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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Used Ideas On New Pens

I went into the shop today just to fiddle around a bit. I decided to try some things I'd done before, but now on the one piece pens that I done from yesterday.
The first pen I done today was zebra wood. The one I done a few days ago with the grain run across the pen looked so nice that I wanted to try out the one blank I had with the grain running the length of the blank.
While it is a nice enough pen, I think it pales in comparison to the one I done before.
Next, although I haven't exactly gotten it down to a science or anything, I enjoy working with the process for celtic crosses. I have yet to have one turn out exactly like I want it too, but they always seem to be nice enough to be keepers anyway.
This one I tried to make special because it is for the wife of a friend of mine. This one has five layers of very thin strips sandwiched together to make the material to glue in the blank.
I ripped very thin layers of mahogany and maple on my band saw and glued them up into one continuous strip and allowed to to dry while I was working on the zebra wood pen. Then, every change I got, I would stop on the first pen and make a cut in the blood wood blank to insert and glue the material into this pen.
The idea here was to have four circles glued in at a forty five degree angle, one on each side of the blank. I have been having trouble with getting things working right past two inserts while cutting almost all the way through the blanks. So on this one I cut completely through and glued three pieces, the two parts of the blank and the insert, allowed to dry, then moved to the next.
This did not work right either. By the time I got two insert layers in, the lines were off. I thought about scrapping the whole idea on this one. I instead though decided to use the third layer of insert material to break up the misaligned lines and glue it in straight across.
I have yet to get the look I'm after with the celtic cross, but I'll keep trying. I know the process and how it is supposed to come together. Sometimes though things are easier said than done. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The One Piece

The feedback I've been getting on the pens I've been making told me that a lot of people, maybe even most, like the pens best without the band, or center ring. I wanted to go a step further though. It absolutely pains me to cut some of the woods to make these pens because, no matter how well you line up the grain while assembling them, the wood never seems to look as beautiful as it did before it was split down the middle to cover the two blanks to be used with the slimline pen kits that I've been using.
What I wanted to do was to figure out a way to use one solid piece of wood for a pen without spending more than I can afford for higher priced kits. I knew there had to be a way, but I just couldn't seem to figure it out. Then I stumbled across this article, realized how simple it is, and couldn't believe I hadn't gotten it till now.
The first one piece pen I made was out of ziricote. I started with this wood because I just think it is a beautiful wood. Also, the last pen I made with this species of wood, I used a blank that was so pretty that I think it actually physically hurt me to cut it.
I was quite happy with the result.
The hardest part of making the one piece pen, in my opinion, is getting the seven millimeter hole drilled cleanly all the way through a four and a half inch long blank. There are several ways to do it. I will tell you how I done it, but keep in mind that it is not the only way.
I think drilling the blank on the lathe would be the best way to go. I have a drill chuck for my tailstock, but did not feel confident enough in my ability to get it perfectly centered in my expansion jaws to drill such a small blank straight enough not to have a side blowout.
I decided to go with the drill press. I had a long enough drill bit. The problem is that my drill press only has four inches of travel on the quill. So I drilled as far as I could with it. I drilled slowly and backed out often to clear the material. It is easy to overheat the bit going this deep. Then after I'd drilled four inches, as far as I could, I loosened the chuck, drew the bit out of the chuck about three quarters of an inch, and then finished plunging all the way through the other end of the blank.
I was happy enough that I decided to then try a new wood that I had never turned before. This pen is made of chicarella. The blank looked amazing. However, after turning it almost down to size, it looked instead kind of bland. So I played with the shape and added some burn lines to dress it up a tad.
Then my wife seen the pens. She absolutely loved the ziricote pen. The chicarella? Not so much. She explained though that it really wasn't the wood she liked about the first one, but the one piece design and the smooth shape. Then she left the shop. This gave me ideas. She liked the pen design, but not the wood. I remembered that a while back she looked at one of my cocobolo pens and went on and on about what a beautiful wood that was.
