Thursday, 19 January 2017

Reedmace pyrography

Hi all,
I was so encouraged by the way my last pen went down that I have decided to open my Folksy shop again. I'm not seeking to make bundles of money, but it would be nice to be able to use the money from any sales to buy more pen kits. In other words, if I can make my pen turning and pyrography hobby self-financing it would be great.

The thing is, having made the decision to open a shop again on Folksy I have had to get my pyrography iron out and start burning. I have three pens to show you and here is the first. It is a gold plated twist action pen upon which I have burnt a reedmace design.
It is a very nice pen and feels well balanced in the hand.
 On my next pen I used my pyrography iron to burn a weave pattern which I think is very effective.
The next pen I made was completely different because I modified the design by removing the centre band.And then burnt a leaf design onto it. I think this is probably my best pen so far.
I hope you like these pens because my intention is to make a few more all of which will be decorated with pyrography. I have done quite a bit of research about wooden pens on the internet and it seems that nobody else is making them in conjunction with this type of pyrography. This makes my pens unique.

My shop is called Sam's Pens and can be found on

In my next post I will explain more about the pyrography and how I approach burning images onto the very small area of a pen.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Burnt Leaves and Comments

Hi all,
 In my last post I showed you the design I had in mind for a bit of pyrography on a pen. Here it is again in case you are new to this blog or just forgot about it.
Well I had a go with my pyrography iron and here is the finished article. All of the pyrography work was done with a Peter Child's machine and a spoon tip.
It isn't as good as I wanted it to be, but I like it a lot.

The main issue is the amount of light wood showing through  where the pyrography is supposed to be dark. Actually, it wasn't like that when I completed the burning process, but I had an issue with the finish that I applied to the pen. I won't bore you with the details but it meant that I had to do a bit of sanding to even the finish out and that process removed some of the wood. The effect of this was that it reveal some of the unburnt wood which in turn makes the pyrography less sharp.

Still, I learned a lesson and will not make the same silly mistake again. I will do the same design again in the next few weeks and I will put them both up for comparison.

Regarding comments, I don't seem to get that many but I had one recently asking me if I sold my work anywhere. This is an interesting point that I have been thinking about it myself because I can't just keep making things out of wood and pile them up in the house.

I did have shop once on where I sold a number of items, but this was in the days when I was buying my own blanks to do the pyrography on. I tried making square boxes but the whole thing was so time consuming it wasn't worth the effort and what with the limitations of the blanks that were available I ran out of things to put in the shop.

However, now that I have a lathe and I am able to make whatever I want from pieces of wood, things are different. Even with my limited time resources my output is higher than ever. So the answer is that I will probably be opening another shop on in the next couple of weeks. Please watch this space for details.

One last thing, The first book in "The Fishing Detectives" series,"Carp Rustlers" will be free to download from the 11th to the 13th of January. To get a copy, click on the books tab at the top of the page and then on the book's cover and you will get the link straight into Amazon.

And just another last thing regarding comments. They really are appreciated, I know that there is a little exercise to complete, just to prove you are not a robot, but I really would like to here from you if you have any comments to make.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Freebie and pyrography

Hi all,
I'm finally about to do some serious pyrography. I am getting on pretty well with the lathe, so now I can use it for its intended purpose. That is to allow me to turn objects upon which I can do some pyrography.

My next pyrography project is a pen upon which I hope to burn a leaf design. This will be my second attempt at pyrography on a pen, the first was a bit of an experiment but this one is going to be proper. To that end I have drawn the design out and hope that I can replicate it with my pyrography iron once I have turned the pen. I have found over the years that having a drawing to work to greatly improves the chances of success.

When I was at management college our tutor used to have a quote. "Poor planning equals piss poor performance" and he was right.

Anyway, this is what I hope the finished pen will look like.
If it comes out looking anything like the drawing I will be well chuffed and I hope to show you the finished pen in my next post.

One other thing, one of my books "Bossyboots" is free to down load on Amazon until the 6th of January. If you are interested in getting a copy please do so while it is free. Of all the books I have written it is my favourite and is good for a laugh.

Just click on the book's tab and then the book title and it will take you straight to the Amazon page.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Acorn Dish

Hi all, and a happy new year; let's hope it's a peaceful one. I am also hoping that it is going to be very creative. I'm full of ideas at the moment and can't wait to get on with them. The only problem I have at the moment is the temperature. It is colder than a polar bear's nuts in my workshop and now that I'm getting older the cold is really getting through. When I was in my prime and we had proper winters I can remember having many fishing sessions where I would have to break the ice before I could cast in.

