Friday, 2 December 2016

Disaster and Rescue

Hi all,
Those of you who have been following my projects for a while will know that I have sometimes used polymer clay to enhance some of my boxes. Well the other day I had an Idea that I could also make use of polymer clay in my pen making quest. In fact, polymer clay could help me save some money, which in my mind is always a good thing. Let me explain.

When I purchase wooden blanks for making a pens they cost about £1 each. However, when making each pen I don't use the whole blank and always have about an inch left over. Having now made over twenty pens I'm getting quite a collection of these off cuts. I suppose I could bin them but I follow the notion that they might come in handy one day even if they are only 1 inch long.

Anyway, my idea was to use polymer clay to fill the space between these 1 inch off cuts.
I had 4 off cuts, all in various types of dark wood and I thought it would go well with a polymer clay that was mixed from green, yellow and black. The clay was mixed but not thoroughly so that the individual colours could still be seen. This was then baked in the oven in line with the manufacturer's guidelines before being sandwiched between the pieces of wood. I used a epoxy resin called Milliput to ensure I got a good bond between the clay and the wood.

When I put the blank on the lathe to turn it I didn't know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised because the clay and the Milliput turned very nicely. In fact, it was the wood that I had a problem with. I had somehow fixed the top piece of wood with the grain going sideways instead of length ways and a piece chipped off. The only thing I could do was to used my parting tool to remove the offending piece of wood. I did this and glued another piece in place. I didn't have any dark off cuts left so I had to use a lighter wood, which I must admit did spoil the look of the pen a bit.
When I showed it to the wife she couldn't stop laughing. She said it was bloody horrible and should be chucked straight in the wheelie. I think it has a certain charm and if the top piece of wood had been the same as the rest I thing it would have made a very nice pen. At least I proved that my idea about the polymer clay would work and if I can get a free pen out of the off cuts it means I will save about 25% on the cost of my blanks.

If you have any comments to make on this pen I would love to hear them.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Wild Mango

Hi all,
I've managed to turn a new pen that is of my own design and I've added a bit of pyrography, if only in a simple but effective way.

I have turned a slime line pen already from wild mango and it looked like this.
Notice the gold band around the middle of the two parts. This is a characteristic of a slime line pen. The pen has to be turned thin in the middle to allow for the size of the gold band that comes with the pen kit. My wife refers to it as a Munro pen for obvious reasons.

I can't say that I am over the moon with the shape either, so I decided to modify the design. To do this I made my own centre band from  a mixture of yellow, green and black polymer clay. I stuck this onto the end of the bottom blank and turned it to the size of the barrel that I wanted. Then I removed the centre bush and butted the top blank against the centre band and made it all the same size. Here is the result.
I like it because it has more style than the standard slime line pen. The three black rings were added by burning them in with a wire. I turned a narrow groove around the pen then with the lathe running I strangled the groove with a long piece a of pyrography tip making wire. This techniques gives a nice accurate black ring around the pen. I shall be making more pens based on this design so please watch this space if you are interested in seeing how I get on.

By the way. I am having a free book promotion on amazon from 22nd to the 24th of November. If you would like a free download of my book, "The Reluctant Pom please click on the books tab at the top of the page then click on the book. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Pyro Pen

Hi all,
Another week has passed and I'm still building my collection of turned pens. The scope of pen turning is enormous and my head is full of different designs. Here is a picture of the collection so far.
I have made a couple of others since the photo above was taken that I have put aside for gifts; they will not make it into the collection box so here are some photos of them.

This one is turned from a wood called wild mango and, although it turns well, it isn't anything special to look at. The grain is plain and it has green blotches.
The next pen is turned from  a wood called mopane, which is a member of the pea family. It is a very hard wood and takes a lot of effort to saw and drill it. However, it turns and finishes very well.
The wood reminds me of the semi precious stone called tigers eye. This is my favourite pen so far.

The next pen was turned from a piece of maple, which is not the best looking wood when it comes to turning. The leaves on a maple tree may have fantastic hues in the autumn, but the colour of the wood is down right boring. However, being a light wood does make it attractive for some pyrography, so after I'd turned it I set about it with my pyrography iron. I had in mind a sort of barley twist design making its way around the barrel, and in my mind it looked quite splendid. In reality the design looked terrible, I got about halfway up the pen and decided it was awful. Luckily, I was able to put the pen back onto the lathe and turn away the offending burn marks that I had made and start again.

The reality is that surface of a pen only provides a very small canvas for any type of artworks, so I decided that simplicity would be the best option. With that simplicity in mind, I burnt a number of random circles into pen and I think it worked. Here is the finished pen and your comments are most appreciated.
The only downside to the pattern I burnt onto the pen was the effect it had on my carpal tunnel syndrome. Being a repetitive pattern was a real problem which meant I had to do the burning over several sessions to allow my wrist to have a chance to rest. Regardless of the resting, the night after I did it I still woke up in the middle of the night with terrible pins and needles in my hand and a feeling as if my fingers had been amputated and replaced with a lobster's claw.

One of these days I'm going to have to go to the doctors and get sorted for the operation but I can't face it at the moment.

One last thing, if you were one of the many that downloaded a free copy of my book last week, I hope you are enjoying it.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Small Turnings

Hi all, Some of you may recall that I purchased my woodturning lathe earlier this year and after doing a few practice spindles and some lidded boxes I made my wife a bowl full of acorns for her birthday.
At the time I thought they looked pretty damn cool, but now I'm not so sure. The problem is that they are much too big. We all know what an acorn looks like and they are not 3inches long.