Everyone ought to know by now. If I see an opportunity to make my lovely wife something that I think she'll like, I do it.
Here is her cocobolo, one piece, pen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Castle Bed

I hadn't heard from our friend Willy B. In a While. If you check the reader's projects section on my categorized post page (here) you can see a lot of Willy B.'s work. After posting the boat cradle a few days ago though, Willy sent my photos of the bed he'd made for his grand daughter, and it is fit for a princess.
He done a great job on it. He built it from plans that you can purchase here from the Winfield Collection.
The headboard looks like a castle.
The foot of the bed keeps going with the castle look. I think the bed as a whole has the look of going across a moat, across a bridge, to the castle to see royalty.
There's also a magic mirror.
And what princess castle would be complete without a princess?
You done a great job on it Willy. I think you made that little girl extremely happy. Please don't wait so long before sending me more photos. I always enjoy seeing your work.
That same goes for other readers. If you'd like to see your work posted on my blog. Just send me some photos and description to either of my email addresses.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Promises And Challenges

Today I needed to get to work on some deer antlers and fulfill a promise I'd made. You see, I told several people that if they'd find me some deer antlers, I'd make them a pen. I had done one a while back. I still had to make one for my son though who had located me some antlers. I also wanted to make one for my display for anyone who comes to my shop to look at them.
This is the one I made for my son. I was only able to get this one pen out of three racks of antlers. I got the pen done because a promise is a promise. However, I had to show him what I'm looking for in antlers so he'll know what to look for next time.
The antlers he'd brought me were all bleached out from age. Most of them were almost completely white. When they are that bleached out, the outer parts of the antler becomes brittle, while the inside becomes soft. I have already found out from experience that this sometimes makes for interesting projectiles coming from the lathe. I was glad I was able to get the pen done for him though. At least he tried.
This is the one I made for my display. I pick shapes for these pens to try and leave at least a tiny bit somewhere on the pen of the outer part of the antler. This gives an area to show that it is in fact deer antler. Otherwise, in my opinion, it would just look like dirty ivory.
If you look at the outer antler on this pen and the first one above, you can see the difference in color. This pen has a more natural look to it while the first one has a color that is light enough that it almost looks to me like a defect instead of antler.
I got these two pens done and was thinking on what I wanted to do next. I decided to tackle a different animal, the zebra. No I don't have any zebra parts to turn. I have some zebra wood though that has been driving me nuts.
A while back, I went to Picken's Hardwood. It is a little piece of heaven on earth in Clinton Mississippi. They have more species of hard woods in one place than I've ever seen.
While there, I picked up a piece of zebra wood for next to nothing. It was so cheap because the grain was running the wrong way. What I mean is, when making pens, it is preferable to have the grain running along the length of the pen. This piece I bought had it running the opposite direction. It was a small off cut from a board and wasn't much good for anything else. I was told by the lady there that it probably wouldn't be good for pens either. That sounded like a challenge to me, and I like challenges.
It was a success!
Now let me tell the truth about why this excited me so much.
I bought the blank and cut it up as carefully as I could. I wound up with four pen blanks out of it. This was the fourth attempt at making this pen, so it was my last blank in this style.
I try to tell about all my adventures. What I don't always tell is all my misadventures. This zebra wood pen is a good example of that. Three different times now I've tried making this pen. Three different times I would get almost done and the blank would blow apart on the tubes. It is a pretty hard wood. I was keeping my tools as sharp as I could. When it got close though, it seemed to always be too much for the cross grain to handle.
