Weekend Update 10/26/2008

Some random thoughts...

Labor Day Weekend Turnings

It has been a wonderful holiday weekend so far. The Fulton County Fair is in full swing, we spent some time at parents house taking advantage of their swimming pool, and I got to spend some time on the lathe. From left to right, the first item is a kaleidescope kit. The style is a lot of fun and affords you many design alternatives. The "gems" are loose and can be replaced with other colors/items. This particular kit is dressed in Tulipwood and finished with CA/BLO and high speed buffing. The second item is actually one I worked on a few weeks ago, it is a purpleheart yo-yo with a gift box made from Japanese cherry and purpleheart. This was actually a gift for my wife who's birthday was this past weekend. I avoided posting a picture until she could open it up. The next item is a new kit style for me called a Panache. This is a very large clipless pen when turned and has a very good weight to it. The mechanism is a rollerball with black chrome hardware and dressed in Wenge. The last item is a European style pen and letter opener commissioned by a good friend who has been holding on to the wood for a year now. The pen and opener are dressed in Black Walnut which came from a downed tree as a result of a storm. The wood dried very nicely over the course of a year and produced a very nice desk set.

Mind if I root through your firewood?

So after visiting some good friends a few weeks ago, I helped myself to their firewood (with their blessing of course), all of which came from their 2 acre wooded lot. What I have pictured here is my first attempt at splitting down logs using a chainsaw/band-saw and converting them into usable/turnable chunks of lumber. On the far right is a couple of ash bowls which fit comfortably in your hand. When you hold the two of them rim to rim, you can actually see the pith and rings line up. The middle pic is of two lidded containers from a maple tree trunk (a piece of which is in the picture as well). The smaller one was my first attempt which went pretty well until it came to the lid. That blew apart after I had a bad catch because I was using the wrong gouge on the end grain. I recovered/cheated by using a piece of scrap aspen for the lid and a chunk of purpleheart for the finial. The larger container was the second attempt which went better for the lid, but I now realize I need a hollowing gouge for deeper cuts. The pic on the left was a set of acrylics I did as a gift for a fellow artist friend.

Some new fountain pens and a couple more yo-yos (executive style)

I spent some time on Friday setting up few blanks for the weekend. The two fountain pens are new kit style called Capri. They are about a third shorter then the Classic fountain pen and also feature rubber gaskets on the post points to reduce the chance of a leak in your pocket or purse. The plating for these two kits are 24kt. The first pen in finished in African Blackwood, which was not my first choice. The first choice was to be cinnamon burl, but the lower tube blew out, much to my disappointment. I salvaged the tubes and remounted them in an old blackwood blank. The second pen is dressed in Madrone Burl, a species found in the Pacific Northwest, which turns and finishes very well, with interesting grain patterns. Last, a turned a couple more yo-yos. After the first one I turned a few weeks ago, I felt more comfortable with the technique and managed to turn both of these in half the time. The hardware is chrome and the material is Bolivian Rosewood.

Yo-Yo Mo-Fos

This was a very fun project I've been itching to work on for the past several weeks. I ordered the kits online and finally found some interesting wood to work with last week. Alas, after cutting the board down to size for the two halves, I opened my mandrel and kits to find I was missing the bushings to hold it to the mandrel, and it was a Saturday evening with no chance of getting the replacements for at least a few days. I finally received the bushings this week and had a chance to turn them down this evening after work. The wood is Bolivian Rosewood and the turning was very much unlike pens. I have some technique to learn for sure, and this is not without flaws, but it's shiny and runs pretty true.

A Pen Making Anniversary...a Penniversary...

It has been a year since I started working on the lathe making pens and other small turnings. My Delta Shopmaster Midi-Lathe has performed admirably, cranking out 167 pens, multiple small turnings, and more recently bowls. I want to thank everyone who decided to make one of these their own or thought enough of the quality to gift them to others. I am having as much fun with this today as the day I started last June, and will continue to produce one of a kind fine writing instruments and other turnings. Thanks again!

