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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2013 Holidays

The following post contains multiple references to my religious beliefs and my savior, God. If that offends you, please skip this post. You have been warned.
It is that time of year again. The holidays are upon us. It is time to show our holiday cheer by shopping till we drop!
No, if you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably already know that last line was meant to be tongue in cheek. Thanksgiving is in a couple of days. It is this time of year that, sadly, I have to laugh at a lot of what I see in these troubling times. I actually spoke to a young lady in the store a while back who was all excited about Thanksgiving, while also proclaiming that she doesn't believe in God. It amazes me that someone could be that dim. If she doesn't believe in God, what or who is she giving thanks to?
The cookie monster?
The television?
Her job or her government?
Seriously. The entire idea of Thanksgiving was founded on giving thanks to God for the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. So, that being said, I personally have many things to be thankful for this year. Fist, I am above ground. Yes, I think life itself is a blessing. Also, there is my wife, my kids, and so many other things that I could go on for hours and bore the bejeebies out of all my readers. The point is though, I thank God for all of this.
My Savior.
The Almighty.
If that offends anyone, I am not sorry one tiny bit. I am not offended by your beliefs or lack thereof. So my beliefs, by default, should not offend anyone else since I do not force them upon anyone.
That being said, past Thanksgiving we get into the next holiday that always puts me in a bad mood. Why does it? Well I will go into that and then explain why I refuse to get in a bad mood this year. I am going to play the game.
What gets my goat this time of year is the modern idea that we should celebrate this religious holiday but yet take God and any mention of him out of the equation. It has gotten to the point that Xmas wasn't even good enough. People these days are so afraid that Christ may actually be put into it that they won't even say Merry Christmas anymore. They say, "Happy Holidays".
I have always gotten aggrevated with this whole scenerio. Christmas, whether you believe it to be the celebration of the birst of Christ or not, was started many moons ago on the basis of that one belief. The act of giving presents is even based in the tales of the wise men bringing presents to the newborn baby Jesus.
Let me back up and tell you about the most obsurd conversation I've ever had in my life on this subject. Last year I met a self proclaimed athiest. He said that the story of Jesus was the biggest fairy tale ever told. So the conversation went like this:
So you don't believe in Jesus?
But you celebrate Christmas?
No. I celebrate the holidays.
So do you give and recieve presents?
So where do you get the idea to give presents on this holiday?
Well when you're young it is Santa Clause.
So you believe in Santa?
No. That's just where it starts. You learn better when you are older, but still enjoy the ritual of giving and recieving presents.
So where did that ritual start?
Well it started with a story about wise men bringing presents to Jesus.
So there you have it folks. According to the athiest that I spoke to, Christmas, or holidays if you wish, and the very thing that most people like most about it, the presents, whether you believe the story or not, started with what?
So this year I am making a vow here and now. I refuse to get upset this year about the almost criminal theft of a religious holiday only to turn it into a commercialized excuse to sell more crap by a society that is so wrapped up in itself to stop and consider for even one second that the reason for the season is not at all about sales, but about Jesus. So if anyone would consider this and how this holiday got started, they shouldn't have any issue whatsoever if they tell me happy holidays and I look at them with a smile and say, MERRY CHRISTMAS!
I want to wish you all right now, before it gets away from me (because as I get older time does get away from me way too quickly), HAPPY THANKSGIVING, MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND MAY THE LORD B E WITH YOU AND YOURS INTO THE NEW YEAR!

