Monday, July 30, 2007

you learn something new every day....

today's lesson: A bead looks intentional - a subtle cove need to be part of an overall design. A subtle cove on an otherwise straight section doesn't look like a cove - it looks like an accident.

The other day I turned a pen - an El Grande Fountain Pen (Berea Hardwoods kit, from Lee Valley). I have turned my previous pens with a pretty straight barrel - or an extremely subtle 'swell' in the centre. I thought I'd play a little with the latest one, so I left a slightly larger swell at the 1/3 way mark near the bottom of the cap, and added a slight cove. It looked good at that point, but I think the sanding flattened the swell and didn't much affect the cove - changing the proportions.

I wasn't sure about it.

I was torn between leaving it (it was hard not to play with it - pleasing to the fingers) and "fixing" it (visually it looked like I screwed up.) I was able to disassemble the cap of the pen, and remount it. So I fixed it.

I'm happy I did now. There was enough material I was able to change it from a gentle swell with a subtle cove to dead ass straight. I left the gentle swell on the barrel, as it feels comfortable when using, and is subtle enough it doesn't look out of place with the straight cap.

*Photos will be coming as soon as I can get my digital camera back.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Coarse No. 2....

My first pen, an Extra-Large Twist (Cigar),
pen kit from Lee Valley (Berea Hardwoods).

The blank was a Rust & Black Acrylic Acetate,
from Lee Valley (not sure who their supplier is).

The second course I took from Lee Valley was a Pen Turning course. Always wanted to try, but didn't have everything required. I also didn't want to purchase everything required (bits, mandrels, bushings, etc.) only to find out that I now owned $100 of products I wasn't going to use again.

I called to sign up for the pen turning course, only to find out that the wooden pen turning course had been cancelled. The instructor had retired, and the person putting the course offering together had accidentally listed it.

They were able to sign me up for the Acrylic Pen Turning course that they had running. I chatted with someone knowledgeable from the staff to find out what the difference was - and he felt their was little difference. The plastic was probably tougher to work - more prone to damage, melting, more work to polish and put a gloss finish on.

I have yet to complete a wooden pen so I can't really comment. I have however completed 5 acrylic pens, and 2 from a bowling ball thermosetting material (which is really nasty to polish). My only experience with turning wooden pens was to test cut some blanks I had mis-drilled. I have 4 wooden blanks ready to turn - out of figured wood. So even when I do finish my first wooden pen, I'm not sure my experience will be 'typical'.

The best part? The association/union I'm a member of at work is allotted funds for staff to take courses that are professional or personal development. I received a full refund :)

Ok.... the best part was I got to spend a dedicated evening turning. The free pen was a nice bonus.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


With the job the way it's been, I've been having trouble getting to the shop. There are so many other things to do. But I keep an eye out on the Lee Valley seminars - they often have courses of interest (made my first spokeshave in one.) Not only are the courses interesting, an opportunity to meet like minded folk, develop new skills with assistance, have good instructors, and include all required tools and supplies - they provide a dedicated amount of shop time. A "MUST" be in the shop scenario. I recently managed to fit in two :) This was the first one.

This one was of interest to me. I'd never made a kaleidoscope before, but had recently run across a couple of interesting websites when I was looking into some finger spinning tops on-line. The Brewster Society was one I would up on during some link surfing.

Lo and behold, a couple days later, Lee Valley provided the opportunity to make one without having to invest in extra equipment on a venture that may prove disappointing, disastrous, or a dead end after the one project.

It was fun. I was one of three in the class with any turning experience (with the exception of a fantastic instructor) and the only one that owned lathes. Consequently, I was the one that got to "try" everything first during the demonstration part and was used as an example. Remind me to stay quiet and in the background next time.

Anyone interested in more of the technical detail on this project, let me know. This particular project was developed by Lee Valley specifically and fine tuned over a couple of years. There are a couple of things I would consider changing for the next one I do.

A moving object cell would be the first amongst the list - as most people that pick it up to play with try to turn the cell instead of the entire scope.

It was a lot of fun, and a bit of a confidence builder - there are a number of fairly critical tenons and such used to glue these together. Although I took a Mike Darlow based turning course at my local lumber supply specialist, it has been a while since I had done any major projects.

The wood is Claro Walnut, with Maple end caps. Most of the class turned their end caps plain, I opted to add the coves and a couple of decorative grooves. I managed to luck out and obtain a piece of Walnut with some nice grain - a combination of luck, and looking for some knarly figure.

And some samples of the patterns from the finished kaleidoscope.

This object chamber uses a glycerin solution as the liquid - this allows the objects to float or fall, providing a view that slowly changes. It is often like watching the blooming of a flower.

I apologize for the lack of quality on the photos of the viewing chamber - I was literally holding the lens of my little digital camera up to the viewing hole and trying to keep it centred while holding the object chamber over a bright light source. Not great, but it provides a general idea.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

first scrolling project....

A Mother's Day gift. Design was based off a graphic I had seen on a car year's previously and roughly sketched on a napkin. Frame is made from Ash. The background is crushed red velvet. The work is done in 1/8" Baltic Birch plywood that was stained with MinWax Ebony stain after scrolling.

Standard learning curve (vertical) and planning ahead (mounted into the frame half an hour before delivery) which was proceeded by months of sort-of-planning and unplanned procrastination.

(Pattern available upon request for personal/non-commercial use.)

Monday, July 2, 2007