The continuing adventures of Pollen Boy and Allergy Girl...

This has been a busy, yet oddly satisfying weekend. Friday around 2:58pm E.S.T. I hit critical mass and could do no more work. I became aware that if I stayed at the office I would probably do more damage to my client systems then good, as I was getting dumber by the minute. It's been close to chaotic since my other Linux administrator left for greener pastures a few weeks ago and Friday I just couldn't do anymore. Leaving the office a little after 3:00pm, I stopped to Woodcraft on my home to pick up some wine bottle stopper kits, some pretty wood to make said stoppers, and to have the guys identify the wood you see in this picture. The consensus is either a Kingwood with s strip of sapwood running through it, or Bolivian Rosewood. I am going with the latter. I occasionally pick up a 5lb bag of wood scraps perfect for pen blanks from Woodcraft, but the problem is that they are almost never labeled regarding species. So I occasionally grab a piece of one that I can't identify and see how it turns. This one was especially nice, so I had to find out what it was. I also talked with one of the store owners for a while about putting some of my work on display in their cases. I will probably go back this week and put a few select pens on display. I was very flattered they asked me.

I was home by a little after 4:00pm and decided to unwind by playing a little Evil Dead: Fistful of Boomstick on the PS/2 for a bit before Pizza Friday kicked in. Later, with Pizza acquired, we kicked back for the night with Dr. Who and Battlestar Galactica (great mid-season ending, I could beat Ron Moore for not starting the season back up until 2009...fracking 2009!).

yellowstone 2008: day 3

to go to the pics from day 3, click here

Having rested up after an amazing amount of driving the previous few days, it was back on the road again, destination Cody, WY. While there are plenty of attractions right around Custer, like Sylvan Lake, Wind Cave, and Jewel Cave, time was going to be a factor as we definitely wanted to stop at Devils Tower along the way. Most of the routes we took were two lane rural routes which were practically deserted, but full of spectacular scenery. On the way we stopped at Jewel Cave National Park, but guided tours (a necessity) were not scheduled to start for a few hours from when we arrived. We looked around the bookstore and marveled at the interactive map of the cave system below us. I think this would be a worthwhile stop some day, along with Wind Cave. Back on the road, we were to Devils Tower in about two hours.

New Stuff...

I do love a nice Saturday afternoon, a gentle breeze, mild temperatures, the sound of the lathe spinning away...From left to right, the first is a Wall Street II Platinum kit with a herringbone pattern segmented cut. This is the first time I have tried this pattern, and I honestly thought it would fall apart more then one during the operation. The woods are a various scrap that I had lying around the garage, most of which I probably would never put on the lathe by themselves, but combined they look pretty nice. The finish was a coat of CA, followed by the Beal Buffing system. I first tried a friction wax, but that was near disastrous as the heated wood pieces started to expand. Sand paper is your friend...the next couple is a new kit for me, it is a ceramic rollerball called a Ligero. It is a very thick pen, but feels quite good when writing. The dressing is an white and black acrylic called "Classic". These are intended as a wedding present for a cousin. The last pen is a Platinum European Ballpoint with "Dreamscape" Acrylic. The box is a rosewood "lift" style. This one was commissioned by a friend.

yellowstone 2008: day 2

To skip my prattle and go directly to the pictures, Click Here...

The one good thing (and only one) about having an east facing hotel room is that you will be up with the crack of dawn. Oh sure, hotels have some of the most opaque curtains known to man (lead lined I think...good for blocking radiation) but there will always be cracks around the edges or down the middle where the two halves meet (the light rays bend and meet at the focal point...don't ask, Physics Lab joke). So despite a very long drive from the day before, I find it very heard to sleep with the room naturally illuminated. No matter though, we had a big drive ahead of us again, but with the promise of fun with scheduled stops at the Badlands, Wall Drug, and Mt. Rushmore. We took advantage of the hotels complimentary continental breakfast (sweet buttermilk pancakes, they had biscuits and gravy...I love the midwest) and hit the road early with a good start to the day.