In fact, whenever I doubt the doomers and gloomers about the truth of the temperature warming up I recall my own experiences and have to admit that they are right. During the seventies and eighties I was a member of Stone Angling Society which held its annual Christmas fishing match at the beginning of November. A bit early you might think, but the reason it was held then is because in December the canal would always be frozen over. Now however, our local canal is rarely frozen over even in the deep depths of winter.

Anyway, I mentioned in my last post that I had made a small dish and some acorns for my wife. Here it is.
This in fact is my first bowl, which is turned from a  piece of tulip wood. Hollowing out a bowl and shaping the sides is completely different from turning pens and lidded boxes, but after watching a few youtube videos about how it is done I took the plunge. I am pleased with how it turned out; the pyrography was straight forward as was the turning.

My only gripe is the orange colour of some of the acorns. I have a set of 10 wood dyes but for some reason it doesn't include a brown, so I had to mix my own by adding orange and green together. I guess there was too much orange in the second batch of acorns that I made. Ha well it's not the end of the world, I will make a few more when I get a minute if the weather warms up a bit. And who knows, if I get really desperate I might even put the heater on, well just for a few minutes.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016


Hi all,
Hope you had a splendid Christmas, Mine was quit hectic during the run up due to me having so many Christmas presents to make. For other folk I made  9 pens a lidded box and a spinning top with a base. These were all well received so I'm pleased about that.

My biggest problem came with trying to turn items for my wife without her knowing about it. My workshop isn't exactly private because the entrance to the house, the extra fridge/freezer, tumble drier, and some cupboards are all down the other end. This means that she is popping in and out on a regular basis.

I had a number of items in mind to make for her, all of which would be surprise presents. Turning wood on a lathe was hard to keep a secret, but here is what I managed.

Firstly, I turned her a nice pen from a piece of yew. I had made almost 30 pens so far, but this was the first that I had made especially for her.
It is made from a modified slimline kit and I have added 4 pyrography burnt bands to give it a bit of style.

My next two items were pieces of fruit. My wife has always like bits of false fruit made from clay etc and has always liked wooden fruit. So I had to give it a go even though it was new to me. The first piece I tackled was an apple.

The turning went very well until the last minute. I had shaped the apple, sanded it, sealed it and polished it. The only thing left was to part it off. Parting it off, is just the term used for cutting away the bit of wood that attaches the item to the lathe. Using a parting tool, one cuts through the wood until it is held by a small piece of wood about as thick as a pencil. The lathe is then stopped and the last thin piece of wood is cut through with a hack saw. The problem is, that one doesn't want to do to much sawing and with the lathe spinning at 2000 rpm it is possible to cut to far and have the item leave the lathe and shoot across the room. This hasn't happened to me before, well not until I was doing the apple, I cut too far and it shot off the lathe and went spinning around the concrete floor of my workshop like a whirling dervish. When I picked it up I could of wept, it had more scuffs and bruises than a boxer who had done a dozen rounds with Mike Tyson.

 If I could have mounted the apple back on the lathe I could have rectified the situation but in the end I had to just patch it up and tell my wife I wanted to make it look like a apple that was wind fallen.

Thankfully the pear went much better and I'm proud of that.

Overall, I was pleased with my efforts and was spurred onto the next two items on my list. These were to be a wooden bowl/dish and a few acorns to put in it. In my mind I could see the item which I was going to decorate with some nice pyrography. I will show you how I got on in my next post.

If you would like to see some more of my pens I have made a short Youtube video which can be accessed by clicking here

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


Hi all, Christmas is just around the corner and I'm still still making presents. I have now completed the batch of wooden pens and a trinket box for my Grand daughter which will be an extra present. To make sure her younger brother wasn't left out I thought I'd better make him something from wood too.

Over the years I have seen how grand parents make wooden things for their grand children and I've always thought it a nice idea. These days getting a record voucher, or a google play voucher is so easy, but also a bit of a cope out. Anyway, I've made them both something from wood and I hope they like them.

I had thought of making a yo-yo for my grandson but because the two sides need to be perfectly balanced I decided against it. What I settled on was a wooden spinning top and a base to spin it on. I hadn't had a go at a top before so it was something new to me and I wondered how I'd get on with the shape. The base part was like a bowl with shallow dip in the middle and again something I'd never attempted before.

