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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Newest Addition

If you read the title of this post, you may be thinking I made a tool purchase. No, this is much more special. There has been a new addition to the family.
You remember the boat cradle I made a while back for my soon coming grandchild?
That's Dorothy, my grand daughter. She was born on Thursday and weighed seven pounds and fifteen ounces.
She is already proving to be a grandpa's baby. I am already learning the advantages of grandchildren over children. The first time I held Dorothy in the hospital, she made a surprise in her diaper. When this happened with my own kids, it was time to change it. As grandpa though, as long as they are around, I just handed her to one of her parents.
I wouldn't really do it, but I have been threatening my son that, as soon as she's old enough, I'm going to load her up on chocolate and Coca-Cola, and send her home to them.
Ah! The joys of being a grandparent. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

More Fun And Challenges

I have to apologize for today's (again) very lengthy post. It started with six pen blanks. Then I was not able to get them done in one day's time. So it dragged on for a couple of days. I need to start making fewer blanks at once I guess. Another option would be to photograph the blanks separately so I can post daily on just what I do. That would use up even more space though. So I'm torn on how to handle that little problem.
Anyway, while I figure that out, let's get to it shall we?
Here are the six blanks I mentioned. As usual though, there is more to the story on some of these.
The first one I made was the other cross grained spalted maple that my buddy had sent me. I think this one turned out to be an even bigger challenge than the first.
Next was the hedge apple with the sixty degree celtic knot of walnut.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself that you've already seen these recently, so why do them again, and show them again, so soon?
Remember that fancy box my friend sent me?
I had decided that I liked these two pens so much, that the reason I made them again so soon was, these are now my own personal pens.
Next up was the mulberry. The mulberry reminds me a lot of yellow heart. It is a beautiful wood, but is kind of plain without some kind of accent to it. So I added a square of ziricote to the center of the blank before turning.
Speaking of the similarities between yellow heart and mulberry, my friend had sent me this because he said that yellow heart I'd made such a fuss about recently looked a lot like mulberry to him. So here is a side by side comparison of the three yellowish woods. From left to right is mulberry, yellow heart, and hedge apple.
Andy is right, turned, the yellow heart and mulberry look almost identical. They look so much alike that I want to do some research soon as to what the differences are in these two woods, if any. They both look, turn, and smell the same. If I find out anything about this mystery, I'll be sure to report back.
In the meantime, Andy, I absolutely love the mulberry. Again, since I have never seen mulberry or yellow heart locally, it is a special treat to me to be able to work with these woods.
Next, I had noticed that I had several sixty degree knots in lighter woods, but none the opposite. So I decided to try one in jatoba, another wood I had never turned before.
It actually turned out beautifully, until I messed up. The front end of the pen looked a tad too plain to me compared to the rear with the celtic knot. So I got the bright idea of burning some lines.
The wire somehow caught, broke the wire, and messed up the pen.
This is what is left of the burn wire. I still have not found all of it after it violently slung across my shop. I am here to beg all of you wood turners who are holding wire with your fingers to burn lines, and I know this because I used to do it that way, please make some handles like you see in this photo. Yes, my wire is broken, but not my fingers. If I had been holding the wire wrapped around my fingers like I used to, I'd be lucky to have all ten of them right now.
The last two pens in the blank batch you've also seen before. I just decided to go ahead and get these two turned to get them off my bench.
The friend who sent me the cross grained spalted maple? He also sent me a piece of long grain. I decided I just couldn't wait to see how it turned out.
It turned out beautifully. Actually, I think this one may be a little nicer. It has a lighter color because I was able to turn it without completely saturating it in glue to hold it together.
That evening I decided to go see another friend of mine, Chips.
Chips gave me this piece of cherry burl. I was anxious to cut into this. I've never worked with any kind of burl in raw form. I know from reading that it's like a Christmas present. You never know what's inside until you cut into it.
So I wondered what I could find in this?
Well that didn't look at all like I expected. Then again, I'm not sure what I expected.
I like to be able to get five continuous inches of blank material when possible. I was not able to get that out of any of the burl pieces. So instead, I looked it over good and matched up two short length blanks the best I could.
Then, with all that careful matching, I had a major blowout and wound up having to flip one piece so the blown out area could be turned off the back end to shape the pen. I still think it turned out to be an extraordinary piece though. As I've said before, sometimes nature creates looks more beautiful than anything I could possibly glue up in a blank.
Last pen for this post, the same friend who had sent the box you seen earlier in this post, he sent me several pieces of wenge. This wood intrigued me. It varied from almost black to a chocolaty brown color. It looked beautiful, and I wanted to know what it would look like as a pen.
Hey! You can't win them all.
I do not like this pen at all. Believe it or not, it was a beautiful contrast in it that drew the eye in after sanding it to a smooth finish. Then I put a CA glue finish on it, and the lighter colors in the contrast turned almost as dark as the darker areas, leaving a pretty bland looking pen. I think I have enough of this for two more pens. I think I will try again at a later date, with a different finish than the CA glue I normally use.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Counting Blessings

