Saturday, 18 August 2018

Triffid Desk Pen

Hi all,
I finally managed to finish the desk pen that I started a few week ago. It has been a long process but I believe it turned out alright. So here it is, What do you think?

My wife isn't sure about it. "It's either great or hideous," she said then started laughing. That knocked my confidence a bit so I put images of it on a couple of forums to see what other users thought and almost everybody liked it. One thing is for sure, there isn't another one like it anywhere. in the whole while world and that feels good.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I like it. Granted it might not be every body's cup of tea but they don't have to live with it. The thing is, I've now started getting other ideas for long desk pens and holders so keep an eye on this space, you never know what will turn up.

The project I'm working on at the moment is something completely different. A couple of years ago my wife wrote a children's book, but before publishing can happen it needs illustrating. I volunteered for the job but then realised I didn't know how to draw figures. I'm okay with roses, flowers and that sort of stuff but when it comes to figures I haven't got a clue. To make matters worse, the characters in her book are in her imagination so trying to get that down on paper is very difficult.

So, my solution is to make a set of wooden figures that I can then use as models for the illustrations in the book. Might be a daft idea but I've started the first one and will show it in my next post.

Any questions or comments please fire away.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Back Trouble

Hi all,
I'm afraid there's been little progress on the desk pen. I did have the flower head on my lathe but then I managed to do my back in, so any further turning was out of the question. I've had a back issue for years now and ever now and again the muscles feel like they've snapped and it takes about a week to get straight again. The thing is, I wasn't even doing any lifting at the time, I'd just bent over to pick up a piece of paper and that was it.
Here's how I left the project on the lathe. You can see how the flower is taking shape.
You have to imagine the flower siting on top of the base.
With the pen sticking out of it.

While my back has been bad I've tried to keep productive with things that I can do while sitting.
To that end, I thought I'd have a go at a bit of whittling. I had seen this guy called Doug, on youtube and he does some great little figures. I'll put a link to his channel at the end of this post.

One of the things he whittles, he calls a 5 minute wizard and here's how I got on with it.
It took me longer than 5 minutes but I was well pleased with the result. It is carved from a piece of lime about 1 inch or 25mm square.

I found there was something very enjoyable about whittling, not least because it requires few tools and can be done whilst sitting down without even the need for a table. I just sat on a chair in the back garden and whittled away like an old cowboy. In fact I found the the whole process so soothing that I purchased a book about carving Santas by a man called Tom Wolff and did this one of his.

It was just a bit of fun and I was more concerned about the process than the finished product, but it ain't too shabby. He's the miserablist looking santa you ever saw, but perhaps he just hates chimneys.
I was amazed at how much detail I could get into a small carving with just a knife. My head is now full of ideas for whittlings which will incorporate turning and pyrography so please keep watching this blog if you want to see how I get on.

A word of warning, If you are tempted to have a go at whittling, please purchase a safety glove because slashing a finger is not something you want to do.

In my next post, if my back allows, I should have a desk pen set to show you, so I'm looking forward to that.
 Here the link to Doug Outside's channel please enjoy.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Pen Holder

Hi All,
The desk pen and holder are coming on well, especially now that the horrible hot weather has gone.
I know some like it hot, but I find it unpleasant and it stops me doing creative things.

Anyway here's a reminder of what I was hoping to carve out of wood.
This is a model made from Plasticine which will give me an idea about how to create the right shape when I carve it from wood. I hadn't got a chunk of lime wood that was big enough so the first thing I did was to stick three pieces together.
I then drilled a hole in the middle to accept the stalk. After that I drew a sketch on the wood and then began roughing it out to make sure everything was going where I wanted it.
I know it looks like a load of crap at this stage, but I was hoping it would get better once I'd started some proper carving.
Now it's starting to look like something half decent. I've also done a trial run of some pyrography texture which will form a backdrop for the leaves. I do all the carving with a mixture of tools, knives and a Dremel. I know there a purist carvers out there who use either hand or power tools, but I'm getting to old for that sort of stuff. I just go for the tool that will do what I want it to do, be it a traditional chisel or a power tool.

Here it is after the carving was finished and the pyrography was done.
I'm very pleased with how it has turned out. Now all I have to do is turn a long elegant pen and then carve a flower for it to fit into.

If you are interested in the outcome please watch this space and if you have any comments or questions they will be welcome.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Desk Pen

Hi All,
My next project will involve several skills. Drawing, pyrography, wood turning and carving. I is probable my most ambitious project so far .What I have in mind is a desk pen with a pen holder in the shape of a flower
The pen itself will be long and hopefully elegant and carry a pyrography pattern of leaves.
The base and pen holder will be the most difficult because it will have carved leaves and a flower to hold the pen.

The first thing I did was have a practise run to see if I could turn a longer than average pen and to see what my intended pyrography design would look like. The pen below was turned from a piece of lime and had a hole drilled into it to take a Bic pen insert.
The pen above is 7 inches long and about the limit that I can achieve in one piece. The problem with going longer is the drilling. I have an extended drill bit, but once the drill goes past about 5 inches, it starts to wonder off centre because it tends to follow the softest path in the grain of the wood. This means that to make the longer pen that I had in mind, I would have to make it thicker if I was to avoid turning into the drilled hole which would be at an unknown depth in the blank.

A thicker pen didn't fit in with what I had in mind so I decided on a compromise. When I make the actual pen, which will be about 10 inches long, I will make it in 3 sections. It will be much easier to drill straight holes through blanks which are just over 3 inches long each.

