08
May 21

Pen practice

Friend of mine got married recently and he made his own wedding pens. Which were very pretty.

So I thought I’d like to try making a fancy pen or two. I got a pen turning kit a while ago, and made a single pen before six other things cropped up, but I did enjoy it so I’d been planning to make more and this got me off my ass to do so. First up, made a shedmade pen press, then went onto Feinesholz and Taylors Mirfield and spent a lot more money than I normally would on these things, and got some nice kits and blanks and tooling. First though, I wanted to get a bit more practice in before ruining a few hundred quid’s worth of raw materials, so I picked out one of the acrylic blanks I got when I bought the lathe, one of the padouk wood blanks I got at the same time, and thought I’d like to use the third pen kit to try out making a segmented pen blank.

I think it’s fair to say that that glue-up could have gone better πŸ˜€ Oak, walnut, ebony veneer and a steamed pear veneer that has been stained silver gray. Looks unusable, but the nice thing about pens is that they don’t use much wood really, so this was recoverable.

Cut them to the right length for their brass tubes, drilled and epoxied in the tubes. I saved the offcuts from the padouk and acrylic blanks, I had an idea there.

Then on to turning, starting with the segmented blank.

I rather like the turning with pens; it’s good practice with the skew and it’s not like these will have complex shapes. Mostly you’re just working to ensure the ends match the bushings. Then it’s on to sanding.

This is just sanded up to 800 grit with poppyseed oil, then sanding sealer and sanded with 2000 grit. Hampshire sheen wax over the top and call it done. I don’t know if I like the idea of a CA finish, it seems plasticy for wood, but I’ll have to give it a go at some point. The finish on these turned out a bit too matt after a day, so they needed something, whether CA or acrylic lacquer or melamine lacquer. But these are just for practice anyway. On to assembly.

I can report that the shed pen press works quite well. A longer handle might make it easier, but this is totally manageable.

Not terrible. Next day, on to the padouk blank…

Well, that’s a fun colour to clean up πŸ˜€ Not stained or dyed. For those who don’t know the timber, it’s an african tropical hardwood that’s that bright vibrant red when fresh cut, but it will dull over time and with UV. Still though, lovely colour.

Again, sanded to 800 with poppyseed oil, sealed, 2000 grit, then hampshire sheen wax.

Not horrible. Finally, acrylic and this one I was wondering about because I’ve not turned acrylic on the lathe before.

Also, didn’t want to waste the inch left over from cutting the blank to size, so I drilled that too and used a keyring kit to do something with it while also practicing cutting it.

Finishing is remarkably easy – sand with 800 paper first, then work your way through the micromesh sanding pads in order up to 12000 grit and that’s pretty much that. You can put on a layer of melamine or acrylic lacquer but it’s not critical for solid acrylic like this, it’s already plastic πŸ˜€

The mess from turning the pen is a bit less fun with this one, but it’s still managable at least.

Before sanding:

and then after sanding to 12000 on the micromesh as before but then also continuing on with yorkshire grit and yorkshire grit superfine:

Another quick experiment here – not sure which of these would be best:

Autosol on the left, resin polish on the right:

And at this scale, I can’t tell any difference. I know they showed up different for the resin when making Calum’s desk but I guess that wasn’t as hard as this blank. There’s no appreciable difference between the two here. So I gave it one coat of microcrystalline wax and called it done.

Pen doesn’t look too bad, but the whole “set” looks even better:

Next up, the fancy sketching pencil and then the fountain pens…


27
Dec 20

Gnome army

Saw Rebecca Degroot’s video on making a gnome:

Looked like fun, so I made one or two while messing about with decorations.

Then I thought they’d be nice presents for the other kids in Calum’s class, so batch work time. I didn’t have many blanks readymade for this though (I’ll have to remember to stock up in October for next year) so I took a standard CLS lumber 4×2 and cut it down the middle on the bandsaw into two 2×2 rectangles and used the roughing gouge to round them up.

Softwood in general isn’t generally recommended for turning but with sharp tools it’s fine for basic stuff like this. I had a very minimalist story stick with just two ticks on it to mark out the body and a length for the tenon, and marked off the blank with it.

Then stick the point of the skew into the lines to deepen them.

Then with the skew, turn the top and bottom corners of the body and smooth out the bit in between to a gentle barrel curve. Make sure to overexpose the camera if possible.

Then use the parting tool to turn what will be the tenon down past the shoulder at the top of the body, but not all the way as you need some strength left in it to sand the body.

Then swing in the dust collector and sand up to 240 grit. This is the secret to a beginner’s woodturning – buy 80grit sandpaper in bulk.

Dousing with sanding sealer before the last grit to stiffen the grain a bit.

Then hampshire sheen wax (because it’s now certified food-and-toy-safe) and buffing.

And now part the tenon down to 6mm (using the wrench-as-a-gauge trick which is complicated by me not having very many wrenches that small)

And part off and into the box it goes and we move on to the next section of the blank and repeat 19 more times…

Next, hats.

I didn’t have many blanks at all for this, so half were a glued-up blank made from walnut offcuts and half were stained CLS lumber. Again, very simple marking out, then use a spindle gouge to turn the rough shape, and put a tenon at the top using a skew.

