The Venerable Shopsmith Gets a New Home

For the last 20 plus years, I’ve had an old Shopsmith (Model ER, serial number R67374) in  my shop. I may have used it a couple of times when I first got it, but for the most part, it has sat in my shop against a wall, covered with miscellaneous stuff, basically serving as a shelf.  Two days ago my wife noticed the Shopsmith and asked me what it was.

Skip's shop smith
The Shopsmith

Now, she has had to walk by this thing every day throughout our whole married life…

I explained what it could be used for, and I shared with her its history.  This tool belonged to one of my neighbors, Mr.  Allen.  As a child (I think I was about 10), I was fascinated by his woodworking skills, especially since he had only one arm.  He had lost his arm as a soldier in WWII.  My Dad was also fascinated by woodworking: he had taken shop in high school and made this wonderful tilt top table which still finds use in our home.

Dad's table
Dad’s table

My Dad and Mr. Allen shared many woodworking experiences. When Mr. Allen passed away, he left his Shopsmith to my Dad. When my Dad passed away, I inherited the Shopsmith.

So my wife asked if we could move the Shopsmith into the dining room next to the antique Stanley workbench.  I ran to the bathroom to grab some Qtips and check my ears for ear wax interference.  But she repeated the same request!  I know my wife loves to talk to our cats, but I suspected that she had finally lost her mind.  After the idea settled down, I bought into the project. The move would free up shop space for more tools!

tools craftsbyjennskip
Space for new tools already filled!

I called two of my grandchildren into service.  We muscled the Shopsmith into the house and finally got it into place.

jenny skip Shopsmith
Shop smith in its new locale

I must admit that it creates a whole new ambiance in the dining room!  I will never question my wife’s mental condition  again!

Remember the Old NCIS episode The Namesake? The one where Gibbs finds a Shopsmith (and a Congressional Medal of Honor) in a pawn shop? For a refresher of that episode look here.

Practice Quilting

by jenny

Quilting in the 21st Century is an art form. I’m fascinated by what exactly influences a person to become a quilter, and to find out from them what keeps them interested. Some quilters love to enter their quilts in competitions. Others say the competitive arena turns them off. Some love to teach others. Some love to make gifts, those that document history. My grandmother and mother were quilters. Sometimes I think of sewing as an albatross across my neck, sometimes as a badge of honor.  People have all sorts of aims and reasons for engaging in fabric manipulation.

Irish Chain
Irish Chain quilt top–will wait till I get better

I’ve enjoyed quilting on a regular domestic sewing machine, but it does have a few draw-backs for me.

Using a long-arm sewing machine with a frame is different, and in my mind, better in some ways.  1) You can stand up while quilting.  Sitting down for hours every day can be a drag, when almost everything you like to do must be done sitting down.  2) You don’t have to insert 200 or more pins in the quilt with the longarm. The rollers on the frame keep it together pretty well, and it has bungee clips for keeping the layers taut while they’re being quilted. 3) You don’t get as hot quilting with a longarm as you do on a sit-down machine, because the quilt is on the frame, not drifting around on your lap, and you don’t work up a sweat moving the heavy thing around under the needle. 4) It looks like the quilting goes faster using a longarm.

We looked at lots of brands and types of machines, and ultimately chose the Qnique because it was certainly the lowest-priced longarm, although it does come up in lots of online searches for “mid arm.” I’m understanding that the term “mid arm” usually refers to a “sit-down” type long-arm, one that you put on a table, and move the quilt around underneath the needle as if you were using a big ol’ domestic sewing machine. The Qnique is more like a petite little longarm machine.

We got a good deal on it, and actually developed a rapport with the company before deciding to buy.  Since there are no retail outlets in our vicinity that we could buy from, we wanted to know what sort of maintenance we might need, and who could work on the machine if it needed fixing or parts or if we couldn’t figure out how to put it together. They have lots of You-tube videos for all the various questions a customer might have. We did have to wait about a month to get it delivered, because there were lots of backorders for this machine.

practice quilting
practice quilting
practice quilt stitch
practice stitching

I’ve been doodling around on practice fabric–you know, the fabric that you don’t really like but would feel guilty throwing away because someone important gave it to you. And it needs to be solid-colored fabric, so you can see what the stitches look like. The first few things I’ve done have a few ugly bobbin-tension-challenged stitches on the underside, so I will have to nip that little problem in the bud. I must say, though, the top stitching looks pretty good.

