Bog Oak Pen

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Project by Ethan Sincox posted 04-06-2007 07:59 PM 4527 views 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When I was making my sgian dubh presentation box for my best man, I wanted to use bog oak in it. The bog oak I bought from the U.K. came with a few larger pieces, so I thought I’d try my hand at pen turning.

I’m not terribly comfortable using the lathe yet, so I still have a lot of cleaning up to do on my basic techniques. To up the difficulty level even more, the piece I picked to turn was pretty pithy and had some voids in it. We soaked the blanks in hardener for a few days – I would have hated to see what it was like without that step! Break-out ended up being a huge problem, even with the most delicate touch.

I’ve turned pens before, mostly using rosewood and other oily exotics. They were always so easy – like turning a stick of butter! But I didn’t let this one get to me. I just kept at it.

The guy who was helping me (letting me use his lathe, showing me different turning techniques, that sort of thing) sold me one of his pen kits so I could just use his bushings and not have to buy the whole setup. I decided on the Churchill style – I thought it appropriate, considering the wood’s origin.

I ended up giving the pen to Dana’s uncle, George, for Christmas. He used to do a lot of woodworking when he was younger – he still does a bit here and there when he can – and I knew he would appreciate it.

I also did a nice write-up of where the bog oak came from and how it was found and printed that up on parchment paper and then rolled it up into a tube and sealed it with a wax seal (no pictures of that…). Presentation is everything!

As far as the finish goes, I used a lacquer finish, just spraying it on while the pen was still on the lathe. I could have filled gaps or sanded more smoothly, but I really wanted the grain and character of the wood to show as much as possible. Some testing had shown the bog oak would pretty much go black after any finish was applied, so I thought the texture of the grain was about as good as I was going to get.

-- Ethan,

10 comments so far

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Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4200 days

#1 posted 04-06-2007 08:00 PM

(Oh, and Happy Birthday, Martin!)

-- Ethan,

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4427 days

#2 posted 04-06-2007 08:12 PM

Great Pen Ethan. And great story.

I was thinking about a blog series or something like that on wood species. Kind of like our own Winepedia. We could all contribute with woods and pictures and write ups of what we know about different woods.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4119 days

#3 posted 04-06-2007 09:28 PM

Beautiful piece Ethan. I hate talking money when it comes to wood but this stuff is about as expensive as wood can get isn’t it? Does it come in very large pieces? Maybe I should just ask for a posting of that writeup you did. Great work Ethan and thanks for sharing it with us.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4119 days

#4 posted 04-06-2007 09:29 PM

Darn it Karson, your edit popped up just as I posted mine. I think that’s a great idea by the way.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View shack's profile


114 posts in 4102 days

#5 posted 04-06-2007 09:46 PM

Great pen I have yet to try any turning yet.

-- JohnShackleford,North Carolina

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4200 days

#6 posted 04-06-2007 10:00 PM


If you’re patient, and you can find it, the wood itself isn’t too terribly over-priced. I have a nice little collection of it now, and I plan on using it as small accents in pieces (like I did with the sgian dubh presentation box). I’ll probably try carving some of it and then inlaying that into boxes or table legs or whatever.

The expensive part is shipping it from the U.K. That has cost me more than the wood each time.

-- Ethan,

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4353 days

#7 posted 04-06-2007 11:53 PM

Nice pen! Great write up too, I’m sure your uncle loves it on many levels.

I just turned my first pen yesterday, an addictive little project if ever there was one!

Hmmm…. could I make my own bog oak with a trashcan, debris, rainwater and a couple of years???

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4273 days

#8 posted 04-07-2007 06:57 PM

That is some old wood Ethan, I’ve read about that. It’s quite beautiful. Excellent piece. jockmike.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View scottishbob's profile


169 posts in 2314 days

#9 posted 05-30-2013 10:51 PM

Hi just got some bog oak pen blanks, what is the hardener you mentioned? what is it for ?
Thanks bob

-- Ireland, Galway .... fingers! "we dont sell them"

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Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4200 days

#10 posted 05-30-2013 11:39 PM

Bob, I believe I used PEG (Polyethylene Glycol). It has been a while since I turned that pen. :). You only need to use it, though, if the bog oak isn’t solid enough. If the wood you have is solid, then turn away.

If you don’t want to hunt down PEG, or don’t want to pay for it, you can probably get away with using the ultra viscous super glues that are thin enough to penetrate into the wood.

Hope that helps.

-- Ethan,

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