Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Productive lately

Well, I've been fairly productive lately. Nothing particularly special (the Celtic knot was actually finished in Japan before the move), but still some nice writing instruments. Been so busy I've neglected writing a blog entry! (I know, not the first time...). So, just thought I'd post some images of what I've been working on. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pen Making, Start to Finish, Part 6

Photography, the final step. I choose a background and any props and take four or five good images
of the pen so potential online clients know exactly what they're getting. Then the pen gets posted online at my Articents and Etsy stores.

So how long did this all take? How much special equipment do you need? Well, those are hard questions to answer, especially using my phased, multi-day process with drying overnight and working on a project piecemeal.

Scrolling back through all these images and doing some mental math, I'd say about three to three and a half hours total production time, including setting up machines, etc, over about four days. Of course that's a conservative estimate and I do spend a lot of time fooling around and considering things. And it doesn't count my time editing the photographs and writing descriptions (and blog entries) and such.

As far as equipment, all you really need is a lathe, a drill, some gouges, bushings and sandpaper. I like having the rest because I really enjoy making pens and they make things easier.

So now you've seen the entire process, from block of wood to fine writing instrument. I hope you've enjoyed the journey!

#handcraftedpen #woodpens #finewriting

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pen Making, Start to Finish, Part 5

Almost done.
So now the wood has been coated in 9 layers of CA and sat overnight. Some pen makers move onto this next step as soon as the outer layer of CA dries. I like to wait because the CA will continue to "offgas" for a number of hours after application.

The CA coat now gets wet-sanded with micro-mesh in a 9-step process that goes from 1500 to 12,000 grit. This part's tricky. The CA layer is very thin. If you don't sand enough, you'll still see tiny pits in the CA coat (a technique I expoit to do my "textured" finish, which is still very pretty in its own right). If you sand too much, you'll get down to the wood and have to re-apply the CA coat, wait overnight, etc. After wet-sanding, they're cleaned again with denatured alcohol.
After wet-sanding it's looking pretty good. Time for polish. I use a 4-step process, two coats of plastic polish and two coats of wax. It's very subtle, but you can see the difference in this picture if you look closely. The piece on the right is being buffed after its second coat of polish. It's just a little shinier than the piece beside it, which is just the sanded CA coat.

Now the pieces come off the lathe and the ends are sanded with 220 grit to remove any excess CA and wax that may have spilled over the edges.

I lay out the parts of the kit and use a pen press to assemble the pen. Remember those marks we put in the brass tubes to ensure the grain lines up again? Here is where they come into play. With other two-piece twist pen kits, you just line up the grain and press them together. This kit, however, features a cap that screws on. In order to line up the grain here, I put the screw-parts together, line up the grain and push the cap wood on by hand, then un-screw them and push the cap pieces in the rest of the way with the press.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pen Making, Start to Finish, Part 4


The fun part.

At this point we get to put the blank on the lathe and actually do some turning.

The first few gouges are used to "rough" the blank into a general semblance of its shape. In this case, we're just making a normal pen with no frills, so we just turn it down a little at a time to a cylinder tube just a little thicker than the bushings.

Unfortunately, after the fun part comes the tedious part: sanding. Other pen turners say I overdo it on the sanding. I use 100, 150, 220, 320, 400, 600, 1000, 4000, 8000 and 10000 grit papers successively on each and every pen. Each step takes time and care, followed by turning off the lathe to sand with the grain to remove any marks.

Overkill? Maybe. But I'm pleased with my results. If this gets me the best looking work, I'll stick with it.

Finally, the blank is turned and sanded down flush with the bushings and has a decent smooth surface. I'll clean it once with denatured alcohol, then give this wood a thin coat of 100% pure tung oil, massaged in both around and then with the grain.

Now these pieces will sit again overnight to allow the oil to completely set.

I forgot to post this image of applying the CA ...

I do nine layers of thin and medium CA. Each layer dries in a few minutes and then the next is put on.

Now it will sit again overnight to let the CA set and "off gas."

Here's a link to Part 5.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wenge wood desk set

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this fine desk set.

Sorry to break up the demonstration of my pen making process, but I had to pause for the cause. This set is too much. Besides, I'm waiting right now for some parts I'll need to finish that other pen.

So when I realized I didn't have the bushings I need, I finished up this partially-completed desk set. In fact, you can see it in progress in the background of one of the images from last post. Those of you who've been following along know that it's been a LONG time since I've been able to produce some nice wood turnings due to the move and trying to get set back up and all.

This set was very frustrating. I had to strip the letter opener down because the first finish was cloudy. Then upon assembling the pen I discovered the tube had expanded and wouldn't receive the middle piece. So it took a little massaging and coaxing, but I got the set together.

And I'm trying something new with the stylus addition. Other sets have featured a magnifying glass. But I use my stylus quite a lot and thought it would be a great third accessory to this set.