A few turnings after Yellowstone

After nine days away from the lathe on a well deserved and much needed vacation to Yellowstone National Park, I had a couple of kits lying around that needed to be turned/finished. From left to right, a Copper Wall Street II dressed in Amboyna Burl. I really did not think much of these kits when I first saw them, but the heavy weight and great balance really make for a nice writing instrument. The hardware really frames the wood quite well also. The second is a Platinum Cigar dressed in Aqua Acrylic. Both pens are ballpoint twist mechanisms.

9 days and 3,700 miles...yellowstone or bust 2008: day 1

Saturday May 17th, a great day to start a multi thousand mile road trip. It was Jen and my 11th wedding anniversary, and the start of a trip we have been planning for months. We carefully planned our clothing and electronics (at least for Yellowstone, I neglected to see how hot it would be on the actual trip there), we secured a bunny sitter (Thanks Carl!), and updated the Garmin vehicle icon to the Black Pearl among other important preparations. After a marathon packing session the previous evening and part of Saturday morning, we bid the bunnies goodbye and hit the road around 10:00am.

Our route to the park took us out I-90, through Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Unfortunately this also included Chicago and Rockford Illinois. I have made this junket many times before, and I can never seem to find a good time to drive through Chicago. If it's not the ridiculous amount of traffic, it's Illinois' unrealistic road construction goals exasperating said traffic (really, 25 miles of single lane traffic near Rockford with approximately one mile of actual active road work? I call lazy...move the darn barrels when you need to work on that section). I really do give credit to anyone that has to commute in Chicago on a regular basis, I personally could not do that myself, at least not without eventually serving some mandatory federal prison sentence. After missing one toll gate due to heavy traffic (thanks to the state of Illinois for a convenient website to pay missed tolls...I know I probably could have ignored missing an 80 cent toll, but best to be accountable...and somewhat funny using a credit card on-line to pay 80 cents) we finally greeted Wisconsin and the promise of cheese curds with open arms (queue Journey).

home again, home again, jiggity jog

yay! home again from our Yellowstone road trip. An awesome time was had...a detailed analysis will follow...eventually...

Down, but not out...

This has been a week, being down most of it with a spring cold acquired sometime Monday when my wife and I went out to catch a late matinée of Iron Man. Today was the first day I felt well enough to play in the shop, so I took advantage of that with a few blanks set up from last weekend. The pen on the far right was actually turned last Sunday after I spent the day documenting all of the models and serial numbers for all of my power tools (quite the collection at this point, probably a good thing to have). It is an Acrylic 'Purple Rain' ballpoint twist Platinum Cigar finished with only wet sanded 12.5K grit micromesh. These are hefty pens but feel very solid when put to paper. The next two were turned this afternoon. The middle pen is an Aromatic Cedar ballpoint twist Gunmetal Slim Line finished with CA/Danish and High Speed Friction Wax. The pen on the left is a Bocote (I think), ballpoint twist Gunmetal Slim Line also finished with CA/Danish and High Speed Friction Wax. These are general inventory pens and are available from my website. I think if the weather remains good this week, I may get back to bowl turning. I still have three good sized cherry blanks and I finally got my grinding rig all setup for quick and accurate grinding of my bowl gouges. These tend to dull very quickly when turning semi-green wood, so I spent a little extra for a V pocket jig to make it faster.

huh, a purple tree...hows about that...

A dear friend commissioned me to make a sculpted letter opener and ballpoint pen set out of Purpleheart wood. Purpleheart is an interesting hardwood as it continues to intensify in color as it oxidizes. It is also a pleasure to turn as it has a fairly tight grain and takes the skew very well. The sculpted kits leave a little to be desired though. While I do like the finished product, the 8mm tubes and hardware and awkward transmission make it a bear to assemble. I also do not really care for kits which require a tenon all the way down to the brass. But, I was still happy to do this and glad she thought of me.