After checking around the net, I’ve been surprised to learn that most quilters do free-motion quilting on a longarm. Some use templates to create geometric quilting patterns. Some quilt machines use a laser stylus to trace patterns, and some are controlled by a computer, making the quilting process automated. Thus, the 21st Century has wrought technological advances to the formerly time-consuming task of making covers out of smaller pieces of cloth. The modern quilts may not turn out more beautiful than the ones our ancestors made, but we can finish them quicker.

The Day After May Day and How the Knitting People are Different

by Jenny

May 1 has been a holiday for quite a few different reasons.  If you’d care to get into a study of them, check here at Infoplease and go over the list. But, to name a few, it’s been a labor holiday, a celebration of spring, a saint’s day, and a Druidic holiday. But for knitters (Northern Hemisphere knitters, that is) it ushers in a change in the type of projects one favors.

Since the temperature has been in the 90’s this past week where I live, I’m not as much into knitting sweaters, scarves, hats and mittens. And I’m not the only knitter who has changed. I recently had dinner with some knitting buddies, one who moved away and was back in town with some knitting projects to show (Tina.) She had some beautiful yarn she’d gotten in her new locale, in the eastern part of North Carolina. The other knitter (Ethel) said she hasn’t been knitting as much, as her arthritis has been getting in the way.  Also some of my favorite knit and crochet bloggers have recently written posts about de-stashing, about finishing up the UFO’s with no excuses, and about only working on projects they LOVE.

I looked at my current project, the My Mantra Wrap from Summer 2016 Love of Knitting, and thought, seriously, do I love this?

yarn craftsbyjennyskip
yarn for my current project, the My Mantra  stole.

The yarn I chose from the yarn stash isn’t summery, but I do like it. We’ll see how it turns out…

I went crazy a few weeks ago and started looking out for a certain type of yarn that I’ve worked with before, and I truly LOVE. I won’t tell you what it is exactly, or any of the convoluted things I’ve done in the past few weeks trying to track down a few stray skeins of it, but here’s a pic of some of the pattern books I’ve been hoarding…

er, collecting…that exclusively feature said yarn.

Martin Storey pattern books
Luscious Martin Storey books

The crazy that I went resulted in an addition to the yarn stash, making it stick out like a sore thumb.

yarn stash overflowing
Oops! Ahem.

I went to the Yarn Stash database to add some updates and sort the entries, curious about what exactly I tend to reach for in the stash, what I LOVE to knit with. When I have finished a project, I change the text color of the yarn entry in the database to red. When I am working on a project, I change the text color of the entry to green. So everything I see in green in the chart is a UFO (unfinished object). The rest of the entries, the part of the stash that is just sitting there waiting like wallflowers at a middle school dance, is in regular black ink in the database. Surprise, surprise! My all-time favorite brands of yarn (the most in red text, signifying  “finished objects”) are Berroco, Red Heart, and Universal. Not the outrageously expensive art yarns, and not the super cheap-o big box brands. I’ve favored worsted weight and super-chunky way over fingering and sock yarns.

So, I conclude that May Day has brought a shift in yarn thinking. I’m not ready to de-stash yet. But I’m not reaching out to take some off-loaded skeins off any fellow knitter’s hands either… unless it’s maybe some cut-rate Tissington or Scree or Mineral…do you know what I’m talking about? Just put your two index fingers into your ears and go “La, la, la, la, la !” and what you don’t know won’t turn into a UFO!


Riding the Coat-tails of my Jacket Success…

By Jenny

After my successful jacket project with Craftsy I decided to do another jacket, this time on my own, with another pattern and no online instructions or lifeline to help me out, in case I got in over my head.

This was a remnant project in that I used mostly fabric remnants from JoAnn’s clearance bin. Since remnants at JoAnn’s are typically 1 yard or less, I counted myself lucky to find 3 matching remnant rolls, which added up to enough fabric to make a jacket. Incidentally, I was looking at the wrong side of the fabric and picturing that as the final finished article.  When I opened the fabric rolls, I saw the right side of the fabric: it was shiny like satin and about twice as vivid in color as the underside! I used a synthetic suede remnant for the skirt, and a 4-way stretch remnant for the top.

