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Rockler Pen Starter Kit and turning kits

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Review by USCJeff posted 08-09-2009 09:00 AM 3580 views 1 time favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Rockler Pen Starter Kit and turning kits No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I decided to finally give up my boycott and try my hand at pen making. I didn’t want to become one of those “pen guys”. There are a lot of things you need to get started on pen one. I bought the starter set as it seemed the simplist way to go about it. Having turned a couple pens now, I might have done it differently. The pricing is good considering the a la carte prices of the components. I found, however, I would have opted for different components. The mandrel works, but I replace it with a $30 keyless mandrel which also has the benefit of changing the shaft length to avoid the need of a lot of spacers. The mill requires you to turn your own handle, not a huge thing, but a chore none the less. The three slimline kits are great, no complaints. The blanks weren’t my favorite woods, but they weren’t pine either. If I was to do it again, I would’ve paid slightly more for the items individually.

A HUGE GRIPE regarding some of the project kits. I’ve bought kits for peppermills and atomizers thus far. The hardware is great and looks good. Rockler drives me crazy in the sizing of their components however. The peppermill mechanism requires a 1 1/16th” bit. I’d be willing to bet my lathe that less than 1 and 10 Lumberjocks have that bit. The atomizer requires a 19/32” bit. Bet 1 in 50 has that one. I can’t fathom a need for them to be an non-typical bit size other than hoping to sell a bit with the kits. Don’t go to Lowe’s or Home Depot for those, not there. Neither of the WWing stores I shop had them. Marketing strategy best I can tell. The bushings for the atomizer are again frustrating. Their unique. I again can’t see why they couldn’t match a more popular size that could be used on a larger pen for example. After filling a spade bit or two, the kits look good. Just a lot of frustration.

-- Jeff, South Carolina




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USCJeff

1044 posts in 2812 days



17 comments so far

View Sef's profile

Sef

114 posts in 2395 days


#1 posted 08-09-2009 12:09 PM

Jeff, I’m afraid you can’t blame the bits and bushings on Rockler. There are probably 20 different bits needed, just for the different pen kits. A lot of them are odd sizes, and there are even more needed for other project kits. Bushings are even worse. That goes for kits from all the retailers, not just Rockler, as they all get them from the same few manufacturers. I hate starter kits, personally. They start you off with a mandrel, gold plated kits, and usually friction polish, all of which can be more trouble than they’re worth. They make it easier for people to get their feet wet, though. Have fun, and post your firsts.

-- I may not know a lot, but at least I know that I don't know.?.?. I think. http://chathampenworks.com/

View dustbunny's profile

dustbunny

1149 posts in 2039 days


#2 posted 08-09-2009 01:26 PM

I also found the drill sizing to be frustrating. Some even require letter size drills, which I had no clue even existed until making a few pens. My husband bought me a drill set from Harbor Freight that has metric, letter, and fractional drills down to 64ths. This has been an awesome investment, and they work just fine.
Photobucket
These titanium coated high speed steel bits run cooler and last longer than standard drill bits, they penetrate 75% faster, cut more freely so you use less power, and they don’t expand with heat, so you get properly sized holes. 118° tips 29 fractional sizes 1/16” to 1/2” by 64ths 26 letter sizes A to Z 60 numbered wire gauge sizes 1 to 60

I keep a conversion chart in my shop notebook – http://www.oregonvintage.com/drill.pdf

This is very handy in cross referencing drill sizes for pens.

Lisa

-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~ http://quiltedwood.com

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John Gray

2370 posts in 2630 days


#3 posted 08-09-2009 03:58 PM

USCJeff thanks for the heads up.

dustbunny thanks for the chart.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

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USCJeff

1044 posts in 2812 days


#4 posted 08-09-2009 11:15 PM

My office complex is about a half mile from Harbor Freight. I honestly haven’t thought to look there even though I’ve seen your pictured kit many times on lunch breaks. Don’t get me started on the money I spend there killing a lunch hour. I’m like most, I have a love-hate thing going on with HF. Love some, hate some. I will say, I’m picking up one next time. The more I turn, the more I realize that boring accurate and perfectly sized holes is parampount to the process.