I set about it this time though with a different plan. I turned it down as a small a cylinder as I was comfortable with to start with. Then I start making the tapering cuts towards the ends with a freshly sharpened skew chisel. Before getting too close though, I put the tools aways and went to eighty grit sandpaper. I finished getting the blanks down to size using the sandpaper. Then of course I went through the grits to get a good finishable surface.
between the Abranet abrasive I told about yesterday, and my improving skills at applying a CA glue finish, I am extremely happy how this one turned out. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New Pen Abrasive

Recently, I received an unexpected package in the mail. When I opened it, I discovered that a good friend had sent me several packages of Abranet abrasive. I had never heard of it before then, but this friend told me it was supposed to be great for wood turners. I was getting ready for the cradle project at the time though and had no choice to set it aside for the moment.
Well, I finished the cradle and was anxious to see if this stuff was any good. Since receiving it, I'd looked it up and read some good things about it. I wanted to see if it were true.
Abranet is a new take on sandpaper. Now I am always a tad skeptical when it comes to new takes of age old products. Sometimes there is just no way to reinvent the wheel. I am, however, always willing to give it a try.
It is a mesh type material with abrasive somehow glued or otherwise attached to the material. The idea is that dust goes through the pad and doesn't clog up like regular sandpaper and last longer, and give a better, cleaner, sanded surface.
Yea, right. so does it do what it says it does?
I had my doubts.
I turned a pen out of bocote. I put the sandpaper aside and used nothing but the Abranet. The idea here, for me, was to see how good a job it done without allowing my regular methods interfere with the testing.
So, my review of Abranet, in short, is this. Whoever thought this bright idea up, I want to kiss them right on the lips. I am happier with it than a fat kid at a pie eating contest.
This stuff is amazing.
Any of you turners out there, you know how quickly and easily sandpaper clogs up and you have to move to another spot on it. With Abranet, if it does seem to be getting a lot of dust buildup on it, tap it on something. I just took my finger and sort of thumped at it. It knocked the dust out of the little holes and it was all of a sudden, magically, like I'd just grabbed a new piece of abrasive again. You can't do that with sandpaper.
Pricing and selection may vary, but Abranet is available through Woodcraft or Penn State if any of you are interested in giving it a try.
Also, I'd like to thank my friend very much for sending it to me. I would probably never have tried it if you hadn't sent me that package. This is my new favorite abrasive.
Anyway, that was out of the way, but now I was anxious to make another pen. I have several woods I've gotten lately that I hadn't had a chance to try yet. Bocote was one of those woods. Another was padauk.
The padauk pen I had planned on turning similar to the bocote. I just wanted a simple design using the kit as it was intended. However, and I know this sounds cliche, but sometimes when I'm working on a project, the wood speaks to me. It tells me to go in a different direction than I intended. That was the case here.
When turning, I often stop, as one should, to check the process. When I stopped this pen, the wood had this absolutely stunning flaming look to it and was just screaming, "don't separate me with a metal ring". So I didn't. I removed the middle bushing and finished turning it without the band. Seeing the result, I'm glad I did.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Baby Tender II

It has been a bit since I posted last. There is good reason though. I have been working on a project that is dear to me. You see, this is a project that I am building to be used by my grandchildren, and hopefully, my grand children's children.
I have two grandchildren that I seldom see. They are teenagers and I've seen them maybe ten times in their life. To make a long story short, my oldest son doesn't come around much and I am not part of the grand children's lives, and did not see them grow up.
I have a third grandchild though that will be here in a couple of months. I will be able to be a part of this child's life growing up. Some family members, like my wife, have been busy buying things for the baby. I, as usually, prefer building to buying.
So I set out deciding on a cradle to build for this grandchild. I pondered on making one of the cradles I'd already built. I thought about ways to make them special. In the end though, this is my grandchild. I wanted to build something special. So I talked about it with my wife. She is always the best sounding board for my ideas. She reminded me of a real nice cradle I had drooled over several months ago. You can see, or order plans for it, here.
It is a boat cradle. Why a boat? I love boats. For health reasons, I gave up my own boat a couple of years ago. I couldn't get it in and out of the water without hurting my back. When I did, I usually hit a wave wrong and put myself down for days or weeks at a time. I miss boating though. A boat cradle for my coming grandchild was a great idea.
