As The Lathe Turns #71: Suggestions

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Blog entry by William posted 02-04-2014 11:55 PM 2502 reads 0 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 70: Making Tools - Part 2 Part 71 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 72: Pens »

I often make the comment that I will try to turn anything once. That statement sometimes brings me suggestions on things to try. Some are obvious good suggestions, and some may make some scratch their heads. Sometimes I like to explore some of these suggestions further though. You never know what may or may not be possible if you don’t try.

Recently, while looking at one of the deer antler pens I have made, a friend made the comment, “wouldn’t it be neat if you could make a flashlight with deer antler on it”.
As soon as the comment was made, I remembered seeing these kits in the Penn State catalogue.

So I ordered two kits. It was a puzzle cutting and drilling the antler so it would be big enough without blowouts to get the job done, but I think they turned out alright.

Some of you may remember some of the pens I’ve made with defects in the wood. I filled the voids with saw dust and a good soaking of CA glue.
Well a friend suggested a similar technique, but using a completely different ingredient for the solid part of the mixture, coffee grounds.
Now I love coffee. So, ever since this idea was first suggested to me, I decided that next time I had a small blowout that caused such a void, that I would try the coffee ground idea. The problem is, since then, I have not had such a blowout.

So I decided to not wait any longer. Instead, I used one of the ugliest pieces of cherry burl I had. I did not have to wait for a blowout on this piece. It already looked like it had been a huge blowout before doing anything.

So I started filling those voids with thin layers of coffee grounds, slowly building it up till it was thick as the wood.

By the time I was ready to turn it, I must say, it was even uglier than it was before I started gluing in the coffee grounds.

After turning, sanding, and finishing though, it didn’t look too bad. I don’t exactly know what words to use for it though besides, interesting.

So, since the cherry burl and coffee ground pen was successful, I started rummaging around the kitchen to see what else I could fill voids with to turn. By this time, it was starting to seem more like a weird science experiment.
I came up with several possibilities. One that stuck in my mind though was grits. I hate grits, mostly because I eat so many of them growing up. They might make an interesting medium for this though. By this time I had stopped asking why, and going with, why not!
Now, some of you from the north may not know what grits are. No, I am not trying to make fun of anyone. My Dad is from the north though, and from him, I know some of you may have to google grits now. In my own personal opinion, you are not missing much, some people, like my kids, love them though.

I started with a piece of oak burl. Oak burl is my favorite of them all. I’m running low on it though, and this may just very well give me the option of using all those little pieces that aren’t good for much because they are in such bad shape.
As a matter of fact, this one didn’t even make it off the drill press before it broke completely in two. I figured it was time to go for broke. So I finished drilling the piece, which was now two pieces, and glued a piece on each end of the pen tube. Then I started slowly filling the missing area with grits until I got it built up enough to turn.

So here is what an oak burl and grits pen looks like. Actually, I like the way this one turned out better than the coffee.
I will definitely have to think more and listen to suggestions in the future about what else I can fill holes with to turn. These pens only reinforce the idea that I will try to turn anything at least one, twice if the failure doesn’t hurt too bad.
Until next time my friends, happy turning!


30 comments so far

View Doe's profile


1403 posts in 2855 days

#1 posted 02-05-2014 12:11 AM

The coffee pen is REALLY amazing! I like it a lot.

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View lightcs1776's profile


4210 posts in 1679 days

#2 posted 02-05-2014 12:20 AM

Very cool. I happen to love grits and coffee. They make a perfect breakfast. I’ll have to mention this to Sherry. She loves coffee too (grits are OK with her, but not her first pick).

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. β€” Tom Paine **

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2283 days

#3 posted 02-05-2014 12:39 AM

You might want to try mixing coffee and grits to get a dark and light high contrast fill. I also thought of adding food color to the girts to get some interesting colors going on. What did you use as a glue? CA?

