Monday, October 21, 2013

Reading stand sized for textbooks!

Light weight balsa wood for ease of portability, strong enough to prop your heaviest textbooks!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to make a custom pen order

How to order a Custom-Made pen
from Hope & Grace Pens

So you like what you see? Great! I'd love to customize a pen just for you. 

To ensure you and I are communicating accurately, follow the four simple steps below.

1) Choose your setting.
  • Looking only at the metal hardware, choose the style and color you like best from any of my previous work or any other pen you see online (no guarantee I can use it, but I'll try). Make a note of the hyperlink to the setting you'd like.

2) Choose your pattern or design.
  • Looking only at the wood or acrylic body of the pen, make notes of patterns or designs that you like. Copy hyperlinks to examples of these if available, or provide clear, simple instructions.
  • Note the colors, patterns and pen body shape you prefer.
  • Know that each and every pen produced is one of a kind. I can duplicate techniques and patterns, but no two pens will ever be exactly alike.

3) Provide simple, clear instructions for customization(s).

  • I'm happy to customize products for you. Know that everything we produce is done by hand. We pride ourselves in not resorting to laser engravers and the like. Most names or symbols will be wood-burned into the body of your pen by hand. Provide clear, simple instructions of what you'd like. Example: "I'd like the name "Dr. Stout" to be wood-burned into the wood body of the upper portion of the pen."

4) Contact me with Barney-style instructions (remember, I am a Marine. Try to use monosyllabic words when possible).

Example: "Hi, Bryce. I'd like to custom order a gift for my niece, whose birthday is in two months. 
Setting: Please use the gold twist pen setting seen here (link http://link). 
Design: I'd like it done in a light-colored wood like oak or poplar with a dark Celtic knot like this one: (link http://link) on just the bottom portion
Custom: The name "Megan" wood-burned into the upper portion using a flowing script."

Things to know:
  • I will never ask for payment up front. Only order products you truly love when I have posted images online.
  • It will probably take two to six weeks to complete your pen(s), depending on a number of factors, including ordering special parts or woods, the number of custom orders ahead of yours, the difficulty/intricacy of your design, and other factors.
  • Estimates are just that: an estimate of what the final cost of production will be. The final price could be greater or lesser than the estimate.
    • Price is determined by a computer formula that factors a) cost of materials, b) difficulty of design, c) hours to produce.
  • Your order is guaranteed to please you. If for any reason you are unhappy with your Hope & Grace Pen product, simply return it within 30 days of receipt for a refund minus shipping. Please tell me why you're returning the item so I can strive to make future clients happy, and do give me the opportunity to make the right product for you.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013


If you follow my work, you’ll have seen a lot of product lately that are NOT pens, kind of strange for a shop named “Hope and Grace PENS”…
But I’ve enjoyed “branching” out, trying my hand at new things. For me, woodworking on anything larger than a pen is pretty difficult. There are a couple poster frames hanging in my office so lopsided and skewed they’d make M.C. Escher proud.
Still, it’s fun. And that’s the whole point behind everything: to give me a hobby that isn’t extremely expensive and is almost impossible to get hung over doing. Making the wine bottle racks was very intriguing. What you have in your head doesn’t always work, so after more cutting and sanding you experiment until you have something that will balance without dropping your bottle of chardonnay on the floor. Took me several tries to figure out 45 degrees was the right angle (see the pun there?) for a balancing rack. I also enjoyed the strange looks I’d get breaking out a full bottle of wine at the wood shop while testing the racks.
The iPad stands are something I saw online. They’re basically a slab of wood with a dado angle cut into them. Of course I had to make them more interesting, adding stripes and designs. Who wants boring old plain? And I’ve made a variety of sizes and shapes to accommodate different electronic devices. Being a big Kindle man myself, I can tell you it’s nice to put your device up on a desk and read without having to hold it. I also made my first Kindle booksafe. This first draft is for me while I perfect my technique, but I proudly tote my copy of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory around wherever I go with my Kindle Paperwhite tucked neatly inside. I’ve got plans in the works for a reading kit using Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre to include a stand and stylus. [update: I DID finish that project and it sold to a happy client!]
There are even some candle holders in my inventory now. Doesn’t seem like something lots of people would jump on, but there’s a big market out there for all-natural “rustic” art, especially driftwood. And while it’s fragile and fairly difficult to work with, I do enjoy handling driftwood and seeing what comes out. The way the air station at Iwakuni is geographically laid out, there’s a spot along the seawall where all the driftwood collects. If I can just keep the MPs from shooting me, I’m going to climb down there and collect some of that someday, like a kid in a candy store.