The wood is wenge (pronounced "When-gay"). It has a very dark, porous grain that alternates between dark brown and almost black in waves (best seen in the photo below). It has a classic, subtle look and a fine feel to it.

All three pieces feature a beautiful textured gloss finish that gives durable protection to the wood while giving a natural-grain feel. Coupled with the floral setting and contrasting dark and chrome look, this is a captivating desk set.

So, enjoy looking. I'll be back with more processing pictures soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pen Making, Start to Finish (Part 3)

Next step (what am I on now?), Barrel trimming. This device shaves away the 'margin' wood and makes the end of the wood blank flush with the brass tube.

Here you can see a nice, clean end after trimming.

Here are the clean, trimmed blanks. Now I also mark the inside of the brass tubes to match up the wood grain later. This is important because they are about to go on the lathe and the horizontal pencil lines on the outside are about to go away.

Here's a link to Part 4.
 #handcrafted #woodworking

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pen Making, Start to Finish (Part 2)

Step 3, cutting the wood to size.
This pen has two sections, each with different size brass tubes. The extra piece (left) will be kept for future projects.

Step 4, drilling.
Next the pieces are drilled out to accommodate the brass tubes. The brass tubes are the hard structure the metal pen parts of the kit such as the mechanism, nib and clip will fit into. Using these brass bases keeps the pens uniform and the beautiful wood unstressed.

Here I'm using my new toy, a drill chuck and jaws that fit on the lathe. This new system ensures the wood is drilled in the exact center. I'm hoping this will help ensure my Celtic knots are more evenly spaced. We'll see. Regardless, it's a much better system than using a drill press. A little slower, but I'll sacrifice a little time for accuracy.

You can see that it spins the wood (left) while the drill bit stays still. This is how it ensures the hole is drilled in the exact center. Even if the wood isn't perfectly square, it will rotate around its center, which happens to be online with the drill bit.

Step 5, placing the tubes.
Once the wood has been drilled, the tubes are set in place using medium-thickness cyanoacrylate (super glue). I'll let that set a little, then reinforce the bond by slowly adding thin cyanoacrylate around the edges and letting it seep in. I usually let these set overnight.

Here's a link to Part 3.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pen Making, Start to Finish (part 1)

Going to try something new (for me). Several clients have asked how it's done. Well, it's not that difficult, but it does take some time to do right. This will be an album with the pen making process start to finish. Now, it's just a basic wood pen. Nothing fancy like you've seen me make before. But if you'd like to see the process, here you go. Expect more images as the days go by.

Step 1: choose the right pen kit for the wood. Here is a nice piece of curly maple stabilized red. I chose the kit in the middle, a platinum kit with rollerball ink. Should look great!

Now marking off the cut lines. I'll also make a horizontal line now that will help me line up the grain later.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Yeah, so, I'm famous.

USAA wrote an article about entrepreneurship and I'm featured in the fourth installment!!!

Check it out here!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Returning soon!

Oh so close.

So the move is almost complete, and my new production center is almost set up. Just need a few more touches, like lights above the lathe and electricity within reach of the tools.

The funniest part from posting this picture on the Pen Turner’s facebook page were all the comments about how clean it looked! So I guess it is time to make a mess. Still need to get my new Shop Smith brought up from the in-laws’ house before I can start drilling, but I brought a few pre-drilled or partly completed pens with me.

Really looking forward to turning these acrylic blanks I made with my new pressure pot. I also have a vacuum pot on the way to make some stabilized wood with funky colors mingled into the grain and filling voids. I wonder what termite-tunneled wood filled with colored resin would look like? Hmm… Have to find some of that and find out!

So be on the lookout in the near future for some new things from Hope & Grace! Oh, and don't forget, I'm still honoring the "PATRIOTSGET10" coupon code for a limited time!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Aaaaaand we're BACK!

Ok, we're not entirely back.

After a marathon 42-hour trek from Japan to Virginia, we arrived exhausted but happy to be once
Grace and I endure a 42-hour journey home.
again with family. As we spend our days getting through jet lag and trying (not too successfully) to get sleep schedules assimilated, the gross of packages we mailed to ourselves from Iwakuni are slowly rolling in.

So far two boxes of the Hope & Grace Pens inventory have arrived, mostly the ring boxes with a few other sundries like the clocks and some coin racks. As the packages roll in, I'll keep putting what has arrived back up for sale. Of course, this might happen at 4 a.m. since my body's still tuned to Japan time. So keep checking back for your favorite items!

And to help get things started again, I'll honor the PATRIOTSGET10 coupon code to anyone for a limited time for 10% off any order.
Hope excited to be almost home (with her ninja sleep mask).

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Moving Sale!

Guess who's moving?

Yes, our wonderful three years in Iwakuni have come to an end. We've loved every minute of it, but the lifestyle of Marine families dictates that it's time to move on.

