May 21

Offcut Challange Vase

So when I bought the pen blanks for the fancy pens from Feinesholz, they included a block of padouk in the order. Hadn’t asked for it, they just threw it in there.

The sticker reads, if google translate can be believed, “Thank you for shopping at Feines Holz! Although this piece has one or two flaws or is just undersized, it is too good to throw away. Or not? Maybe you can still do something with it?! Padouk”. You have to love the idea of throwing in an offcut to an order with a challange on it, this is a crowd that knows its market demographics pretty well 😀

So it wasn’t a huge offcut, about 5cmx5cmx12cm (“about” because every edge was a slightly different length – it’s an offcut, not a processed blank 😀 ). And there’s variation of the colour throughout because it’s near the boundary of the heartwood and sapwood.

That changing colour might have been the thing that gave me the idea, I’m not sure. I start off simply enough, it looked like the right shape to cut a small bud vase from (and until I get an extension bar for my little forstner bit, bud vases are about the best I can manage), so that’s what I did:

Turned between centers to start, just to round it over and get a basic shape into it, and I’m mostly watching the colour of the heartwood for this and trying to see if I can avoid cutting all of that out. which you could do given the way it was lying in the wood.

Then drilled it out to the depth of my forstner bit (which isn’t much, maybe 75-80mm?), and used a ring tool (the crown mini revolution is the one I have) to work the shape a little inside and a bowl gouge to make a few shallow cuts to get the final lip shape.

Around about this point, I had the idea for this… piece? thing? not sure what you call it. What if I did the outside of that last coloured bowl, but on the inside, like fireworks and have that contrast with the outside which will be all-natural wood, if a fancy colour. But I’d need to open it up down one wall to show it off. Maybe just cut a chunk away? What about the “open jacket lapel” look?

I ebonised the inside to get a feel for what it’d be like (masking became something of a feature of this little project).

And yeah, not the slickest of finishes there but enough to give an idea of what it’d look like and I thought it was worth going on with. Thing is, cutting into that vase and then doing the shaping and sanding and spraying that was to come was going to be a complete pain with it in that horizontal orientation, literally. Ask any woodturner who hollows stuff and they’ll tell you that lower back pain is a problem because you’re bent over at odd angles shoving a bit of metal into a spinning bit of wood, so it’s not just stretching, it’s carrying a load while stretched. This is something I’m kindof familiar with from the air rifle shooting – an asymmetric offset load on the spine is just not something you should do if you can help it. Larger lathes will rotate the headstock or have other ways of coping with this, but mine doesn’t do that, and no lathe will rotate from horizontal to vertical, so something else was needed…

Pictured: Something else 😀 Specifically, that’s a Simon Hope carving jig. Plugs into the tool post hole in the banjo, chuck screws right onto it, lets you set it at any angle to work on it, and the two blue aluminium cylinders that form the body have a kind of keying detent system between them so they can lock at certain angles (roughly every 30 degrees I think) for even more rigidity. This thing is a very solid little beastie. I don’t know if I’d happily wail on it with a mallet the way I would when carving oak for a box, but for push gouge work, it’d definitely be up to the task, and for sawing and sanding and shaping, it’s not even going to notice that you’re there. So, installed it and mounted the chuck on it.

Sweet. Then I was able to cut out the opening I wanted,

And then I could take the dremel and a saburrtooth burr and shape the edges of the cut to give me the open-lapel thing.

Glue-up was a bit of a pain because you couldn’t clamp it, but get a good matching set of surfaces and a rub joint will surprise you with how little clamping force it needs.

And now that needed shaping, so out with the dremel and burr again…

And I’m trying to get the cut to look like it’s flowing down to that hemispherical cutout as well, just because it looked better than the cut thinning out to nothing. Then I had a few rounds of trying to mask up the outside and spray the inside with ebonising lacquer properly. I say a few rounds, because it’s a bit tricky with that shape and I didn’t want to get puddles of the stuff in the bottom of the vase part.

