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Friday, January 20, 2012

Christmas Break

I had some time over Christmas break to play. Yes, old guys like to play. Its just that our toys are more expensive than when we were younger. My game is Pen Turning. It involves a lathe, some chisels, a few pen kits and some pen blanks that can be either wood or plastic. Or, as in the picture above, a laser cut kit. I would like to say that I cut the laser kits myself but alas, that is not the case. Try as I might, I just cannot justify the $10,000 initial investment in a laser to get started.

The thing I like about it is that even when I have to order a laser cut kit, the resulting pen is still one of a kind. The pen at the top of the page went to Carly. She uses a planner to keep her schedule so I thought she might enjoy a unique pen to keep her notes.

To make a pen I start with a kit. The kit contains brass tubes and the other components that make up the completed kit. You start with a blank (wood, acrylic, stone, metal) and drill a hole through it that is the same size as the tube. You then glue the tube into the blank using super glue and square the blank to the tube using a special trimmer.

You then mount the tube or tubes, depending on the kit, on a mandrel using bushings at each end that determine the finished diameter of the pen. Then using lathe chisels of various types, you turn the blank round and shape it to pleasing (I hope) shape.

It is then just a matter of sanding the blank, applying a finish and assembling the pen. It is possible to to make a complete pen in about an hour. Some more complicated pens, such as this set I made for my niece and her husband for their wedding, take longer. These took about a week.The concept for the pens worked quite nicely but I was somewhat disappointed with the finished pens. The colors for their wedding were emerald green and purple. I segmented the pens such that the main body color was the favorite color of the bride our groom and then added a band of their spouses favorite color with a brass band separating the colors. If you look closely, the colors, particularly the purple, looked kind of washed out. That is one of the challenges when turning acrylics and it a lesson I learned the hard way. The material is turned so thin that the pen tube will show through most acrylic materials. Naturally, its not a problem with turning wood pens.

The pen below is in a material called Lava Red. I love red. I HATE the pen kit I put it on. But it was something I did for other reasons. In the wedding set above the colors were washed out. In doing a little research I learned that if want the colors to be vibrant you must first paint the pen tubes. So in the pen below I painted the tube red before I glued them into the pen blank. The resulting color is much more vibrant. I am much more pleased with the color. I am not please with the way the kit went together. The problem with this kit is that many of the components are plastic. To assemble the pen, you align the parts with the tubes and press them into place. It is a tolerance fit and that means that it requires a fair amount of pressure to seat the parts properly into the tube. Guess what happens if you put to much pressure on plastic? There is one end on this pen that did not fully seat. If I had pressed any harder I would have broken some of those plastic parts. Still, I think the pen turned out rather nicely. Its specular when viewed in sunlight.

The girls took piano lessons for a number of years from a wonderful lady. When we moved, we took several of her beginner piano books with us and they stayed with us fro a couple of years. I was terribly embarrassed so I made her a special pen to say sorry for keeping your books and thanks for teaching the girls. We gave her the pen when we returned the books.

It was even in a special case. It had a picture of Chopin laser engraved on the cover. She loved it!
These are just a few more horse pens. The red and the green turned out well but the blue and the black are to close in shade so the horse gets lost. I don't have any of these any more. Carly got one, Kumi got one, and a friend of each of the girls each got one. Looks like I better order a few more blanks.
Oh, and that nifty back ground the pens are laying on; chinks. They're not just for riding!

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