When I seen the site though, I had ideas on modifying a boat rocker I made some time ago. Then I done some reading on the Jordon Boat site. The plans available there used more traditional methods that would normally be on a real boat. This interested me greatly. I enjoy learning new techniques. So I order the plans.
Now for the build.
Unlike the boat rocker, or the boat shelves, I'd done in the past, this boat is build using forms. The reason is the more complex bends for the multiple planks. The other projects I'd done only had straight bends in them. This boat would have planks with bends, and a twist at the end to form a more elegant styling. This added, well, a twist to the job.
Then came the planking. This was interesting to say the least. I probably could have made it easier by choosing a different wood. I wanted the sapelle for the planking though. It was a good contrast to the oak backbone and accents I had planned. It all came together with some coaxing though. It took two days to plank the sides, working a little at a time. I found it easiest to start at an end and attach a little at a time, allowing the wood time to relax around the curvature of the forms.
I used the same sapelle for the bottom.
The shop made band saw in the back, the one closest to the left of the photo, is what I used to resaw all the sapelle for this project. I think this is the most I've ever used that saw for this much resawing in a single project. The saw on the right is the one I use for curved cuts. I put both of those saws through a workout for this project. There is just something satisfying about using a tool you built yourself to work on a project.
I used over two hundred brass screws for this project. I have never found a way to drive brass screws with a drill. So every one of the two hundred plus screws were put in by hand using a screwdriver.
The planking on this project, according to the plans, are supposed to be attached using brass rivets and roves. This was a technique I was looking forward to learning. However, when all was said and done, I was already over the budget I could afford on this project. So I wound up settling for brass screws. If I were building an actual floating boat, I would have to insist on the proper hardware. For this though, the screws serve the purpose and, in my opinion, still look great.
I forget what this rudder type board is called. I apologize for that. It was the last piece to go on though before taking the boat off the forms.
Taking the boat off of the forms was a nerve racking experience for me. I know that may sound funny to some. This was the first time for me building anything in this fashion though. In my mind, I had this image of all the planking popping off and flying all over the shop, or the pressure from the bends making the entire boat simply split in half.
For such a sturdily build vessel, it is amazingly light.
Last on the boat was oak stripping across the top of the top plank. I made them out of oak to match the other contrasting parts of the project.
Then I had to do a lot of sanding. I mean a whole lot. Because of the nature of the project and the protruding edges of the planking, I decided to not even mess with power sander. I done it all by hand. I didn't realize how big an undertaking that was going to be until I was lying in bed that night with my forearms cramping.
The davits, or stand as I call it, is made of oak.
According to the plans, the feet and stretcher were supposed to be a single layer of material. Being oak, it would have been plenty strong enough. However, it didn't look right to me. So I added additional layers to make them look beefier to match the rest of the stand.
Finish took a couple of days. I used polyurethane for a finish. I know that may cause some controversy. I don't want to get into it though. I used poly because it gave me the look I wanted. I am of the belief that all finishes are safe once they are fully cured. Since I have a month or so before the baby is even born, I am sure the finish will be fully cured before the baby arrives.
Last, but not least was to hang the boat from the stand. It is hung through a double pulley built into the frame, using a double block pulley between the frame and boat. It is attached under the frame pulley, ran though the blocks, through a hole in the frame, and tied off on cleats at the back of each side of the frame. This is of course way overboard for holding up a light boat and a baby. The double block system was used for looks. There are several ways explained in the plans for hanging the boat cradle, but I like this one.
The last thing to do was install a mattress and padding.
The bumper padding is store bought padding that I fit into the sides. I drilled holes along the side and ends, fished the tie straps through and tied it securely to the sides. I had to sew two straps for the back corners.
Of course they do not make mattresses to fit a boat cradle, so I had to make one. It is two layers of foam padding attached to a piece of cardboard with thread. Then I stitched blue fabric around the edges, folded the remaining fabric underneath and used cloth glue to glue the excess to the bottom of the cardboard. I decided to use the cardboard as a means for keeping some stiffness to the bottom of it all to keep it in place, tight against the bumpers so the baby can't fall between the mattress and the sides.  
