As The Lathe Turns #54: More Home Brews

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Blog entry by William posted 10-23-2013 12:56 AM 2134 reads 1 time favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 53: The Lathe Part 54 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 55: Burls »

If you read my last blog entry, you probably remember seeing the above tool. It is a tool sold by Penn State to hold router bits. It is a good idea that did not work too well for me. Well I took that tool and used it for the basis for an Oland type tool.
When I posted it, a friend (Stefang) suggested modifying this design to protrude a bit out at an angle. I thought it was a great idea and it got the wheels in the old noggin to turning.

It was suggested to drill a hole, split the end, and use a nut and bolt to tighten the split sides around the bit, holding it firmly in place. I thought this sounded like an easy way to do it since I did not have the proper tap to make neat little holes for set screws like you see in the factory made piece. So off again I went to town to see what I could come up with.
First thing I done was stop by Hayden’s, my favorite hardware store. I like the place because it’s one of the few places left in town that still has that friendly, hometown feel. You walk in the door. People ask you can they help. Ok, that’s normal. The difference is that these people are actually extremely knowledgeable in what they sell and know where everything you need is located in the store. I’ll take that over the endless scavenger hunt at the big orange store any day of the week.
I apologize for that little side track. Let’s get back to the project at hand, tools.
I figured that tapping holes to hold the bits was going to be something way out of my price range. After discussing it with the man at Hayden’s, I realized that it was going to cost me less than five dollars for the tap, the proper drill bit for the tap, and a palm full of the proper sized set screws. So I decided that this was going to be the way to go. This eliminated the need to have that extra pinch length out past where the bit would protrude out.
Next, I needed steele to make the bar from. I was thinking half inch, but the only half inch they had was something the salesman told me was extremely mild steele that would bend easily. He sold me on some five eighths cold roll steele to get the job done.
So back to the shop.

Here is how the business end of the tool turned out.
There is just something I love about making my own tools. I think it is that ability to say, “this thing I made, I made it using a tool that, guess what, I made that too”. It never hurts that it also usually saves me a lot of money in the process too. It is just a great pleasure to me to make my own tools when I get the opportunity.

I liked the new angle when I tested it on a scrap piece. Then I thought it would be nice to have a tool with the tip protruding straight out at a ninety degree angle. So I made that as well. After all, since the five eighths steele was only sold in forty eight inch lengths minimum, I had some extra stock.
Speaking of that extra stock…...

While I was making the second tool, I was thinking about the first tool. I thought I could reverse the bit and cut sharp upper corners in vessels or bowls by having the bit angles forty five degrees back towards the handle. Since I still had enough stock left over after making the second tool though, why not just make a third tool that would do just what I was thinking about. This eliminates having to have the end of my set screw riding on the tool rest, which is something I really don’t like to do.

So here are the ends of the four Oland type tools I now have. Of course the first one came from Penn State, but the other three I made. I tested them first with just the bar. I wanted to see how they performed before making handles. I love how they work and now just needed to turn some handles.

The top one, the top one, has a pecan handle. I used pecan on it because I just happened to have grabbed a piece of pecan earlier when I was testing the tools. So I figured that, instead of wasting that piece of nice wood, I may as well turn off my test cuts and make it into a usable handle.
The next two have sapelle handles. I love the look and feel of sapelle. Also, I have a lot of it.
The bottom one is the Penn State tool and has the factory handle on it. One of these days I think I’m going to redo all the handles on my factory made tools just so I’ll have handles that are made by me.
The tools are different lengths. I done this for a reason. It is hard to tell from the photo, but from handle end to cutting end, they are made so that the actually cutting point is the same distance on all four tools. I like to keep it this way because I already knew that this distance was comfortable to me on the tool made be Penn State. There’s no sense in messing with what works.


Not all of my home made brews work out just like I want them too. Some time back, some of you who read my blog regularly may remember that I went through several solutions to squaring pen blanks. I was determined not to spend the money on a pen mill when I could make something to do the job just as good.
Well, the set up I had, using stick on sandpaper on a setup on my second lathe was actually working without any problems. The problem is that the sandpaper wore out fairly quickly. I’d move the paper around on the disk it stuck to often to get fresh abrasive. I happen to think about it recently though and figured up how much sandpaper I’d bought since starting with this setup. What I had already spent on it would have already bought me two pen mills, and it was was going to be a recurring cost.

So I decided to admit defeat on this one and order a pen mill set. Here is a link to this one. I ordered it from Penn State. I chose the steele cutter over the carbide because I’ve heard some people complain that the two cutter design of the carbide, versus four on the steele, can cause splitting and catching on hard woods. I seen where this could be highly possible, and since I do like to work with a wide variety of materials, settled on the steele set.
It arrived promptly, as I’ve come to always expect from Penn State. I’ve never had a single complaint when ordering from that company.
I immediately tested it out and liked it better over my old shop made system, except for one thing. The instructions say to use it in a drill or drill press along with a pen vice. If you click the link above and read the instructions for the tool, you can see a photo on the instructions that makes no sense to me. If you clamp a blank in the pen vice on your drill press, and the tube is straight enough so that you can run this pen mill down the middle with no issues, then you really have no need for a pen mill because your tube is already perfectly squared to your blank. Also, when I tried using it in a drill press, it grabbed too much for my liking.
I hit the cutting edges a couple of time with a sharpening stone and then tried squaring a blank with the pen mill and the blank being held in each hand. It worked great this way. So I decided that I’d be using this as a hand held tool. To do this comfortably though, I needed a handle on it. There is just not much to grab ahold to on the cutting shafts behind the squaring cutter.