I want to know! What have you “branched” out on? Is there something related to your work you find yourself diverting into?

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Hey! I've been featured on Jojoebi's Inspiration Sunday!

Some great Q&As in the interview. Check it out here:


Monday, May 20, 2013

Procrastination pays off NOW

Wow. Blogging is hard work.
                Every few days since that last post in FEBRUARY, I've told myself to write a blog entry. Time and tide, eh?
                So here we are, three months later, finally getting around to it. Well, I have an excuse for March and April ... kind of. I spent March preparing for our April 20 Craft Fair! For some reason, I volunteered as "craft king," which is much less prestigious than it sounds. My duties included securing the location, arranging for tables, collecting fees and paying for advertising. Much like when I do housework at home, I simply behaved incompetently until relieved of my duties.
                The fair itself was outstanding. For an introvert, I really enjoyed being out there mingling with potential clients and showcasing my work. There are now a good number of new proud owners of Hope & Grace writing instruments, and I've spent much of my free time since filling custom orders, including these beauties for Felicia P. and her husband as well as a cross and Celtic knot for a certain religious figure here.
                Of course, my efforts would all have been in vain had it not been for my beautiful assistant, Brenda. I swear that woman can sell ice to Eskimos. She just has a smiling personality and an ability to put potential purchases into perspective for people.
                "Oh, Father's Day is coming up and your Dad is a gun enthusiast? Do you think he'd enjoy this nice bullet pen?"
                My big competition was Troy R. from Gemstone Pens. He set up shop right next to me and we had a good "coopetition" thing going. It's funny how two people can do the same thing and come up with very different results. Troy's pens are absolutely top notch, and I highly recommend him ... if you can't find anything in my inventory to suit your taste ;-D
                Late April and May also saw some new projects, though they aren't quite ready for public consumption. I got my hands on a copy of Rush Limbaugh's book, "See I Told You So." So after gutting the drivel inside, I made a cool little book safe ... guaranteed to never get pulled off the shelf by unsuspecting visitors. It was so pleasing to deface Limbaugh's book, I did another by him and a few others, including Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue."
                It's the little things in life, you know?

In addition to book safes (think "Shawshank Redemption"), I'm going to make iPad/Kindle cases from books!
I want to know!
Who's books should I deface next?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Making it official

I've been operating Hope & Grace Pens for almost a year now. Some misguided sense of integrity led me to make my business official by getting sanctioned to operate it from my home aboard a military base. What was I thinking?
                  We all know that the U.S. Postal Service is the model of efficiency and reason. Now take that model and apply it to the governance of a military installation. Our federal government and its various subordinate agencies are able to create new and innovative ways of delay, buck passing and confounding procedural process. You want to start a privately-owned, home-based business while residing aboard the installation? Well, strap on your helmet, Dorothy. We're going for a ride.
                  The first thing to understand is that you are "encouraged" to pursue your interests off duty as long as your home-base business doesn't detract from the good order and discipline of the base. The second thing to understand is you don't know what "encouraged" means. You think you know. But if your definition doesn't include the words "door slamming" or "firstborn child" then you don't really know.
                  Where does this leisurely jaunt down the gauntlet begin? Base legal, of course. Of course, it's not called "Base Legal." That would be waaaaaay too logical and civilian-like. You must go to the Staff Judge Advocate. Except they don't have one here. Here they have a Station Judge Advocate. Got it? Ok, just fill out this form. It's easy, just one page ... two sided. Piece of cake. A series of simple questions.
                  Oh, and signatures, plenty of signatures -- not yours, of course. You need the approval of every low, and mid-level functionary from the gate guards to guy who washes dishes in the back of the chow hall. Everyone must agree that your activity is safe, clean, morally and spiritually sound, doesn't interfere with the harmony and well-being of any creature, spirit or sentient being living or dead within a 5-kilometer radius, and most importantly doesn't compete with anything already for sale on base. The fun part? A blind man has a better chance of winning a rigged street-vendor shell game than catching any of these people in their appointed place of duty in the time you can spare during your lunch hours.
                  So, eventually you crawl back into legal, nursing bruises and sprains, clutching the bloodied but signed document and place it reverently at their feet. Oh, you spelled something wrong? You'll need to start over. And you got these signatures out of chronological date order. What's wrong with you?
                  After a standard three to four iterations of that, they'll take pity on you and grudgingly accept the poor excuse of a signed form you had the audacity to bring in. At least now you'll have plenty of time for your broken bones to heal before you hear back from them -- until one day you get a phone call. What's that? You marked "Yes," you intend to use the station post office to receive materials and send product? And you didn't know that's strictly prohibited? Sure, they could have stated that on the form and you could have marked "No" and arranged your off base post office box ahead of time, but, again, that would have been waaaaaaay too logical and civilian-like. Start over.
                  Ok, the form's good? Now it goes on to Okinawa for an additional round of approval as you wait, patiently humming School House Rock's "I'm just a bill from Capitol Hill" and abandoning any hope of ultimate approval. After some follow-up queries from the powers in Okinawa and your explicit promise to not use any base facility during the pursuit of your business, you get your final, signed and approved letter allowing you to operate your home based business on base! ... provided you do so under a blanket in your closet with the lights out, sending and receiving via carrier pigeon purchased and trained by you personally.
                  Wow. How proud you must be. Now you're part of the machine. As Oscar Wilde said, "The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy." Please send all replies by carrier pigeon.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Breaking the Mold