I figured it can’t puddle at the bottom if it’s on the floor, right? 😀 This is why you don’t clean up all the shavings off the floor till the project’s done 😀

Yeah, not great, and I missed a spot. Bother. Try again…

Okay, that time it worked. So I had this idea to steal for how to do the painting on the inside, using iridescent paints, flow medium and string, which Wayne the Woodturner had done a video on a while back and it looked perfect.

…and I couldn’t get it to work on a concave surface at all. Came close but no cigar.

Yeah, just not happy with it at all. So cleaned out the bulk of the paint with isopropanol and then remasked and resprayed the interior.

Getting too used to masking by this point, this is the fourth or fifth respray this piece has had.

Went back to using the iridescent paints neat and compressed air to move the paint. There still seemed something missing though.

Bit of sanding and cleaning up and at that point I realised that what I didn’t like was that “dot” at the bottom of the cut, so I painted that with some titanium white and was happy with that. Then some final sanding, some coats of acrylic gloss lacquer, then some polishing by hand with yorkshire grit and a last coat of hampshire sheen and parted it off and branded it and called it done.

It still needed a good rubdown there to get the last of the hampshire sheen off the surface, but overall I’m happy with that, I got pretty close to what I had in mind and it looks pretty. That’ll do.

May 21

Fancy Pen

So the first of the fancy pens is done. I actually processed all three of the blanks at once this weekend, but I only got to turn and finish one of them. I also have one remaining blank from Feinesholz to use for something else, but that’ll mean buying a new pen kit to evaluate.

So the rightmost and the middle pen blank there are both hybrid pen blanks with stabilised boxelder maple burl with resin, so I picked one of the two to use, and the other is still waiting. And I also cut down the elm burr (thats second from the left) and the blue stabilised boxelder maple burl blank that’s second from the right.

Cut to length, drilled for the brass tubes, scratched up the brass on some sandpaper and epoxied the tubes into the blanks.

And of course, I have a few offcuts. I don’t know if I can actually use these for keyfobs like I hoped, they’re a bit small, but I’ll have a think and see what I can do.

The epoxy went on on Thursday, didn’t get to the shed on Friday, and then on Saturday I dressed the ends and knocked off the edges on the lathe sanding wheel:

And then it was time to mount the first blank.

Some sheer blind luck there – I had missed the bit in the Taylors Mirfield instructions about how there are two size bushings for the part that becomes the pen body (the finial is slightly smaller than the nib) and it was only luck that I got them the right way round.

On Sunday, sharpened the spindle roughing gouge and the skew and got to work.

And now it’s sanding time. 600 dry sanding first, then wet-sanding up through the grits with the micromesh (I use water and dish soap for a liquid for the wetsanding). After every grit, stop the lathe, and sand along the axis of the pen, rotating by hand slowly to break up radial sanding lines. For the last two grits, wipe down with isopropanol between each one.

Then Yorkshire Grit, Yorkshire Grit Microfine, and car resin polish.

And one last coat of Hampshire sheed wax.

And that’s that. Then it was a matter of assembly and the Taylors Mirfield kit came partly assembled for the centerband and finial, which made life a bit easier.

That came out really nice. And two more to go this week, and I must buy a few more pen kits I think.

May 21

Berlin desk pen

So, in order to procrastinate before starting the fancy pens (and also because I was on-call this week so I didn’t have much shed time), I wanted to try out a new pen kit. See, brexit (that gift that keeps on taking away) has started driving up prices for UK based vendors and I don’t really see there being a lot of potential for that to stop anytime soon. There are a lot of good UK pen kit vendors and retailers but if I have to pay an extra 20-30% on top of the price tag for customs, duty, handling fees and so on, well, there are a lot of good French and German and Dutch vendors and retailers as well, so I’ve been looking at a few.

