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Friday, June 28, 2013

Not My Best Day

If you read my last blog entry, I had left one set of pen blanks curing with the tubes glued in, and another full length blank clamped up in a bench vice. I was anxious this morning to see how they would turn out.
Let's start with the rubbery black pipe blanks.
I did in fact get a pen turned out of this material. I must say it was a challenge. Almost nothing I tried worked on this stuff. It is softer than the corian and peeled off rather easily. It peels off so much, in fact, that I had to stop the lathe often to tear the streamers of black rubbery material from around the mandrel shaft.
I experimented as I went along because I did not want to get down to the final pen size and run into surprises. I learned right off that you cannot sand this material. Sanding, even with the finest of grits, leaves more scratches than it takes away. Sanding around it with the lathe running and then the length, like I would do for most material, simply leaves a crosshatch pattern. It does nothing to smooth it.
Next, I tried something a friend suggested. I removed the blanks from the lathe and popped them in the freezer for a while. The thought is that the cold will harden the blanks and make them more workable. This presented a new problem. The tubes are metal based. Metal contracts when it is cold. The freezing of the blanks also shrunk the tubes enough that I could not get them on the mandrel shaft.
Next, I tried different turning tool. Since I was not going to be able to sand this stuff, I needed as fine a finish as I could get straight from the cutting of the tools.
The gouge left a terrible finish. The scraper simply dug in the softer than wood material. Eventually, I settled on the fact that I was going to have no choice but to turn this entirely with a skew chisel. While this is great practice with a skew, it also proved that I also need a lot more practice to get better than I am now.
Anyway, with the pen complete, I liked working with this material. It presented a challenge, and I like challenges. The finish is no where near as smooth as I would normally like, but I think that, and knowing what it was originally, adds to the originality of this pen.
I will revisit this material at a later date. Also, the same friend who gave me this has some other pipe, grey I believe, that I will have to get some of to try.
Next came the walnut and box elder blank I left clamped in the vice yesterday. I turned it, and it was shaping up to be one of the nicest pens I'd done in a while. I absolutely love the look of these finished blanks.
Then I started pressing everything together.
Now let me tell you something about me. I can stop a project at a good stopping point. If for any reason though I ever stop a project in the middle of an important step, something usually goes wrong when I return to it. Therefore, I hate, with a passion, having to stop on anything if I am not at a good common sense stopping point.
So anyway, with that explained, I was just starting to press the parts together when I got a phone call. My son's truck was broke down on the side of the highway. Ordinarily, that would mean I would finish pressing the parts together and then go help him. However, with a hundred degree heat index, and my son having his pregnant wife who is eight months pregnant with my grandchild in the truck with him, I had to go that very instant.
It turned out that he had a blown tire. His spare was flat. I drove him around to find a replacement tire while my wife carried his pregnant wife back to our place. With the truck back in commission, I returned to the pen.
Do you remember what I said about something usually going wrong if I stop on something the way I had to do? The advance mechanism somehow got cocked while being pressed. By the time I realized it, it had bent. I tried straightening it. It made it worse. I tried pulling it back out and using a different one, since it wasn't deep. It broke flush with the pen blanks. I used pliers to remove the nib (I had a replacement) and tried tapping the mechanism out using a punch. The blank slipped in the soft jaws and completely ruined it.
So my beautiful pen was ruined.
What to do?
Well I glued up another one to try again, of course.
I also left another blank clamped up. This is just another one of my weird ideas. We'll have to see how both of these turn out next time.
Hopefully, next time will prove to be a better day than today.

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