 More pen designs come into my head than I have time to produce. There's a whole line of "The Big Lebowski" themed pens drawn out and waiting like fantastic creations in da Vinci's sketchbook. Ok, that was a bit presumptuous. But like that great master artist, I find myself starting projects and moving on before finishing them. Sometimes they're too hard to do. Eric B. requested a ribbon design like the breast cancer awareness ribbons, but despite repeated attempts I have been unable to produce it (without a laser engraver, that is).
                But I refuse to give up.
                There was a design I came up with shortly after I started making pens. It sat drawn in my sketch folder for months. I knew what I wanted but had no idea how to make it happen. Tinkering took place, followed by failures. It got shelved. More experiments, more failures, more time on the back burner.
                Have you ever seen the work of M.C. Escher? His drawing and optical illusions are mind blowing. I've always loved the ones with endless staircases defying gravity. Inspired by these, I had a design I drew as a kid, a simple spiral of triangles looking like a spiral staircase from above. Put two of these side by side and they make a really cool design. It should have been a simple matter of cutting wood into triangles and putting them together, but in practice it was much more difficult.
                I gave it another try. To my surprise, it held together. Hmm. I added another layer of triangles. It was working. I used contrasting wood, making the spirals more dramatic. It came together. The first successful assembly featured black walnut over pine with a large ebony square center. It was pretty cool. The size required a larger pen kit, so I set it in a rich bubinga base and used a rhodium and gold Majestic kit. The result is "Escher's Stairway," a pen of which I am very proud.
                Now that I've got the spiral technique down, more of this line are in the works. The next creation has a smaller center square in black walnut surrounded in alternating triangles of hickory and maple, covered with another layer of alternating hickory and maple, and finally topped with alternating triangles of black walnut and a black polyester resin. It rocks. I'll post pics when they're ready.
                It took a 27-step process to create the first design and a 36-step process for the second -- and that was before cutting into a pen blank and actually turning the pen. After calculating the hours it takes to produce this design and factoring that into my calculator program, I actually lowered the cost out of sense of consumer sticker shock. Who would pay more than $174 for a pen without ivory or solid precious metal or gemstone? But when I posted it on one of the pen turners' social media pages, they unanimously said I was giving it away at that price.
                So if you liked Escher's Stairway but were taken aback by the price, stand by to snatch it up because the next few in this same line will reflect actual cost. Of course, they're using smaller and less expensive kits than the Majestic, which may balance out the overall end price. I have yet to do the math on that, so we'll see. But if you like the design and want to see it throughout the pen body in a large Majestic kit (and cost is not an issue), then be patient. In a few weeks Escher's Stairway IV will make its debut, breaking the mold on handcrafted wood pens.