Higher End

As most of you know, I am hooked on turning pens. It is more than an enjoyment factor for me. It is the one thing I have found that bothers me the least when I am hurting in my back. Even on my worst days, I can set a stool at my lathe and still turn a pen or two. So it is the perfect hobby for someone with my health issues.
Since I started turning though, I look at the Penn State website on a regular basis and lust after the nicer pen kits. Now, I do not want anyone to think I am saying that a nice pen kit alone makes for a nice pen. I've seen some beautiful pens that others have made with the cheapest kits available. Then again, I have seen some ugly pens made with some extremely expensive kits.
All that being said, I still knew that if I ever got the opportunity, it would still be nice to turn some pens using nicer kits than the slim line kits I normally use. The pens I turned today are from some nicer kits. They aren't necessarily the most expensive in that Penn State catalogue, but nicer than I am used to. Yes, I will still be turning mostly the cheap slim lines. It is what my budget allows unless I can make a lot more sales than I have been. It sure was a treat to turn a little higher end than usual though.
I used ziricote for the upper barrel and lignum vitae for the lower barrel. This pen is massive in size. It's massive size though may fool you in the delicate touch you had better have while turning it. That upper barrel is so thin that I believe I could have written a secret message on the brass sleeve inside the wood. You could probably read it under a bright enough light. I normally rough my pen blanks out with a three eighths gouge and then finish it up with light touches with a quarter inch detail gouge or skew chisel. On this pen, the roughing gouge never got used. You just go straight for the detail tools.
Other than using a light touch at the lathe, the pen was not hard to make after I ruined three ziricote blanks trying to drill for the huge nine sixteenth sleeve on the upper barrel. After drilling, the blank would be left so thin that the vice on my drill press would distort, or in one case just crush, the remaining wood. The way I wound up doing it was to sneak up on it. First I used a piece of blank way longer than I needed so that the part I was drilling was left sitting above the pen vice. This kept the jaws from adding sidewards pressure. Then I drilled it in three steps, working up to the final hole size.
I think the extra effort was worth it. In my opinion it is a very nice pen.
This one is the Olympian Elite kit.
I decided to use a wood I'd never turned before on this one. The wood is called tulip wood. I think I made a good choice. In my opinion it went well with the gold and black of the pen hardware. I may be a little biased though.
The wood on this one is quite thin as well. I had no issues though. I think think that was because I learned my lesson with these big barreled pen on the first pen I showed you above. This one is a real nice looking pen. My only complaint with this one is the plastic. While all the pens have some plastic parts here and there, all the parts in this one are completely plastic. They are nice looking and done tastefully. I just really don't care for that much of the stuff. Metal makes me feel much more comfortable. All this concerned me when it came time to press everything together. I could just see in the back of my mind plastic parts shattering and ending all the work I had put into it. Everything went together just fine though. So I guess I was worried for nothing.
That was all I got done today. I spent a lot of today hugging my wood burning stove in the shop. My joints don't like cold air. So on days like today, even with the shop at a comfortable temperature, I simply hurt less sitting as close to the heater as I can stand.
So until next time my friends, happy turning.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pens For Sale

These little boxes I make are fine for presenting a pen as a gift. In my shop I have a large display case that hold sixty pens. It is fine for showing them to people who visit my shop. The problem is I need a better way to show my pens away from the shop. I hate to admit it, but my pen sales have been dismal at best. If I am ever to sell more, I desperately need a way to take a few with me when I go to town and display them nicely.
I looked at various options. There are some real nice commercially available display cases and boxes. I always prefer making something myself though instead of using something that anyone can order and have.
So this is what I came up with. I routes slots in a slab of sycamore for the pens to set into. Then I wrapped that with a sapelle casing with slots for a piece of plexi-glass to fit into. Then I added a sapelle handle to the top to make it comfortable to carry.
The plexi-glass simply slides up to put pens in, or take them out.
Here is what it looks like loaded with pens.
I will start carrying this with me when I can. Hopefully it will improve my pen sales. If not, I am going to be forced to start writing a novel just to make a reason for having so many ink pens.
I made an extra case. I have a good friend that is also showing my pens around. Actually, that friend has sold more of my pens than I have. I guess I'm a better wood worker than I am a salesman.
The rest of today's post consists of pens I have turned the last couple of days.
Ms. Clause's care package that she sent had a piece of red palm in it. I have turned black palm before and really wanted to see the difference in appearance of the two. It was just a short piece, but that is all that is needed for a .50 Cal. pen.
This one, the pen kit and the wood, is also from that same package.
It is a Polaris kit with crepe myrtle for the wood.
Then it was time to dive into some kits that I ordered recently from Penn State.
No, it is not a broken pen. This is called a flip stylus pen.
Put the insert in one way and it is a pen.
Take it out and flip it over and it is a stylus.
I used a piece of olive wood for this pen. It was also in the Clause care package. I had never turned olive wood before and wanted to see how it looked. I think it went good with the gold and black hardware for this pen.
No, you are not seeing double. I had the kits from the care package to make a pen and pencil. Both were designer kits with the same brushed satin finish, so I decided to make it as matching set. This was something I had never done.
This set took a lot longer than I anticipated. First, I had done the designer kits before that do not require a tenon. These were not those kits. These you have to cut a tenon for the center band to fit onto. Then, when you slip it on, you have to have the upper barrel the proper diameter for it all to flow as one. What made this a tad harder than it should be was the fact that I did not have bushings for it. I could have waited until I place another order to Penn State and got the right bushings. However, I did not think of all this until I had already glued the brass tubes into the blanks and was ready to turn.
Oh well. A good set of dial calipers took some careful measuring, and often, but I got the job done without the bushings.
For the wood, each pen is maple with two rings of cherry and one opposing ring of walnut.
Until next time my friends, happy turning.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Turn A Turner

