As The Lathe Turns #45: A Personal Challenge

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by William posted 07-12-2013 01:50 AM 1577 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 44: The Results Are In Part 45 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 46: Counting Blessings »

I’ve had a couple of pretty decent days. When that happens, I usually mess it up by over doing things and making myself hurt worse than ever. Well, so it goes. That’s exactly what I have done. As I sit here in pain though, I am sort of proud of myself. I sort of made myself a personal challenge, and I succeeded.
It started with yesterday. I wanted to see how many blanks I could prepare in one day. That was not all of the challenge though. I did not want to simply throw together two simple pieces of wood. I wanted to make interesting blanks. Then, whatever blanks I was able to make in one day, I wanted to see if I could turn them all in one more day.
In my mind, I was thinking I would aim for five blanks. Well, without putting much though into it, while waiting for some glue ups to set so I could add more, like on the celtic cross designs, I started playing around with pieces in my scrap bucket and glued up two extra blanks. That made for seven blanks total. That is when I realized I had actually put myself in a predicament if I was planning on doing them all in one day. I still wanted to go through with trying anyway. 
So, today I went to the shop to see if I was up to the challenge. I’ll start left to right in the above photo of pen blanks and tell you about each one. Let’s see how far I got.

I think I have the celtic cross design beat now. Once I learned that the biggest obstacle is patience with this design, it seems so easy that I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to get it right.
This one is yellow heart with walnut for the celtic cross. The cross pieces were cut and glued in on a forty five degree angle.

This one is box elder and walnut.
It actually was not turning out at all like I wanted. So when I realized it was going to look terrible the way it was going, I reversed the blank on the back end of the pen to make the swoops opposite each other. That change in mid-stream, while it wasn’t exactly the look I was going for, I think saved the pen from complete failure.

Next up, since I had the celtic cross figured out and had one with dark in light contrast, I wanted to make one on the opposite end of the spectrum. So here is one in red heart with box elder cross pieces.

This one is a different take on a design I’ve done several time. I usually make a double curve along the length of the whole pen. I was just wondering what adding more curves to the mix would produce. I like this design very much and actually started thinking of some other variations I may try in the near future.
This one is purple heart with a box elder strip.

I admit that I really don’t know where my thought process was going with this one. It looked magnificent in my mind. I think it turned out kind of plainer than I imagined though. It is a nice pen, but I don’t think it is nice enough to revisit the awkward glue up process it took to make it.
It is made of sweet gum and the strips are walnut and sapelle.

This one is one of the scrap wood pens. Actually, it is entirely scrap wood. Each and every piece of this particular pen came out of my scrap bucket. All I done was cut some notches in some of the pieces, stacked other pieces of scraps on top of it, and then took it apart and rebuilt it one piece at a time, in between waiting on other glue ups, and glued the pieces together.

This is my other scrap wood pen. This one is not completely scrap wood. I cut notches for this one in a sweet gum blank. Then I glued the little squares of scraps in those notches. I don’t know what I was expecting out of this one. I think it did turn out very interesting though. It looks almost like polka-dots to me.
Were you keeping count?
I wasn’t. I had turned the last pen for the day when I realized that I had met my own challenge and turned all seven pens in a day. I was proud of myself. I was also aware of how bad my back had started hurting. I hate it, but I highly doubt I’ll make it to the shop tomorrow, but it felt so good to meet my goal.


13 comments so far

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2746 days

#1 posted 07-12-2013 02:15 AM

It appears there is no limit to the design variations you can come up with for pens. They all turned out cool but the yellowheart and redheart with the celtic knots are the winners for today. (IMHO)

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

View JL7's profile


8672 posts in 3021 days

#2 posted 07-12-2013 02:16 AM

I wasn’t keeping count either, but that’s a fine looking batch. You got that “cross” nailed down for sure…nice. There seems to be no end to this exploration in turning. Very cool….....I like the polka dots and the rest as well…..keep em turnin’......

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View DIYaholic's profile


19624 posts in 2731 days

#3 posted 07-12-2013 02:17 AM

The celtic knots came out great. Yeah, you got that one figured out!

The “Multi-Wave” is cool also!!

The others are interesting, to say the least!!!

It was difficult (ok, impossible for me) to visualize what each blank would turn into. Clearly, experimentation is key to developing interesting blanks from which to turn incredible pens. Carry on!!!

-- 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 eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2670 days

#4 posted 07-12-2013 02:46 AM

William you have it down , they turned out beautiful these are incredible pens each has it own design

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3359 days

#5 posted 07-12-2013 03:20 AM

there fantastic william, now go get some rest and hope you can let things settle and lower your pain…metting goals is a good feeling…

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

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#6 posted 07-12-2013 03:27 AM

Thank you all for your kind words.


View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2860 days

#7 posted 07-12-2013 11:27 AM

Gr8 lookin results William, and really gr8 creations in those fine writing tools

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

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#8 posted 07-12-2013 12:36 PM

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#9 posted 07-12-2013 12:49 PM

I’ve had a couple of people (on this post it was Randy) mention different things about visiualizing how a blank will turn out based on how the blank is glued up.
It is actually impossible to always know exactly what it will look like. However, you can guess based on a few things you learn along the way.
Here are a few of those things. Keep in mind that these are general and change constantly depending on different variables:
Straight lines on a square blank, cut on an angle, come out curves because the finished product is round, not square.
A low angle creates more of a circle look while a steep angle creates more of an elliptical look.
If you clue in curves lines and then turn into it, the two curved lines on each side of the pen will meet where you cut into the contrasting wood. What effect this takes depends on how far you cut into it. So you have to plan on this accordingly, or try to. If you cut all the way through the line, then the two lines will be together, but will split along the length of the pen.
If a strip glued in goes further into the blank than the thickness of the pen will be in the center of the blank, then the line or elliptical will show as a complete circle all the way around.
Glued in squares make two swooping lines. The direction of the swoop depend on which way you glue them in with relation to the middle of the blank and how thick the pen is in relation to the same point.
All lines if near each other or intersecting each other, create interesting results. The celtic cross for example is just carefully planned interesting lines. This one is a technique that allows for much experimentation. Sometimes it is fun just to glue in random lines and see what happens.
That’s all I can think of at the moment. As you can see though. There are loose rules that go along with these designs that allow one to work towards a look they may be going after. Nothing is set in stone though and the slightest change in design can make for distinct differences in the finished pen. So when I have an idea, I get to gluing and see what I come up with. Sometimes it looks beautiful. Sometimes it looks, well, not so beautiful.
The exception to the last one is if the line goes to the end of the pen blank close to the center. Then it will only depend on variables that allow for your finished pen to be cut into your contrasting wood or not.


View clieb91's profile


3520 posts in 3991 days

#10 posted 07-12-2013 02:53 PM

William, What an awesome looking batch. You certainly have that Celtic Knot down good. Great last posting as well, good information to know. I recently remembered I had a pile of Veneers that I got a long time ago, I now have my first experiment drying. Hopefully will get a chance to get it turned before the end of the weekend. Looking forward to seeing how it will come out. Thanks for all the input.


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

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#11 posted 07-12-2013 03:15 PM

I look forward to seeing it Chris.
Did you go look at that article I linked to in my last blog yesterday?


View lew's profile


12154 posts in 3811 days

#12 posted 07-13-2013 06:35 PM

I like the design on the 3rd one (from the bottom). Looks very pleasing to my eye.

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

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#13 posted 07-13-2013 10:09 PM

Lew, I’ve had a couple of other people tell me they liked that pen. I think the beauty of that one is perhaps in it’s simplicity.


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