Today's post is quite a lengthy one. It covers several days work. I did not post daily because I have had something on my mind. I have been thinking of all that I have been blessed with since I started turning pens.
First of all, I love turning pens. I'm sure that has become obvious. The thing I love about it most is the fact that I get the chance to work with so many different beautiful materials that I otherwise would never get to use. That is just the beginning though.
What brought me to thinking of all this? Well I will get to that, but first, I'd like to just start with an overview of all the generosity that has been shown to me since I started turning.
I had an old piece of crap lathe. It wasn't working out and I found out the spindle was bent. So a friend gave me a lathe.
Then I mentioned that I was interested in pen turning and started experimenting with store bought pen parts. A friend sent me a hundred dollar gift card to get me started with buying proper kits and equipment.
Next, other friends found out about my interest and several of those friends have sent me woods of different species from all over the world.
All this is in addition to the moral support, advice, and all the online help a guy could ever hope for along the way.
I even had another friend who sent me some mesh sandpaper that I had never even heard of which has now become my go to choice for preparing for finishing pens.
I may have left out a detail or two there. I've been so blessed with all the support I've gotten that I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude. I have no words to express the thanks I owe so many people who have helped me with this adventure.
Anyway, back to the present.
With all this going on a couple of days ago, I forgot to take a photo of the blanks before I started turning pens. Here are the three that were left when I did think about it though.
This one is walnut and box elder. If you've been reading my blogs and remember the blanks I've made with a double curve line, this one is similar, but an experiment with two lines opposing each other.
This one is purple heart and yellow heart. I got this idea from a photo that was sent to me by a reader of my blog.
It was after this pen that I thought about taking a photo of the blanks. I do apologize for that. I've been told by a couple of readers that they like seeing the blanks so they can see what blanks look like before the turning.
This one is padauk and box elder.
This one was one of my wild ideas that turned out pretty good.
All the time, while preparing blanks, I often have thin strips of wood left over off the table saw. I've been throwing those strips into a coffee can on one of my tables. I took some of those strips and glued them up just to see how they would turn out.
Then, I like the pen my reader gave me the idea for so much that I made a similar one from ziricote and yellow heart.
Now I must back up to the original thought that began this blog post, the generosity that others have shown so much of to me.
Early on, while turning all the pens I showed above, the mail delivery ran. When I stopped to take my medicine at noon, I went to the house and there was a package by my door.
This came from a good friend, Andy. He sent me some beautiful wood. There is mesquite, black cherry, elm, hedge apple, mulberry, and I'm probably leaving a couple out. There was a lot of beautiful wood.
I immediately had to cut some of it up. These were again woods I had never worked with and had to get a better view of what wonderful grain patterns I was working with.
So before the day was over, I had to take a piece of that hedge apple, which is some of most brilliant color I've ever seen in wood, and start on a pen for Andy.
While I was at it, I glued up the rest of those scrap strips I had mentioned earlier for another idea I had on my mind.
Here is the results of my idea. The middle blanks was the idea I was working on. The bottom blank is a result of the left over material from that idea. The top blank is Andy's pen.
It's a good thing that the bottom blank in the above photo is left over, because before I could get it to a pen, I had a pretty bad blow out on it. With a blow out this bad, about all you can do is turn it down to the tubes and, hopefully, save them to be used again.
So that made me more cautious when turning the original pen blank I was trying for. Actually, I had a blowout on this one too. However, it happen early enough that I was able to flip that side of the blank and save the overall pen. This is made from sapelle and maple strips that are off cuts from past projects.
That brings me to Andy's pen.
This is an absolutely beautiful wood, and it is a joy to work with too. It is a very hard wood, which is actually great for turning in my opinion. The yellowish wood is hedge apple. Some people call this osage orange. I'm not sure about that name, because to me it is simply a more brilliant yellow than even yellow heart. It is absolutely stunning. The celtic knot is walnut strips spliced in at a sixty degree angle.
My day of counting blessings did not end there though.
This time the package came by way of UPS. This came from my buddy Jeff. He sent me rosewood, wenge, maple, some spalted maple, and a real treat, the boxes.
These are boxes that Jeff has made for me and two other friends. The boxes are nice, but the attention to detail make them beyond what I can possibly describe in words. They are a work of art in themselves.
Here is my box with two pens I turned sitting in it on pen blocks. Jeff sent the pen blocks too. He has given me full permission to copy his design or come up with a design of my own. Either way I decide to go, I am going to work at this. It will be an added feature I'll be able to offer while trying to sell pens. Also, for a fee, I will be able to send off lids to be carved with details as nice as the ones on these boxes. Even with the extra cost, I think some people may like that option.
Back to the wood though, have any of you wood workers ever seen a piece of wood that you just couldn't get off your mind?
While I was finishing up the other pens I showed above, this particular piece of the spalted maple stayed on my mind.
This piece of wood is actually a terrible piece of wood to turn. It has cracking. It has busted out areas. It has some parts where I stuck an awl into to check that were so punky that it almost felt like a sponge. The grain runs across it instead of along the length. For all that it had wrong with it though, it also was absolutely stunning in appearance. Sometimes nature produces something nicer than anything I could possibly glue up.
I won't bore you with all I had to go through to get this turned without completely ruining it. I will tell you I used a lot (I mean a LOT) of CA glue. I practically had to soak some area in it to stabilize it enough that it wouldn't fly apart on the lathe.
I don't know if Jeff knew it or not, but he sent me something else that I love more than anything, a challenge. This blank was a big challenge, but I love how it turned out.
Jeff, please make sure I have your proper address. I'm not sure if the address on the package you sent is your work address or not. Should I sent packages there, or is there another address?