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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Back Away From The Crazy

Have any of you ever noticed that when things start going wrong, they keep going wrong? For me, once it starts, it keeps going until I just all of a sudden have a victory, or I back it up a bit. Since the failures keep coming, I figured it was time to throw it in reverse. What do I mean by that?
I have a tendency to want to do things that are challenging. Some may argue that I sometimes even push the envelope too much, too quickly, on things. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I know from experience though that this makes me sometimes need to back it up and get back to the basics of what I'm trying to do.
The multi wood pen I done a recently is going to a friend of mine. I wanted one for display though and had more blanks I had left over from gluing up all those strips of wood. These blanks look nice, but are a challenge to turn. I was careful about gluing them, but with the grain running all directions, it's almost like turning burl. No matter what angle of attack you use with your sharpest gouge, there is tear out if you are not careful and all the luck is there, and the stars align perfectly, and all that jazz.  
This was the second pen I tried turning today. The first one literally blew apart on the lathe. This one, although you can't tell it by the picture, is a reject as well. I kept having to sand the front end of the pen more and more as pieces kept blowing off. This wound up making the front end just short enough that I had a hard time judging how far to press the advance mechanism in. As my recent luck would have it, I ended up pressing it just a tad too far. With the pen retracted all the way, you can hold the pen perfectly vertical and write with it. The end of the ink cartridge is right there at the tip. I refuse to put something like this in my display. Those of you who know me know that I don't allow things to leave my shop in other's hands if it isn't right.
Don't worry. Pens like this one, that are usable but not right; they don't go in the trash. They go in my truck for me to use myself. I said I wouldn't allow things like this leave in other people's hands. I didn't say I wouldn't use it.
Anyway, I decided to just back up and turn a basic pen instead of trying anything fancy or different. Of course, since doing all the different styles I have now done, I don't do just simple, one wood species pens, unless it has some awesome grain. So I looked through my blanks and picked two woods that I have had good luck with in the past, walnut and maple. I did not try anything crazy here. I simply sliced the walnut down the length at an angle and glued a strip of maple in.
It isn't much, but just to do something without problems, like I've had lately, felt good.
That went well, but then I was thinking of what I wanted to do next. I decided that, while I thinking about it, to mount up between centers a piece of scrap wood and do some practice exercises. Sometimes I think it's good just to practice techniques. Even if you know how to do something, practice will either keep you good, or help you improve it in some way.
Next, I liked the way that last pen had turned out, so I wanted to do something else. I thought about more crazy stuff, but settled on doing something similar to the last pen. Just keep it simple. Sometimes simple seems more elegant than the craziest of designs.
This blank is walnut and box elder. Since the box elder is bent pretty good while being pressed between the two pieces of walnut, I thought it would be a good idea to leave this blank overnight. It may self destruct on it's own if I unclamp it too soon.
This is a piece of pipe a good friend gave me a while back to try turning. It looks like PVC, but has a more rubbery feel to it. I think it will make a neat pen if I can turn it without any issues.  
I had tried a small piece of it before, unsuccessfully. I thought I'd give it another shot.
Here are the two blanks glued up. I'm leaving them overnight too. The last time I tried turning this, the tube let go in one of the blanks. I always scuff up the tubes before gluing them, but I think the type of material here may have had something to do with it. I'm hoping the extra curing time will help the situation.
So that's two blanks for tomorrow, hopefully. We'll have to wait and see how they turn out.  

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