As to the chart, I have Wood magazine version taped to a freezer in the shop (yes, I had to concede a corner for a freezer we really don’t use. I stood my ground with the Christmas Tree). I like the chart b/c my digital calipers (One of the HF “loves, ironic) doesn’t read fractions. Simpler than a calculator.

Yes, I’ll be fair and say I don’t blame Rockler, they have a good history with me and that’s why I started there when getting set up for pen making. I’m for PSI and others are very similar. Who would’ve known the lathe would be the cheap purchase compared to the supplies. The chuck and few lathe tools match the lathe alone. I do suppose many are a one time thing.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

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Karson

34912 posts in 3145 days


#5 posted 08-09-2009 11:52 PM

All of the kits use strange sizes and yes it can get frustrating. I mean HF won’t have the Forster bit you need either. They go by 1/16 up to 1” and 1/8” after that.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

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USCJeff

1044 posts in 2812 days


#6 posted 08-09-2009 11:55 PM

Yeah Karson, no chance on the forstner without ordering. I was going to settle for a spade or twist bit like above.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

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Karson

34912 posts in 3145 days


#7 posted 08-10-2009 12:07 AM

I was think I might take an old, out of set forstner bit, and chuck it up in the metal lathe and peal a little off.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

536 posts in 2225 days


#8 posted 08-12-2009 12:55 AM

I started pen turning with the PSI starter set, 5 slimline pens and 5 pencils, adjustable mandrel with bushings, 7mm brad point drill bit, 3 cheap tools (gouge, parting tool and skew), end mill and 2 part epoxy. The end mill is the only thing in that set I want to replace, I’d like to get one with carbide cutters. I didn’t bother making a handle for mine, I just use it in a drill to true up the face and clear out any glue in the tube.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

View Karson's profile

Karson

34912 posts in 3145 days


#9 posted 08-12-2009 04:15 AM

Chris: I had a friend that I was tutoring on making pens. He called Penn State Industries to order all of his supplies. They told him not to get the Carbide End Mill, because the carbide kept shattering. Stay with the high speed steel. I had asked him to order one for me when he was ordering. So I can’t speak from any experience as to the problem.

It would be worth checking with your vendor as to the quality and warranty.

When I bought my end mill it had a threaded shaft on the end. I put a threaded connector on the shaft so I had flat sides to use in the drill press when using the mill.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View USCJeff's profile

USCJeff

1044 posts in 2812 days


#10 posted 08-12-2009 04:26 AM

I also chuck my mill. I turned a purple heart cylinder to fit the threaded end of the mill. The centers match so flow out is not an issue. I chuck it in the lathe’s Jacob’s chuck most times.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View scopemonkey's profile

scopemonkey

183 posts in 2908 days


#11 posted 08-12-2009 06:12 AM

Karson: I’ve been using the carbide version of the mill from PSI and love it. I got tired of constantly sharpening the HSS version that came with my mill. No problems with chipping/shattering at all—maybe I’m just lucky for once and got the one that doesn’t break. So far, it has held up quite well to the end grain of some pretty hard woods and cuts as well now as when I first got it.

-- GSY from N. Idaho

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Karson

34912 posts in 3145 days


#12 posted 08-12-2009 06:51 AM

Monkey Man:

Thanks for the positive review on the carbide end mill. That’s good to know. I’m not sure what would cause the carbide to shatter, the brass shouldn’t do it, nor wood.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

536 posts in 2225 days


#13 posted 08-12-2009 10:29 PM

Hey Karson, thanks for the warning about the carbide. Like you I don’t know what would cause the carbide to shatter while it’s in use. The only thing I can think that would cause it to shatter is if it were dropped on a concrete floor or hit with something. I’ve actually used a friend’s carbide cutter, and it works great. Maybe there was a bad batch of steel or something.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

View USCJeff's profile

USCJeff

1044 posts in 2812 days


#14 posted 08-12-2009 10:57 PM

I’d be interested to know the science behind carbide vs. HSS as far as the shattering being discussed. Logically, I would think the opposite, but there very well can be some variables I’m missing.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

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USCJeff

1044 posts in 2812 days


#15 posted 08-12-2009 10:58 PM

I’d be interested to know the science behind carbide vs. HSS as far as the shattering being discussed. Logically, I would think the opposite, but there very well can be some variables I’m missing.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

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