Anyway, I had a small piece of maple left over from the end of a pen blank and being a bit of an old miser I didn't want to throw it way. I scratched my head a few times and wondered if I could turn a small acorn that was more realistic than my previous attempts if only in terms of scale.

I chucked up the small piece of maple and had a go. I was very surprised at how easy it was to turn a small acorn on my lathe. Here is a photo of it.
You can see why I was well pleased, but there were two things wrong with it. Firstly, it seemed rather perverse to make an acorn from maple instead of oak and the whole thing needed a bit of colour to bring it to life.

So, I made three more from a piece of oak. I didn't have any brown stain to colour the acorns, so I mixed some green and orange wood dyes made by Chestnut and painted that on. To give the shell a bit of texture, I drilled into it randomly with my Dremel using a small burr tip. Here is a photo of the acorns.
They look a bit larger than they should on the photo, but being actual acorn size they are very cute. My intention is to make some more from various woods and put them all together in a bowl that I have yet to turn.

It's quite ironic really, I purchased the lathe with the sole purpose of turning some bowls upon which I could do some pyrography. So far I haven't turned a single bowl but I will in the near future. I have a load of pens to turn first for Christmas presents and a nice piece of iroko that is screaming to be made into a lidded box. A bowl may come after that, oh yeah, my wife wants me to turn her some wooden fruit so that should be fun. Please keep an eye on this space to see how I get on.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Yet more pens

Hi all, I guess I'll have to apologise because I have got stuck in a bit of a rut making pens. However, you may be pleased to know that I have started a project that doesn't include any pens. I'll show you that in my next post, meanwhile here are a few more pens for you to look at.

The one is made from rose wood. I have used chrome pen parts because I think they suit the dark wood better than gold. I enjoyed turning this wood which has the colour of a dark rich chocolate.
This pen was made from olive wood. I'm afraid the photo doesn't do the wood justice; it looks very nice and it was a pleasure to turn. The wood is warm and smooth and looks like caramel.
This pen was turned from a piece of yew. Nice to turn and a pretty grain pattern.
This was made from a piece of ash.
Here is one turned from a piece of walnut.
Here is the last one for now. It was made from segments of mahogany and tulip wood.
This was my second go at segmented work. I did the first one with the end grain on the sides and it split so that was my first pen failure. All in all I'm very pleased with pen turning. Once the blanks are prepared it only takes about 30 minutes to make a pen from start to finish. I don't know about you but I can get pretty fed up with projects that go on for too long. If you have a lathe I would encourage you to try pen turning.

I once heard about a man who made a model of tower bridge from kangaroo teeth. Not a quick job, but each to their own I guess.

Next time, I hope to have something different to show you.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

More pens

Hi all, I'm still doing pens. Well I purchased 12 wooden pen blanks when I got the pen turning mandrel, so I've got six more in the pipe line before I need to hunt out some more blanks.

The fifth pen I did was from a piece of purple heart. This is a strange wood, because although the wood was coloured purple when I did the turning, when I polished it the colour changed to brown. This was a shame because I like rather liked purple colour. I had seen a couple of videos on youtube where the presenter showed how it was possible to get the colour back by attacking it with a blow torch. Anyway, I didn't think it was worth the risk of putting the pen to the mercy of the blow torch's flame and decided to leave it alone. I'm glad I did because a couple of days later the brown faded to purple again.
The next one I did was a bit plain. The wood was sycamore and although it didn't look stunning it gave me a chance to practice my technique. I also acquired five more pen kits with chrome trimmings as can be seen in the pic.
After that I did another one in maple. This is another plain wood so I did some pyrography on it with the idea of colouring in the pattern with wood dy.e I did jut that and it looked quite amazing, a bit like a stained glass window.
I guess you will have to take my word for how good it looked because as you can see, the dye came off when I polished it. My own mistake, I used sanding sealer before putting the dye on so it didn't get chance to be absorbed into the wood. The rule, is dye first then sanding sealer. I will try again soon and see if I can get it right.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Pen Turning

Hi all,
today's post is about something completely different. Those of you who have been following my progress will know that I started off doing some pyrography, but finding that the sort of wooden blank I required was getting more and more difficult to purchase. Sure there are a lot of hobby shops selling blank wooden items just waiting to be decorated. I've tried them and I don't know what type of wood it is, but when you burn it with a pyrogrphy iron smells like a gone off kipper.

Anyway, I'd always fancied having a go at wood turning, so I though if I purchased a lathe I could make my own blank on which I could do some pyrography.

I have turned a few lidded boxes and done some pyrography on them like this.
I enjoy doing boxes like this and will no doubt do a few more, but recently I've become involved in pen turning. It was never my intention to become involved in this side of wood turning, but I think it might be more addictive than chocolate biscuits.
Here is my very first turned pen, it's made from a piece of zebrano wood.
How cool is that. In fact I thought it might have been a fluke, so I turned another from paduk wood.
Then I tried some wenge.
After that I did one in beech, which is a lighter wood so that I could do some pyrography on it.
So you can see that I'm getting addicted to this craft. The thing I like most about it is that each project is relatively quick. It's not that I'm in a hurry, but I do like finishing the wood with a bit of polish. The transformation of a grotty piece of wood into something nice to look at, and at the same time useful, is quite amazing. The pen parts are not a lot of money and the blank pieces of wood are also relatively cheap.

The time it takes to make a pen from start to finish is less than half an hour so it fits in nicely with my other duties of which there are many and varied despite my retirement.

In my next post, I will show you some more pens and the lovely pen collectors box I've purchased to keep them in. If you have any comments about the pens I have made so far I wold love to see them.