This is why we prefer to use larger tenons by the way, a 3mm tenon with a skew is…. great practice for the skew πŸ˜€

Then sand, seal, sand again and wax…

Then part off, being careful to undercut as you part so the hat is concave underneath to match the convex top of the body. Then completely give up on turning and just cheat by buying several bags of wooden balls two years ago and forgetting what they were for and just using them here for noses and baubles and a 6mm dowel sanded down to 3mm to fit the noses. And drill holes in the body for the nose and under the hat for the body’s tenon and in the balls for the nose tenon and hat tenon, which is awkward till you realise you can hold the ball using mole grips rather than trying to clamp one in a vice or making a jig.

So 20 sets of these, and then a bag of faux fur…

And now under supervision from the 8 year old, who will manage the matching of bodies to hats to beards and specify beard length, assemble everything using a full bottle of CA glue…

And then packed up and sent off for delivery by Calum.

They were well received πŸ™‚ We even got some photos of the gnomes in their new homes…

Overall, good skew practice and fun to make. Must do them again next year, but this time, get some blanks in around October and start making them in November πŸ˜€


29
Jul 20

Ten Years

So ten years ago today…

Claire and me just after getting married!

The traditional gift guide says ten years is… tin. Hm. Really? Was tin some seriously sought-after material at some point in the last few centuries? Weird. But okay, tradition is tradition…

We can at least make a nice box though. I have some walnut and I still have some of that lovely rippled sycamore Custard gave me when I was searching for thick veneers…

Simple design from a joinery point of view, so just mill the components and cut to size to match the tin…

Grooves in the base of the front and back panels and in the sides will hold the base, which is 3mm boxwood (lovely material, it’s a shame it’s so hard to find).

It’s almost a single-use plane but it’s the best tool for this task really. The depth of the groove and the distance from the bottom of the panels is set using the boxwood base directly.

Then just groove away.

For the sides, because you don’t want to run off the ends with the groove, a different approach is needed; and at this point I discovered the narrowest of my usual chisels was 5mm wide and the groove is 3mm. A 1mm gap on either side would be a bit unsightly, so I was about to get out the grinder wheel and convert one of the older chisels to life as a narrower chisel when I checked the less-used ones and bingo…

3mm almost on the nose (actually a tad under). Hilariously, this wasn’t some engraving tool or fine work chisel, this is a morticing pigsticker designed to go through several inches of oak…

This gave me a giggle or two, but then on with chopping out the mortices for the base in the sides.

Tappy-tap-tap, as they say. Very shallow mortice, only one pass with light taps required, then a bit of scraping with the tip of the chisel to clean up and then check for fit.

The cross-grain mortices are less straightforward because they’re cross-grain and very narrow. You can’t really chop along the mortice for these. I tried cutting them like a housing dado but that wasn’t really getting it done, so I resorted in the end to knifing in the edges of the mortice rather deeply, chopping a little with the morticing chisel to a mm or so down to define the mortice, then drilling out the rest and cleaning up with the bevel-edged chisel.

Worked pretty well.

Then just repeat on the other side.

There’s a fair bit of fettling with all this as well but it got there in the end. I also drilled holes in the back panel and lid for the barrel hinges (butt hinges on this scale are something I still can’t get right). Then it’s time to knock it all back apart and sand the panels and the inside of the sides and the base and prefinish the insides because it’d be much harder later on, and then I gave everything a coat or two of poppyseed oil (it’s very light so it doesn’t darken the sycamore much).

And then glue-up. Just titebond here, no need for the hide glue and it was cold so it wouldn’t flow well without faffing about with hot water.

Along the way to here, the lid changed from rippled sycamore to more walnut because of a realisation about the size of the box and the lid (ie. that the lid was too narrow to cover from front to back unless it was sitting inside the box and I didn’t have the hinges for that). But the walnut had a knot so it was resin time again (I mean, it’s me, of course it’s resin time).

And that came out nicely after scraping and sanding down the lid. It’s a little beauty spot. But the box is a bit… chunky at this point. Not to worry, that’s part of the plan. And now I get to try to be delicate with industrial tools…

Angle grinder and a flap disk in 40 grit and one in 120 grit. It’s like using a power router only without the convenient handholds or the reference surfaces or the safety features. Exciting times

Worked though. And now a lot of handsanding with every grit from 80 to 240. The cloth-backed sandpaper from the lathe was very useful here especially with the parts in the carved grooves.

Okay, now for finishing. First off, wipe off all the sanding dust with a dry rag, then with kitchen paper soaked in isopropanol. Then two coats of poppy seed oil.

Makes a difference!

Next up, a new lathe toy, the burnishing wheel. It’s not a fancy one, it’s just the chestnut products basic one. Works well. I will say that I didn’t expect it to be quite so grabby though, and it did bounce my hand off the chuck which wasn’t fun. Be careful out there folks…

And yes, I mixed carnuba and beeswax at the final stage. Also, I was unprepared for the sheer amount of cotton fibres this thing throws everywhere. It looks like the spiders were working overtime in the shed.

Worth it though.

And after that, two coats of blonde shellac with another buff on the final wheel after each coat, and finishing was done. Final job was to epoxy in the barrel hinges (finishing was easier with the lid separate) which was a tad fiddly because of course it was, hinges are my nemesis. But it worked…

The resin dot glows in the dark!

Also, yes, that’s a tin of spam.

And also, no, I’m not that bad.

Tin is the traditional gift, but tradition can go jump in a lake.