I've really enjoyed visiting sites and being enriched by this proud, ancient culture. And I've been lucky enough to bring back some souvenirs along the way. I brought down a branch of cedar from near the top of Mount Misen on Miya Jima, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's an ancient, holy island with much to see and do, including one of the oldest eternal flames in the world.
I also brought back a small piece wood from Mount Shosha, another site literally covered with temples and statues and 1,000-year-old holy places. They filmed part of The Last Samurai here, and little wonder because it's one of the most beautiful and most intrinsically Japanese places we were honored to visit.

We've visited many places and done many things and I've always tried to bring back a small piece of wood to work into a pen to commemorate the visit. I've even been lucky enough to have a friend give me a piece of the actual Kintai Bridge, another national treasure, from the 1953 renovation.

So the movers have come and gone with most of our things. The express shipment folks come in a few days. We have a week here in a hotel before we fly out, but I'm trying very hard to keep my Etsy and Articents stores open until the last minute because who knows when I'll be able to open them again?

But to reduce the cost of mailing all my 100+ items home, I hoped to reduce inventory a little by offering 20% off anything in the stores. If you're an Etsy shopper, use the code "MARINESMUSTMOVE" when you place your order to get the discount. Of course, I prefer the no-fee Articents store and if you'd like to shop there, simply contact me by e-mail, telling me what you'd like to order, and I'll happily take off the 20% for you.  And if you have any other offers or codes (like any provided through this blog or other sites), I'll be happy to honor them in conjunction with this one.

This offer will be available until I have to put the stores in "vacation" mode about June 26, so if you've been thinking of placing an order, now's the time!

Thanks to everyone who's stuck with us through our journey and I hope to see you again on the other side!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Keeping Secrets

What is it about hollow book safes that has always been fascinating?

Ever since I was a child I wanted a hollow book to hide things in. I'd seen them in the movies and just thought they were the shiznit. Tell me that Andy Dufresne's Bible in Shawshank Redemption didn't blow you away! Did you notice that the cavity for the rock hammer started in the book of Exodus?  

But when I was a kid, you could never get one. Now, here I am 30-odd years later realizing I can make my own (yes, at times I'm slow on the uptake).

So one day I trucked on down to the thrift store, where you can get a bag of books for $1, to get some practice materials. After destroying several fine copies, I think I found a process that I like. My first attempts involved drilling a hole through the text and then using a jig saw to cut out the cavity. The pro of that technique is that the outside edges of the pages are entirely unmolested, but it doesn't outweigh the cons that it makes the paper bunch up, creates an incredible amount of dust and takes forever.

Looking up how others make theirs, you'll find some use a utility knife and approximately 30 years of their lives for each book. Well, besides not liking the rough cut edges I think I'd take the knife to my wrists after about 50 pages, so we can rule that method out.

I moved to the bandsaw, which I very much prefer due to the clean edges it cuts and its speed. The drawback is that I have to cut through the bottom edge of the pages, so I do that now at the base of the book near the spine, where the seam goes relatively unnoticed and is then backfilled with glue.
You'll notice the hollow books in the movies all have free pages. They're not secured together and float freely, which is fine for a soft-cover book like Andy's Bible. But I just didn't like it for my own work. The contents could easily fall out through the pages and the whole thing is very fragile. A good thick layer of wood glue secures my hollow book pages together now. The first few attempts like this featured a felt lining over the glue, but I've upgraded to wood lining. Now the books I make are essentially boxes, they're solid enough to keep whatever fits inside. 

Now that I've got a good technique, I make several versions, including a fused book set for an extra-deep chamber, and cases for electronic devices like my Kindle and my wife's Kindle Fire (which she loves). The books with really nice inside covers are the best. They look great. So now I try to only choose books with nice insides or books with culturally
significant titles (like the Twilight series ... that was a joke).

So, if you're a thief planning to invade my home, be sure to hit the bookshelf. Who knows what you'll find?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Blogging is hard.

This is hard!
Who knew blogging could be such hard work?
As anyone following knows, it's been forever and a day since a real blog entry here. In fact, the past several posts have simply been videos on reading stands and such. So let me just make a quick entry to keep you updated on what's been going on lately, just "dipping my toes" back in the water, so to speak.
Well, the biggest thing going on right now is the upcoming Craft and Info Fair in Iwakuni March
22nd. As always, it's sneaking up on me and I've got to get hot on the lathe to get some work pumped out. Styluses are always popular at these events, so you'll see a plethora of them coming online in the next couple weeks. I've got about 16 or so in prep waiting to be turned, including three or four wooden ones and some really nice acrylics.

I've also been working on an order for Shannon R., who liked the Mach 3 shaving razor handle she bought for her husband so much she ordered NINE more for friends and family. Then she wrote again to ask for another for herself!

And you may have noticed many book safes coming online recently. I just can't stop making them, but I'll save that for another blog entry!

Thanks for checking in!

I want to know! Do you blog? How do you stay on top of it???