While thinking about how I wanted to do this, I thought of this little doohickey. This is an extension shaft for a spade bit. The cutting shafts all fit perfectly in the end of this tool and tighten down using the set screws. I just needed one because this one is one I use all the time. Luckily, when I went to town to get the parts for the tools I showed earlier, they had these extension shafts at Hayden’s for less than three bucks.

So I just needed to turn a handle and use epoxy to attach it to the extension shaft. This allowed me to hold onto the tool, while still being able to swap out cutting shafts for different pen kits.
For the handle, I started to use sapelle. Then I remembered this piece of oak burl a friend (Bearpie) had given me a while back. This particular piece had a bad crack right down the middle. I was worried about it blowing apart if I tried turning it thin enough for a pen. It was a perfect piece though for this small tool handle. Oak burl, in my opinion, is really too nice a piece to be used for a tool handle, but I just couldn’t help myself. I do love the look of oak burl.

I love oak burl enough that I just had to show you all one more photo so you can see the other side.
So till next time, happy turning.


20 comments so far

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3502 days

#1 posted 10-23-2013 01:14 AM

william , you da man, fantastic buddy, some day i hope to have the ideas you have about some of the tools, but for now, i dont do the lathe, and you do , and so well…im still around, but not to much, here and there, back is not well at all, went and got a shot this morning, epidural…im hoping for the best…i pray for you and your situation to buddy, im glad i have your work here in my bedroom , i like seeing the work my friends have blessed me with….take care…bob

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

View StumpyNubs's profile


7681 posts in 2999 days

#2 posted 10-23-2013 01:14 AM

Impressive, William! I’m favoriting this one for future reference for sure!

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3041 days

#3 posted 10-23-2013 01:32 AM

Thanks Grizz.
I’ve been down in my back for some time as well. It has really cut into what I’ve been able to get accomplished. It makes for a very aggrevating task when something that normally takes an hour takes all day. I haven’t forgotten that I’m supposed to call you either. I promise I will when I am up to it. I wish you lived closer. I can handle face to face visits much better than phone calls. I hate phones enough that I have to be feeling well to use one unless absolutely necessary.

Stumps, now I know I done a good job if you are impressed.
Thanks for the compliment.


View JL7's profile


8690 posts in 3163 days

#4 posted 10-23-2013 01:41 AM

Pretty clever stuff for sure… the home made tools…....

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3041 days

#5 posted 10-23-2013 01:56 AM

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2888 days

#6 posted 10-23-2013 02:17 AM

You are coming up with some really practical and creative tool solutions! Drilling those angled holes in that cold roll must have been a challenge?

Your tool handles are just beautiful!

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

View DIYaholic's profile


19706 posts in 2873 days

#7 posted 10-23-2013 02:46 AM

Your innovation, creativity and drive are inspiring!
I only wish that I had half of your drive….
I’m sure that I have half the brain!!!

Looking forward to seeing the projects you create with your “custom” tools!!!

-- 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 stefang's profile


16123 posts in 3533 days

#8 posted 10-23-2013 09:51 AM

Very nice work on the turning tools and the pen stuff William. The set screw was a good idea too. It seems that the cutters are protruding further out than they should on the turning tools, and with all the torque generated by a the lathe they might catch easily. If you’ve already used them and they work good just ignore this advice, but personally I wouldn’t have them stick out more than maybe less than 1/2”, but I haven’t tried anything longer so I might be wrong.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3041 days

#9 posted 10-23-2013 11:13 AM

Mike, I have them stuck out so far to show them clear in the photos. For cutting, the set screw is loosened and they are slid back as far as you like. I like mine sticking out about half to three quarters of an inch.

Randy, you have half the brain you say? Did you lose the other half? I told you to stop taking that out to play with.

Andy, drilling them wasn’t hard at all. I use the grinder to make a forty five degree flat at the tip so I’d have a flat surface to start on. Then I made a forty five jig for the drill press out of scrap wood. Keep oil in the hole while drilling and everything went smooth as silk.

Thank you all for your kind words.


View lew's profile


12425 posts in 3954 days

#10 posted 10-23-2013 01:29 PM

I like the way you think! Why buy it if you can make it but if you have to buy it- make it better!!

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

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2888 days

#11 posted 10-23-2013 01:55 PM

William, You are a smart guy. The45 jig would never have occurred to me!

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

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3216 days

#12 posted 10-23-2013 01:59 PM

Hi William, when I first saw that handle I recognized it as oak burl and the pattern on it looks familiar to me too as I had spent time trying to figure how to use it without wasting it. You put it to good use where you can also enjoy the beauty of the wood. Good job my friend!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3065 days

#13 posted 10-23-2013 02:14 PM

You have lots of nice tools there, William. They’ll all be nice additions to your shop.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Doe's profile


1418 posts in 3028 days

#14 posted 10-23-2013 02:39 PM

That end mill is beautiful and the best use of the burl so you can admire it whenever you use it. Your new tools are really great; how wonderful to be able to make exactly what you need instead of buying something and hoping for the best. Do you sharpen them any different because they’re pretty small? I guess it’s not a problem since there’s plenty more where they came from.

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3041 days

#15 posted 10-23-2013 05:22 PM

Lew, those are my thoughts exactly.

Erwin, I just had to use that piece of burl on something g that would stay in my shop. Every oak burl pen I make never stays in my possession as soon as someone else sees it. Thank you so much for giving it to me. It is by far my favorite material I’ve turned so far.

Andy, my mind goes to throw together jigs immediately on something like this. I’ve learned over time that a make shift jig makes almost anything easier, and makes use of scrap wood before it goes into the wood heater.

Thank you Charles.

Doe, I done the initial sharpening on a grinder while holding them with vice grips. The only thing to be careful of is not to allow them to get to hot. That is true with most sharpening, but these small bits get hot quick when sharpening. After initial sharpening, because they are so small, a quick touchup on my nearby oil stone is all it needs.


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