Sunday, May 13, 2012

Turning, Turning, Turning...

Pens, that is!

I signed up for the pen-turning class through Tri-City Adult Education.  It was just 5 weeks, and it ended earlier than the woodworking classes I'd been taking.  I thought "What the heck, it's two hours of something to do".  And, I'd been thinking about using a lathe to turn blocks of wood into interesting designs.  Pens, I thought, would be an interesting way to start.

And, guess what, it was!  It is!  The last class was last week, and I missed a couple of classes when I was in Hawaii, but still I was able to create a pretty decent looking pen!  I liked that I could start the evening with a small block of wood and the innards to a pen, and within two hours I had a finished product.

I think I'll make more!  (I'm taking the Thursday woodworking class and don't have a project to work on, so my instructor is leaving the lathe out for me to use!)

Here's how it works.  You purchase the innards (aka: a pen kit), then you buy the wood block, or you can select blocks of resins, or other materials.  Some of those are really cool!.
This is an example of a resin block - these look amazing when they're turned a polished!
Then you measure how big the two pieces of wood will need to be to hold the innards and you cut them to just over that size.  Next step is to use a drill press to drill a hole through the center of the block - the hole has to be just big enough to hold the innards.

Wood being drilled through the center

Next you use super glue to glue the metal inner pieces into the hole you've just drilled.  After that, you trim & sand the wood to the exact size of the inner metal piece that you just glued inside.  Now you're ready to start turning that block of wood into a cylindrical shape.  You slide the wood and bushings that match the size of your pen pieces (center piece, end piece and tip) onto the mandrel of the lathe.  The mandrel is what turns.

This is the lathe.
This is the mandrel, and it fits into the lathe.
Once you're ready, you turn on the lathe and holding a special chisel you start shaping the wood.  You want to get it to match up to the bushings you added so that the wood will match up to the pen pieces. 
Pen Turning Tool Set

When it's close to the right shape, you start sanding.  As the mandrel turns, you hold sand paper on the wood.  Very quickly the wood is smoothed.  Then you use finer and even finer sandpaper until the wood is really, really, really smooth!  Now you're ready for finish.  I suppose you could apply a stain, but all I did was rub in a wax and as the mandrel turned I buffed the wood to a shiny, smooth finish.  I added several coats, and then a special finishing coat that kind of hardens the finish.

Then, you assemble the pen.  There's a special piece of equipment that you use to push the pieces into the openings in the pen.  After you screw the piece that holds the ink into place, shove the two pieces together

A.T. Cross 8514 Ballpoint Pen Refill, Fine Point, Black Ink
These are called "pen refills" but if it's original to the pen kit, I don't  
And voila!  You have a pen.
Here's pen #1:

Slimline pen, I don't know what the wood is - cheap stuff!
I used a stainless steel colored pen kit (pieces/innards).
 And, here's pen #2:
Another cheap block of wood, but this one is thicker, it's called a "comfort" grip and has a rubber tip.
The "pieces" are gun metal in color.
I should just let you think that I'm a natural at this, or a darned fast learner, but I have to admit that the comfort grip thing is the result of a major "goof".  The wood cracked and broke off while I was turning it.  It was figure out a "fix" or start all over.  I went for the "fix", that rubber piece at the tip - and I liked it!

Here they are together - cute, huh?
And, the bonus - they actually work!

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