Having sorted what I was going to do with the pen part of the project I turned my attention to the base. The first thing I did was make a model of what I had in mind from some Plasticine. It won't be exact but will give me a good idea of how to go on when it comes to the carving. I am relatively new to carving and this will be something new to me. Anyway, here's the model of what I have in mind.

The hole in the middle is where the stalk that will hold the flower will  go. All I've got to do now is make it out of wood. Please keep an eye in this space for updates.

Thursday, 19 July 2018


Hi All,
I said in my last post that I was going to make a couple of pens to give away as gifts. Well here's the first that I turned from a piece of lime.
It's click pen with a Harlequin design. Most small pens have a twist mechanism that I don't particularly like so I thought I'd have a go at a clicker. Unfortunately, click pens have a bad reputation because according to some turners the click mechanism isn't very reliable. Only time will tell with this pen, which is working fine at the moment. It was going to be a gift for a friend but when my wife saw it, she bagsied it and said I could make my friend another pen. Charming.

For those that are interested, the dark lines are burnt in with my Peter Childs pyrography iron, using a spoon tip. And the colours are Winsor and Newton pro colour markers. I find it much easier to use markers rather than painting the colour or stain on with a brush. The black pyrography lines help to stop any bleed between the colours.

The second pen I made for my mother in law. She likes bright things so I made her a happy pen.
She thought it was great, she loved the colours and said that the extra thickness made writing much easier with her 85year old hands.
Details are the same as the first pen. Turned from a piece of lime, black line burnt in, this time with a wire while the pen was still on the lathe. And the colours were the same as the pen before. In both cases, the finish used was melamine.

The happy pen doesn't have a mechanism. The ink is supplied via a bic pen. I just took the pen part out and threw away the plastic tube. The piece of lime is drilled out to 4mm to accept the nib and ink tube. Drilling it out is the hardest part of making this typr of pen because it needs a long straight hole, and being wood drills often veer off because they like to follow the softest grain.

I have just started a new project which will involve, turning, carving and pyrography, so please watch this space if you want to see how I get on. It is a unique project and you won't see another like it anywhere.

Just before you go, one of my books, "Carp Rustlers" will be free to download from Amazon until Saturday 21st July. Please grab a copy and have a good laugh. click  here to go straight to Amazon.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Basket Illusion

Hi All,
I don't mind admitting that I'm fed up with this hot weather. Throughout the winter my workshop was like a fridge, but for the last few weeks it has been like an oven. Needless to say this is curtailing my creative desires in a frustrating way.  I have to grab what time I can early in the morning, but that ain't much because life's other boring duties jump over each other to get in the way.

Anyway, that's enough moaning because it could be a damn sight worse. When I did get a bit of time to myself I thought I had a go at a bit of basket illusion. No, relax, I haven't taken up weaving of the willow, basket illusion is a woodworking term used when decorating a piece of wood to make it look like a basket.
Above is a picture of the one I did. It is very small and is turned from lime with an African blackwood knob. The horizontal lines were made with a skew chisel and then burn in with a wire.
The vertical lines were done via the indexing facility on my lathe. I marked each position with a pencil then drew lines between them. Once I was happy I carefully burnt them in with the pyrography iron.

The red and black colours were applied with Winsor and Newton pro markers which made it very easy. Regarding the pattern, I just experimented on square paper until I got something that looked half decent. After the colouring I gave it several coats of Chestnut melamine lacquer.

I'm quite impressed with the outcome and found the whole process to be very enjoyable. I have even purchased a Robert Sorby bead forming tool to make the line marking simpler and more effective. I am looking forward to making something similar, but slightly bigger. In the mean time, I've got to turn a couple of pens for gifts. So please keep an eye on this space if you want to see how they come out.

If you want to see more about basket illusion, here is s link to an expert on youtube

Monday, 2 July 2018

Another Duff Pen

Hi all,
Sorry it has been a long time since my last post. I've been trying to teach myself video editing and it has been a very steep learning curve. I will leave a link to show you my efforts later in this post.

So, following on from the disastrous eggshell pen project, what did I do next. Well silly me had the notion that I could get a decent effect by using small mosaic tiles. Without further ado here is what it turned out like.
Granted, it is better than the eggshell jobby but it still isn't what I was hoping for. The tiles, which I got off amazon, are 3mm square and 2mm thick. I stuck them on with PVA glue and grouted them with some grout also from amazon.

There are two reasons why this pen doesn't look as good as it was supposed to.

Firstly there is too much grout showing between the tiles. The gap between the tiles is as small as I could get it, but due to the small diameter of the pen the tiles just had to have big gaps at the top even though they were touching at the bottom. A thicker pen would have looked better because the angle between the tiles would not have been so acute. If I did another one I'd make the pen thicker and probably colour the grout so that it didn't stick out so much.

It was a tedious project because I had to do the tiles one row at a time, placing the tiny tiles with a pair of tweezers, then wait for the glue to dry before doing another row.

The second reason the pen looks wrong is because I put the nib end of the pen on the mandrel the wrong way around. This meant that because it is a modified slimline design, the tube that the nib fits into doesn't go all the way to the end. So when I came to assemble it I had no tube to press the nib into.

Ah well, you can't win them all.

Going back to the video. I fancy putting a few of my projects onto youtube so like I said at the top of this post I'm trying to teach myself video editing. I have had a practise run by videoing my garden, here's the link any comments will be welcome.

My next project is about basket illusion so please keep an eye out for my next post.