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3328 days

#4 posted 02-05-2014 12:56 AM

well i think it looks pretty cool, not a bad idea…

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

View HerbC's profile


1763 posts in 2884 days

#5 posted 02-05-2014 12:57 AM

Mix grits, coffee grounds and egg (shells) and you’d have a real breakfast pen…

Course you still got to figure out how to get some bacon in the mix…


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View JL7's profile


8667 posts in 2990 days

#6 posted 02-05-2014 12:58 AM

Pretty amazing William…...I’ve had grits by the way…..I think it’s an acquired taste, but never seen grits in a pen before….....pretty cool! I think Arlin did some coffee beans in a turning once, but not ground coffee…....perfect…..

Good thinking…..

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2867 days

#7 posted 02-05-2014 01:16 AM

Thank you all very much.

Deycart, I use super thin CA glue for the filling. The super thin soaks through and fills the gaps pretty good if you only do a little at a time. I have tried using thick and mixing a paste with sawdust before. The super thin just works better in my opinion though.

I like all the ideas. Dyed grits is a definite possibility for a future pen.


View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2715 days

#8 posted 02-05-2014 01:29 AM

I think both the coffee and the grits turned out very cool. The coffee really looks like part of the burl.

I like grits with butter and brown sugar or fried with syrup!

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

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3328 days

#9 posted 02-05-2014 01:33 AM

oh man andy, your getting me all reved up for some grits, i like them the same as you…i might have to have a little desert tonight…never a bad time for grits…and im not from the south,

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

View lightcs1776's profile


4210 posts in 1679 days

#10 posted 02-05-2014 01:52 AM

Grits should be served with salt, butter, and maybe cheese and bacon.

William, how fast does thin CA set?

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. β€” Tom Paine **

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2867 days

#11 posted 02-05-2014 02:38 AM

Thanks guys.

Chris, it depends on which CA glue you are talking about. I assume you’re talking about the super thin that I used here. It is supposed to dry in about 1-3 seconds. I usually allow it to set for five or ten minutes before moving on though.
The slowest drying glue I use is the extra thick. I use it to glue in pen tubes. It dries in 15-20 seconds. As with all CA glues though, certain woods and such causes it to set much faster. For example, if you’re gluing tubes in zebra wood, you have plenty of time. However, if you’re using it to glue the same tubes in antler, you have one shot to stick the tube in quickly and get it in the right spot, because if you stop for half a second, it’s stuck.

Also, there is an accelerator made for all these glues. I seldom use it. It speeds up the set time, but makes the dried glue extremely brittle. One of the main things I use it for is when gluing up difficult angled segmented pins. If you put thick glue on one piece of wood, wet the other piece with accelerator, all you gotta do is stick them together for about half a second and they are there. You’re ready to move on to the next glueup on your project. Just always remember that brittleness factor. The more you use accelerator to speed up gluing together a pen blank, the more likely it is to blow apart while turning it, and yes, I’ve had that happen.

Dang it.
I just realized that you did specify thin CA.
Oh well. After typing all that, I’m not deleting it now.


View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8089 posts in 2353 days

#12 posted 02-05-2014 02:41 AM

you’re a creative soul William.

Nice job.

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View lightcs1776's profile


4210 posts in 1679 days

#13 posted 02-05-2014 02:44 AM

Thanks for the detailed information. I’m glad you didn’t stick to just the thin CA. I purchased thick CA for Sherry’s pen making. Slower drying is definitely better when starting out.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. β€” Tom Paine **

View clieb91's profile


3520 posts in 3960 days

#14 posted 02-05-2014 03:50 AM

More interesting experiments. Like the grit one, adding food coloring would certainly add something to the finished pen. The antler lights turned out very cool.
Thanks for sharing.

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

View PASs's profile


595 posts in 3123 days

#15 posted 02-05-2014 04:40 AM

A couple years ago I went to the hardware stores and emptied out their key grinding machines.
I have a small rubbermaid bowl filled with the grindings, some aluminum mixed with brass.
It isn’t as glittery as glitter, but it does impart a metallic look to blowouts or cracks. and It’s soft enough to turn, sand, and polish.

-- Pete, "It isn't broken, you just aren't using it right."

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