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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pen Turning

So, here's what happened. I was looking for hardware for my "Most Useless Machine Ever", and dragged my son along with me into a local woodworking store (Woodcraft, if you're wondering). While I was rummaging around in the hardware department, my son was looking at the pens, and kits for making pens that were on display in the store. He sort of has this thing for expensive fountain pens. We left with a pen kit, and a nice red and black acrylic pen blank that happened to be on sale, and that he had to have. That was a month ago. For some reason he decided this was the weekend to make a pen. That's him standing in front of the lathe. It was the first time he had ever used the lathe, and I think he was a little tense, especially with DAD breathing down his neck. Actually, I'm a pretty easy going guy, regardless of what you may have heard. The second photo shows the pen blanks mounted on a mandrel which we made instead of buying one. You can do that sort of thing if you have a metal lathe. Pens are usually made on a wood lathe, as far as I can tell. Judging from the number of pen kits, and turning blanks of various exotic woods and man made materials, this pen making thing is a 'really big deal' among wood turners. My son stuck with it all day and in about five hours turned out a really nice looking pen. That includes the time to make the mandrel and figure out the instructions. It was the first time either of us had attempted this. I think it turned out really well. The photo doesn't do it justice. It's in his school colors too. Doesn't hurt. By the way, if your son or daughter takes an interest in doing something with their hands, I'd encourage you to encourage them. I got to spend the day in the shop with my son, listening to the lathe run, even if I wasn't running it, and he got a really nice looking pen for cheap, and the satisfaction of making it himself, all of which is worth a lot. From time to time I see requests for starter projects on the 9x20 Lathe Group. I had never thought about it, but making a pen is a great metal or wood lathe starter project, if you're looking for one. I imagine these might make really nice gifts too. If you're starting out, I recommend the acrylic material. It turns really easily, and doesn't splinter like wood might. It does smell really odd while it's being turned, though. My son polished the finished turnings starting with a file, and moving to progressively finer grades of sandpaper, ending with 600 grit wet or dry. He finished with white rubbing compound of the sort used to buff automotive clear coat finishes, because I had some. It worked, and brought the finished pen to a really nice sheen.


smellsofbikes said...

I've done a fair bit of woodturning on the metal lathe. Spin it *fast* and use as sharp a bit as you can manage, and you won't have much problem with tearout/splintering, because you're removing so little wood and the whole setup is so rigid compared to a wood lathe.
It's also nice to be able to cut precision sizes with the metal lathe.

Nice pen, nice work.

Trouser said...

I echo your advice about getting kids in the workshop. I spent a couple of hours in mine today with my twelve year old daughter. I have encouraged her to try anything that takes her fancy and so she does.
She had to make a musical instrument for here science class so having purchased a set of guitar strings, she got up on the band saw and ripped and shaped some jarrah, finished it on the linisher, measured and drilled it, made bridge peices etc. In the end she had a servicable dingus or doo-hicky, which ever you prefer.
I get immense pleasure from watching her being very competent around the workshop.
Later that day she was helping me in the kitchen, learning how to make steak and kidney pie.

Smitty said...

Yes, well, I may have created a monster, though. My son has now just completed his seventh pen or pencil, and I'm having to schedule time in my own shop.