Turn a turner.
I just couldn't help that corny play with words. I turned a spinning top.
I searched high and low for a suitable photo of what appears in my mind when I think of a spinning top. Somewhere buried deep in my memory is a metal spinning top very similar to the one above. It was painted up like an alien space ship.
So that may explain why I chose the shape I did for my first turned spinning top.
This was one of the kits that Ms. Clause sent me. I chose a piece of a rosewood block that I had cut off to make a bowl a while back. That left me with just enough to drill a hole in to make a little stand for it to set on.
The instructions give several good ideas for shapes of a top. I'd like to order some more of these kits and try a few of them. For the first one though, I had to go back to what my memory told me a top should look like. I wasn't sure how it would work though.
I guess it does pretty good. With a good pull, it spins about two minutes before toppling over. This was plenty enough time to get a good photo of it in action.
I enjoyed this project and definitely hope to get the chance to do some more of them in the future.
This is the bowl photo you seen a couple of days ago. It is the one I had all the problems with. Well after posting that blog, I got a couple of emails from some good friends who know more about turning than I do. It was apparent to them from that blog post that something was very wrong. Somewhere, somehow, my technique was off to a point that they were a little concerned about me and wanted to offer suggestions.
So I asked questions to try and figure out what was going on here. I seemed to be doing alright, besides a few high speed projectiles that seem to occur in my shop for unknown reasons. Next, I looked over a couple of books I have on techniques.
I couldn't figure it out. However, there was one area that always bugs me, my tools. I have read countless opinions and seen even more countless out of control arguments about the correct sharpening angle for this tool or that one. For my spindle tools, I am perfectly satisfied. For bowls though, I was going good, but still wasn't satisfied that it was right.
So back to square one. What is the correct angle for a bowl gouge?
Sixty degrees?
Fifty degrees?
Forty degrees?
Thirty eight and three sixty eighths degree with a side of bacon?
Seriously, if you get online and try to find an agreement on this question, you'll find it, until you look at a different source.
So what is right?
The only thing I knew for sure was that it was time to try something new. I done a search online for the instruction sheet for several different commercially available sharpening jigs. After looking at these, it seemed that it seemed to be a general consensus with these jigs that a bowl gouge should be ground at about a forty degree angle.
Above, on the left, is one of my gouges before regrinding them. As I said, it was getting the job done well, but something just wasn't right.
The one on the right is the new grind angle. I wouldn't say it is exact, but is very close to forty degrees. The question is, or was, would this change in grind angles make a difference for the better? Or worse?
Well there was but one way to find out.
This is a hunk of wood off the same block as the bowl you seen in the earlier photo. After all, I wanted to compare apples to apples here, not apples to apple sauce.
I think it made a huge difference. It seems that less of an angle causes less tear out, and a much more controlled cut.
Also, in this photo, on the left is shavings from before the regrind. It actually looks more like course saw dust than shavings. On the right is the shavings from the test bowl with the new grind angle.
It turned out like cutting butter with a hot knife. I actually wanted to go a tad thinner. The bowl as you see it is just under a quarter inch thick. I started to see hairline cracks when I stopped the lathe to check the progress though, and decided I had better not push my luck.
So what angle do you grind a bowl gouge? I have no idea. I'm going to stick with this grind for a while and see how it works out for me. It looks very promising. If it turns out to be a problem though, I think I will change it on the word of the, I believe, best advice I have heard so far. A man on another blog told me once about sharpening tools, "If what works for other people don't work for you, change it until it does work for you."
With that said,
Till next time friends, happy turning!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Honey Do Log

Every man knows about the honey do list.
My wife doesn't necessarily make a list. She just let's me know when she needs something done and I do it as soon as I can.
Well this morning, my wife brought me all of this. It is the things she and the kids use for school projects, such as science fair boards. She has had this in a bag that she pulls out when there is a project to be done. She wanted something better to store them so she could pull them out and everything be in an orderly fashion.
So what could I do?
Well I done what any man does. I stalled. I asked questions like, "well honey, what did you have in mind?"
She said she didn't care if I put holes in a log to stick it all in, just get it done.
Here's some advice ladies. Never, NEVER, tell a guy he can check something off the honey do list simply by drilling some holes in a log, even if you're just joking. If you do, you will probably get some holes in a log.
No, I'm serious.
You'll get some holes in a log.
It works, and she's happy.
Only part of this story is true. My wife did want something to put all this in. The rest of it was my attempt at adding a tiny bit of humor to a short, boring project post.
Actually, I was looking for a large enough block of wood to make something like this. I thought it would be neat to make it out of a piece of log. This was an interesting project. It took more thought than I thought it would to get jigs rigged up to drill the holes at workable angles on both sides of the log without it trying to buck or move on the drill press table.


