elder

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Blog entry by William posted 06-29-2013 10:45 PM 1439 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 40: Not My Best Day Part 41 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 40: Not My Best Day »

Today’s is not a very long post. The title pretty much explains it all. I have somehow gotten on a walnut and box elder habit. I don’t know why besides I like it. In my opinion, it is a beautiful combination of woods for some of my experimentation.
I’ve always loved walnut. However, before a friend of mine in Alabama (Grizz) sent me a few walnut pen blanks, I’d never had the chance to work with it as much as I have lately. The box elder came from a friend who lives in Indiana (Marty). The two woods together create a very nice contrast.
For my first pen today, some of my friends expressed like for the wavy patterned pen I attempted yesterday. So I tried it first.

It did not turn out exactly like the one I tried yesterday. No two pens are ever exactly alike. When you glue in strips like in this pen, you never know exactly how they’ll turn out until you turn it. I still think it is a nice pen though. I think I’ll play with this style some more in the future.

Next, if you seen the other blank I had clamped up in the vice when I finished yesterday, was a piece of walnut with two strips of elder running across each other at a steep end to end angle.


Now, after I drilled for and glued in the tubes in these blanks, I needed something to do while waiting for that to dry. So I took some more walnut and box elder and just started messing around. I did not plan on anything with this next pen. I simply started slicing it on the band saw. Then I glued in a strip and let it sit while I turned the first pen. Anytime I had a break, like while waiting on a coat of CA glue to dry for example, I’d slice and glue in another strip. I just wanted to see how it would turn out.

I think interesting is the best way I could describe how it turned out.


15 comments so far

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3327 days

#1 posted 06-29-2013 10:50 PM

well weather you knew what you were creating or not, these turned out great william, no other words to say , very nice, i like all of them…im starting on a desk for myself, so i will enjoy using pens when needed…

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

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2866 days

#2 posted 06-29-2013 10:56 PM

Thanks Grizz. Also, thanks for the walnut blanks. I wouldn’t be able to work with this beautiful wlanut if you had not sent me those blanks a while back. Also, I have your other pen ready to be shipped next week. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s on the way.


View DIYaholic's profile


19623 posts in 2699 days

#3 posted 06-29-2013 11:02 PM

I can hardly wait to start experimenting with glue-ups, as you are doing. You are correct, that walnut & box elder do look GREAT together!!! That last pen evokes a feeling of the cosmos, with intersecting “orbits”!!! I really do like the way these pens are turning out!

I should be able to finally get me some “learnin’ to turn” time later next week. I got me a C’man variable speed 8” grinder. Now I need the right wheels and some jigs, so as to finally be able to sharpen my turning chisels!!! I’m guessing some wood to turn would be the next logical acquisition!!!

Keep up the “great experiment”, err work!!!

-- 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 2866 days

#4 posted 06-29-2013 11:41 PM

Thanks Randy.
Any grinder will work really. I started out sharpenind my tools on a much too course wheel on a high speed grinder. I now have the same grinder, but a finer wheel. The only difference I can see between the wheels is the rate at which they’ll wear down your tools. Just take your time, keep the metal cool while sharpening, and learn how to do it right. Now that last part takes some time. I am just now getting comfortable with my sharpening techniques. Everything until recently has been strictly experimental. Even when you get good at it, you then have to find an angle you like to sharpen to. I have found that different angles cut differently, and you’ll just have to find what works for you. Once you find it, you’re set for good.
Well, that set for good part isn’t always 100% correct either. I have found that I like a completely different angle for various tools, like spindle gouges, bowl gouges, and scrapers. Sometimes, like with my 1/4” gouge and 1/2” bowl gouges, I like different angles with the same tools, just different sizes. It’ll all come to you in time though. Above all, practice, practice, practice.
I can’t wait to see some turnings coming from your lathe.

As for the wood, any wood will do to learn. For a long time, I seldom had square scrap wood, as I’d turn it all round practicing.


View lew's profile


12101 posts in 3779 days

#5 posted 06-30-2013 12:53 AM

Love the design on that last one, William!!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View JL7's profile


8667 posts in 2989 days

#6 posted 06-30-2013 01:04 AM

William….the pens look great….love the freestyle stuff…..cut, glue and see what happens!.......nice.

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2866 days

#7 posted 06-30-2013 01:38 AM

Thanks Lew.
Jeff, that’s one of the joys, to me, about pen turning. No matter how you glue up blanks, planned or unplanned, you never know how they will turn out. Each one is like unwrapping a present with many layers.

You can imagine, after you’ve done enough, the general way a pen will look when gluing up the square blanks. Then you place it on the lathe and start turning. Different things effect it in different ways at that point. The close an angle is to ninety degree, the straighter the line is across the pen. As you change that angle though, the move sweep you get to the line. Once you reach a certain point in that sweep, you also get broadening in width, but narrowing of how far it goes around the circumfrance.
Now, all that is what changes as you turn it square to round. Then you make even further changes by narrowing one end of a blank and not the other. This can make the same sweep look one way on one end of the blank, but completely different towards the other end. As a matter of fact, that sweep can disappear altogether if you turn enough away to go through your contrast material and back into your primary material.

I hope all that makes sense. If not, go back to my original statement. Turning a pen is like unwrapping a present a layer at a time.


View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2099 days

#8 posted 06-30-2013 02:21 AM

Nice pens William. I worked with walnut for the first time on the drawer fronts for my workbench. Really liked it, and am keeping my eyes peeled for some more.

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

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2866 days

#9 posted 06-30-2013 02:29 AM

It is a beautiful wood and easy to work with. I like it. I only wish I had enough of it to make more than just pens with. I’m happy with what I do have though.


View clieb91's profile


3520 posts in 3959 days

#10 posted 06-30-2013 02:46 AM

William, They all turned out really nice looking. Been taking a little time before getting started on craft show projects to experiment on a few things myself. I do though need to experiment with a bit of this.


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

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2866 days

#11 posted 06-30-2013 03:34 AM

Each experiment turns out to be something interesting Chris. Even the ones that turn out completely different than I think they will still look interesting. Give it a shot and just start gluing up material. I bet that even pens you find ugly that other people like. Some of the pens I have found just weird looking, others really seemed to think highly of them.


View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2828 days

#12 posted 06-30-2013 11:38 AM

Lookin good William.

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

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2866 days

#13 posted 06-30-2013 10:21 PM

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3358 days

#14 posted 07-01-2013 06:29 PM

Beautiful pens William!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2866 days

#15 posted 07-01-2013 11:14 PM

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