Rookie--Pens keep exploding!

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Forum topic by LonghornDave posted 07-16-2012 08:40 AM 1341 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2138 days

07-16-2012 08:40 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question turning

Hi all,

I am brand new to the pen turning world (and woodworking in general). I have tried to turn about 6 pens and each one of them explodes when I get close to finishing. What might I be doing wrong?

Some info:
The wood is variable: either hemlock, or buckeye burl (Too brittle for a beginner?)
I’m using an EZ wood turning tool (so I don’t think it’s tool sharpness, but maybe)

I ain’t licked yet, but eventually I’m going to run out of supplies.


4 replies so far

View thedude50's profile


3603 posts in 2475 days

#1 posted 07-16-2012 09:30 AM

it sounds like your tool selection may be wrong to me once your close i turn to a skew it must be razor sharp and it its not you will grab and take a huge chunk out of it and it may explode the good news is all you should be losing is pen blanks . I hope you get it figured out but it id typicaly dull tools for most beginners how did you sharpin the little gouge your using ? are you using a scraper if so it too must be sharp the sharpness is critical

for a easier go on the first one lets try a bit of black walnut easy for a beginner try to turn a thicker pen the thin ones are a bear

-- Please check out my new stores and

View Bobmedic's profile


379 posts in 2799 days

#2 posted 07-16-2012 09:56 AM

Burls are prone to breaking apart because of the grain variations and voids. Make sure you have plenty of glue on the tubes when you glue them and use sharp tools and take light cuts. Another consideration is the speed of your lathe. Turn them as fast as you feel comfortable. I think your tools are sharp, the easy wood tools stay sharp along time but if not you can always turn the cutter to a fresh edge. I think the issue is the nature of the wood you are turning and taking too heavy of a cut at a slow speed.

View LonghornDave's profile


2 posts in 2138 days

#3 posted 07-16-2012 12:26 PM

Great! I’ll try out a couple of new things that you suggest and see if that works.

View moke's profile


1175 posts in 2773 days

#4 posted 07-16-2012 07:24 PM

Are you turning Slimlines? If you are the wall thickness of this type of pen is very thin and prone to blowing up.

Like Bobmedic said make sure you take light cuts…to practice cut some scrap oak blanks between 3/4 and 5/8 square and just make sawdust, practice light cuts. On thin walled pens just get them 1/32 proud or more and sand it to size, it takes longer but is safer. Don’t use any sand paper any more aggressive that 150 then step down to 800 or so…inbetween grits, turn off the lathe and sand lengthwise to take out any marks. There are many ways to make pens, everyone has their style, find one that works for you and have fun!!

-- Mike

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