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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?

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