I called today's post "Fixer" because the last few days it seems I am constantly having to fix something. So the title seemed fitting.
Everyone seemed to like the cypress flower pot I made a while back, so I decided to try making a cypress bowl. I got the outside turned fine with the tail stock supporting it. Soon after I switched to hollowing out the inside though, the double sided tape I was using to hold on a waste block with a tenon cut into it to fit my chuck  gave way and the bowl took flight. So I decided to use my bowl press to glue the waste block on before continuing. I let it set over night.
Of course I had to retrue the outside the next day and then the hollowing went along without a hitch.
As you can see, this one was going to require a lot of sanding. My powerless sanding tool I made a while back was working wonderfully, then..........
I knew that the thin sides seemed a tad brittle to me. I didn't think they were that brittle though.
So I turned it down to a shorter bowl and went at it again.
Before I could even get back to sanding though, well, you see what happened before I could even get back to sanding.
So I turned it down to an even shorter bowl.
Here, after sanding, I decided I had better snap another photo before something else went wrong, like maybe while turning the waste block off the bottom.
The waste block removal happened without incident. Well, almost.
I noticed a crack on the sides while I was checking my progress at one point. Once you get past a certain point of no return though, all you can do is finish the waste block removal and then take it off the lathe to see what you have.
After all I had been through with this bowl, I really did not want to scrap it. So I used CA glue to fix the crack in it.
I think it turned out ok. I can't gripe about all the wasted material making this tall bowl short. I try to look at things like this as opportunities to hone my skills.
That's what I tell people anyway. Never admit that you just messed up.
Next, ever since Ms. Clause sent my the gift package last week, I've been looking at one of the pieces of mystery wood that was included. If I was correct it was going to be box elder burl. I used elder burl on the Civil War pen a while back and thought it was one of the most beautiful materials I've ever turned. So I was anxious to turn this to see what I got.
If you read my blog, you know I always refer to burls as like unwrapping presents. You never know what surprises await underneath. Sometimes you are greeted with the most fabulous gift a fella could ask for. Well, sometimes you are greeted with a box of rock.
No seriously. You know you have an Uncle Joe who lost his pet rock collection. In his demented state of mind, he has mistakenly wrapped it up and gave it to you for your birthday about three and a half months after your birthday.
Ok. Anyway, the beautiful wood, which did turn out to be box elder burl as I suspected by the way, revealed a knot about halfway into it. It wasn't one of those pretty, interesting knots. It was one of those knots that, if I'd continued, would have flown out and left a huge hole that would have been near impossible to fill with my usual slurry method.
So what to do? Well since the CA glue had worked for my bowl repair so well, I decided to go back to the well again. I really wanted to save this blank.
And I think it worked out real well. Who says you can't turn a gift of a box of rocks into something nice?
This is a .50 Cal. pen with box elder burl, and a, now pretty and interesting, knot in it.
So what else could I tear up and fix?
This is a hunk of cedar I had back in the corner of the shop. Actually it is half of a split bowl that I tried turning some time back. I decided to try to turn it into one of those interesting looking things I seen somewhere on the internet some time ago. I would tell you what it is called or where I seen it, but unfortunately, I can't remember either.
Things were going great. I was having fun. The wood was cooperating fine, and I was sure I could complete this project.
Then a hunk off one side decided it wanted to go bye-bye. Luckily, it flew away from me. However, this large hunk all of a sudden leaving the party threw the rest of it out of balance at high speed. Well, let's just say that I'm not sure those pants are going to ever come clean again.
I had not idea that a three hundred pound lathe could hop like that.
I decided to not try fixing this one. This same hunk of wood has caused massive failures on the lathe twice now. I haven't been hurt, but I do not wish to test that three strike rule thing.
Also, something in the back of my head told me to check the alignment on my lathe after all the excitement died down, my heart rate returned to normal, and I smoked as cigarette or ten to calm my nerves.
I'm glad I did. This is the disadvantage to having a lathe with a rotating head. Something like that out of balance hopping dance it was doing earlier throws things off.
So I felt it was a good time to do a lathe tune up. I cleaned it up, realigned everything, oiled everything, and generally made sure it was ready to safely go again.
Then it was time to climb back on the horse and go again.
The deer antler pens, especially the .45-70 pens I've made before, seem popular. So I decided to make one for my display case.
Then, since Ms. Clause had sent me a few .50 Cal. pen kits, I decided that, since people seem to like the bullet and deer antler combination, I should make a .50 Cal. pen with deer antler.
So, the lathe is back in fighting shape. We'll just have to see what I can mess up next. Remember though, it's not mistakes, it's learning opportunities.
Till next time, happy turning!
Before I go, you may remember I made a bamboo pen for my kid's karate instructor a few days ago.
For my readers that always ask about my family, my son done his rank test yesterday. He passed and is now a yellow belt.
Oh, he's the little fella on the left in this photo.