Thankfully, we have a smart telly and I'm able to watch loads of woodturning videos on Youtube. buying  a smart telly was one of our best investments and it has completely changed our viewing habits. If you are thinking of getting a new telly, a smart one is the smart option, you will be impressed.

Anyway, here is a picture of the spinning top and its base.
The black pyrography lines were burnt around the base with wire which was quite easy. However, I struggled to burn the circle on the underside of the top. I had read that a burn mark can be made by running a piece of cardboard in a groove while the lathe is running. This wasn't as easy as it seemed, because a piece of cardboard that is small enough to go into the groove just crumples when enough pressure is exerted on it to make the wood burn. I had to experiment with various thicknesses of card and shapes to eventually get a decent burn mark.
Having finished this present I hadn't realised that another difficulty would lye ahead. In our house, my wife does all the wrapping at Christmas because she likes it and is very good at it. Anyway, when I gave her the spinning top to wrap she said, " I hope he enjoys it because I can't see what fun anybody can get from a spinning top."  At this point I picked up the top and spun it on the base to make sure it worked and try to impress her with my expertise. Anyway, she took the bait and had ago at spinning it herself, the first couple of goes were failures but than she was hooked. I left her playing with the top while I got on with some other stuff and when I returned half an hour later she was still spinning the top whilst timing herself to see how long he could get it to spin for. She's now put in a request for a top of her own. I just hope my grandson likes it as much as my wife.

This will probably be my last post before Christmas, so I will wish you all a good one and I hope that it is very peaceful.

By the way, if you would like to see picyures of my pens, here is a link to a
Video on youtube.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Christmas Presents

Hi all,
This year my run up to Christmas has been very different. In years gone by, when I was still married to my first wife, I used to book a day off work so that we could trundle about shopping centres and find gifts for everyone. I would like to report that this was always a joyful event but I'd be lying. In fact the episode rarely contained any Christmas spirit and would often sink into the depths of misery by the time we'd finished.

With my second wife came a new regime, she was happy to take the Christmas shopping reins and pick things up at her leisure at any time after the end of September. This worked well until she discovered the joys of Amazon and more recently Amazon Prime. A vast range of products with next day, and often free delivery. What more could anybody want.

Anyway, things have gone well for the last few years and  I haven't had to lift a digit towards the acquiring of Christmas presents. However, now that I have a lathe all that as changed. Like many other woodworkers across the country I am now loaded down with requests from my wife to make gifts for friends and family. The main item requested by my wife is pens and so I have made her nine so that she can give them away as presents.

This was the last pen in the Christmas present series.
It was turned from maple with a zebrano insert at the nib end, and made from a black chrome kit. The black lines are burnt into the wood with stainless steel wire. It's funny how that 6 months ago I didn't have a lathe and also know idea how to use one, yet here I am now chief pen maker to all who need a special gift.

I love making pens and would like to turn some more but I've got other things to make for my wife's Chrimo present list. The latest of these was a small box turned from lime. I turned the box and decided to burn some primroses on the lid with my pyrography iron, but it didn't come out very well. "You should have just put the recipients name on it," my wife said, "instead of trying to be clever with flowers."

I guess I was just trying to show off and now I was left with the decision of scraping the box or trying to rescue it. Well rescue always seems the best way for me, even if the chances of a successful outcome are tiny. So, with rescue in mind I made a small jamb chuck so that I could remount the lid onto the lathe. My intention was to use sandpaper to grind away the pyrography flowers and that is what I did. Once I had a blank lid, I drew the name on it and burnt it in with my pyrogaphy iron.
Here is a picture of the lid when I'd finished.
Disaster, Can you see what I can see? Yes, if you look closely you can just make out some of the outlines of the dreaded flowers that I'd burnt on before. I could have wept buckets, but I decided on another option, I took it back to the lathe and, this time, instead of attacking it with sand paper I obliterate the name and the left over flowers with one of my wood turning tools. In fact, I took a scrapper to it and removed the name completely.

I redrew the name and burnt it in again and then finished it off with some wax polish.
That's better isn't it? Well actually, only just, I can still sees a few left overs from the flowers which I can't understand. Still it is done now and I have permission to move onto a spinning top. I will let you have a look at that in my next post.