The mattress taught me two important things. It taught me that I am much better at wood working than sewing, and it reminded me why I haven't sewed anything in about twenty years. I hate sewing.
 The stitching on the mattress is absolutely terrible. I done my best though. I couldn't figure out how to do it on my wife's sewing machine. So it took me five hours to stitch the mattress. I don't want to look at another needle for a long time.
Now for some photos of the finished project. I may be a little biased, but I am proud of it. I put a more work into this project than I have on anything else in a long time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Turning Slowly

I've been moving slowly lately. As some of you know, I have chronic pain issues along with other health issues. With changing weather comes pain, and lately the weather here seems to be in a constant state of change. I thought I'd post anyway though and tell what I have gotten done lately before the small things pile up too bad.
After finishing the last big project, I worked on a failed attempt at an air powered wooden engine. It sounds crazy, I know, but I've got the plans from the builder of a successful one. I am determined to revisit that one at a later date when I can afford the correct material. I done one out of different material than the original designer. I used oak. I did not take into account just how much air can pass through the pores of oak though. I can't get enough compression and couldn't figure out why. I wound up hooking over a hundred pounds of pressure to it and could feel the air leaking through the pores. So that wasn't going to work. I will rebuild later. For now, I'm calling that project the DODGE; Dad's Old Dead Garage Experiment.
I had kind of fallen into a blah state and needed inspiration to get going. I found inspiration in a pile of pen blanks I was trying to identify and separate. I started to thinking about the various members of one of my wood working groups who have helped me as I got started in this turning adventure.
I selected certain woods, one species from each of the people who had sent me wood over time. Then I made seven pens of similar design, and exact wood pattern. There are six different woods from six different people. Then the seventh pen is for the guy that gave me the lathe that got me started when my old lathe bit the dust.
My friend Eddie from West Monroe, Louisiana gave me the lathe. Then we'll start at the cap with the darkest wood and go down. Rich from Minnesota sent me the ziricote. John from here in my hometown gave me the walnut. Bob from Alabama sent the mahogany. Jeff from Minnesota sent the maple. Dave from central Mississippi gave me the sweet gum. Marty from Minnesota sent the box elder.
The next thing I done is something I have wanted to do ever since I first seen the possibility in a Penn State catalogue. If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have ever thought about turning deer antler. However, there was no way I was going to pay what they wanted for it. I'm not saying it isn't a good deal, but I live in Mississippi. Do you have any idea how many deer hunters there are around here? I knew if I asked around enough, I'd find some that someone was willing to part with.
Anyway, the maintenance man where my wife works sent me several antler racks. So this first deer antler pen will go to him as soon as I can catch up with him. I look forward to making more though when I get the chance.
Making the antler pen has caused me a new problem. Recently, anytime I see something softer than metal, and even when I see some softer metals like aluminum, I can't help but wonder what I could make with it if it will turn on the lathe. I have thought of many possibilities I wish to try in the future.
Next, I needed to keep mama (my wife) happy. There's a fact of life in many homes around the world. When mama aint happy, aint nobody happy. So I needed to make some handles for my wife's rolling pin.
Actually, this rolling pin has been sitting on a shelf in my shop for what seems like ages. I have a very forgiving wife who doesn't bother me about things such as this unless she really needs it. I just finally decided that I really needed to get it done.
The handles I made out of a piece of wormy hickory I had left. I guess she was happy enough with it. When I showed it to her I was given another rolling pin, one with a wooden body instead of the marble on this one, that also needs handles. This makes me wonder what is happening with these rolling pins. Are my kids playing baseball with them?
I set the new rolling pin project on the shelf, right where this one had previously resided at. I will try to get to it soon instead of letting it sit for ages like the last one.