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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. 

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