The IAP have a nice list of vendors from all over the place, and I basically started going through each of those on the continent and looking at websites for something to jump out. There’s been one ro two but I thought I’d start small so when I saw the Berlin desk pen kit from Gerhard Liebensteiner I thought that’d do nicely (their Berlin Mini pen looks interesting too, but the desk pen has a lot more potential for odd shapes so I’ll start there).

It’s the shape that jumped out and grabbed me here – because it’s a closed-end design, you can turn pretty much any sort of pen shape you’d like, so there’s a lot of potential there.

I liked the taper-away-to-a-point idea, so I thought I’d give that a go to start with. The kit itself is very, very simple:

And by using a brass tube that comes with threads already cut on the inside, this might be one of the simplest closed-end pen kits out there. There are only two real drawbacks to the kit – first, it’s a nonretractable desk pen, so you need some sort of holder for it. But then, if you’re going to go make a 30cm long wand of a pen with this kit, it’s not going into your jacket pocket anyway so maybe that’s not such a big drawback. The other one is that there’s a lot of stickout. More on that in a moment.

Liebensteiner do a nice video on making a pen with this kit, though it is in german, but that’s not really that much of a problem:

So I ordered a kit to test it out and the tooling, which came to around €15 (plus another €15 in shipping, thank you brexit) and it took all of four days to arrive. I had an acrylic pen blank to hand so I used that – this is just a test pen, so it’s not going to be anything special really. I don’t have a pen drill for this kit, but it’s just an 8mm drill bit that you need so I just used one of my completely standard HSS bradpoint drill bits and started drilling.

This is the first problem I came across though – you’re drilling a much longer hols for this pen than normal. Almost 100mm deep and it’s a blind hole at that. So you have to have good alignment and centering or you’ll pay for it later. With the hole drilled, I epoxied in the brass tube after loctite’ing the adjustable plug at the other end of the tube to the right setting for the nib to be exposed by the recommended 2.5.-3.0mm amount.

I mean, technically that’s a pen right there 😀

To mount it on the lathe, your tooling is a small arbor which is threaded on one end; a bushing of the appropriate outside diameter threads onto this thread and you then screw that into the end of the brass tube where the nose cone normally goes and hold the arbor in the chuck. If you have a collet chuck for the lathe, this would be its time to shine. I don’t yet, so out came the stepped jaws which work well for gripping small diameters on my chuck.

You can see the arbor and spacer/bushing there. It’s not fully threaded home here, just for the photo.

And there we’re fully threaded home and seated, and you can see what I meant about the stickout. Granted, here I’m making a much longer pen than the tube, but that’d be par for the course with this pen. I think this might be the only reason this kit isn’t better than the normal kits as a beginner’s kit – if it wasn’t for this, it’d be easier, more fun and less expensive than the slimline pen kits they keep putting into the beginners pen turning kits. So, tail support right up until the end with this one.

Can’t say I’m a fan of this material either. Even on the skew it complained a lot about being cut, in a very high-pitched voice. For the end I wound up cutting it with the skew while supporting it from the far side with my fingers which I’ve seen production woodturners do, but it makes me nervous. A spinning thing and a sharp thing and my fingers. Not a mix I want to try. But, got it done.

And on to sanding, from 400 grit up to 800 dry, then wet micromesh pads to 12000, then Yorkshire grit and Yorkshire grit microfine and resin polish and then a final coat of Hampshire sheen wax.

Not too shabby. Then just unscrew the arbor (I found it easier here to open the chuck and grip the arbor with mole grips because the turning will really jam the pen onto the arbor and I think the forces might get the arbor’s steel thread nicely wedged into the tube’s brass threads and a little effort was needed to break that seal. But no permanent damage done. Just remove the arbor, insert the pen refill and spring and then screw the nosecone down over the lot to secure it, and done.

I think that’s a success. Will have to add Liebensteiner to the list of pen kit retailers. They also do a few other kits, but I might choose another vendor for the next test pen, just to evaluate retailers as well as kits.