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.

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.