In the end, I wasn’t 100% happy with the results, but I learned a lot.

jacket, top and skirt

I chose a Butterick suit pattern with the name Connie Crawford as the designer [B5336], thinking that the Sewing Personality Connie Crawford’s touch would make this a hot pro project. I was very impressed with the procedures and details, but also found some deep disappointments.

Good thing #1: The pattern comes in a plethora of sizes! You can even get it in a size 6X (that’s 42 – 44 W). It says on the front “Modern Fit with Ready-to-wear Sizing”–I guess that’s true, the size range I bought came in Xsm to Xlg.

Good thing #2: Two jacket views, one with lapels and one without. Both views look like a classic suit jacket. You can have patch pockets in front or not. Both jacket and skirt were lined, so they looked rather tailored.

Good thing #3: There’s a big section in the pattern for fit adjustments if your figure is in need of some; like fuller arms, larger or smaller bust cup, pear or apple shapes, or slanted shoulders.

Disappointment #1: There was a missing piece. I guess they decided at some point to combine the waistband piece instead of having it in 2 pieces, 21 and 21A as shown in the pattern. Or maybe the 21A is only included in the larger sizes? I tried to go online and look up the pattern to see if there was any explanation but couldn’t find a jot anywhere.

Disappointment #2: In step 15 it talks about the jacket front lining (piece 15) but labels it piece 3, which is the same size and shape, but nevertheless had me utterly confused.

Disappointment #3: In step 20, it says to under stitch to the break point of the jacket (what is the break point? I couldn’t find the term anywhere else in the directions.) And I had trouble with the previous under stitching from step 13. It was extremely awkward to under stitch the way the instructions described.

Disappointment #4: The whole lining was sewn to the jacket with right sides together, so that a seam had to be opened up in order to turn the jacket right-side out. So in step 22, when the sleeves were sewn to the sleeve linings, it said to match the back seams to avoid twisting. But it didn’t elucidate on just how to do that, so I ended up doing it the way it seemed to me to be logical to do, but it was wrong more than once, and I had to rip it out both times and sew it again. A hassle!

Disappointment #5: This was the skirt waistband. Other skirts I’ve made call for an elastic strip to be inserted into the waistband through an opening that is later slip-stitched closed after the elastic end is sewn to the beginning. Then you can stitch in the ditch on the side seams to anchor the elastic to the fabric. In this pattern, the waistband is sewn to the top of the skirt with the raw edges of one side of the waistband even with the top of the skirt, then the elastic is sewn onto the seam allowance of the waistband, then the waistband is folded over and stitched to the skirt. It was a bad move because the waistband and elastic were very bunchy and the fabric got rippled and puckered. It was just a bad look. Then I had to hand-tack the hem up, and the synthetic suede fabric (called sueded knit) was pretty hard to pierce with a hand needle. Now that the skirt was lined with a woven lining fabric, it had no “give” to it like a knit, and was actually a little tight-fitting. Looks like I’m going to have to lose about 5 or 10 lbs before I feel very good about wearing it.

Disappointment #6: There were mondo pattern pieces; 21 to be exact. However, quite a few of the 21 had to be cut not only from fabric, but also lining and interfacing as well. That was a lot of cutting to do! I had to rest for a week. Would you believe that for this project I used 6 different types of fabric? Two linings, 3 fashion fabrics (the top wasn’t included in the pattern; I used another pattern that only had 3 pieces), and one large amount of interfacing.

Disappointment #7 but Good thing #4 to save for later: The finished outfit has much more of a Fall vibe to it than a Spring one! My fault because I looked at the underside of the jacket fabric to begin with. And the outside temp was already up to 90 degrees this week. So I guess this outfit will be ready to wear in about 6-8 months…

The cats were in no way disappointed

Another 3-D Printer Pen, Following up on Some Viewer Suggestions

If you saw our previous YouTube/blog on my 3-D printer attempt to make a pen blank, you know it was a complete failure. I had hoped to be able to produce a conventional-sized pen blank and then turn this blank into a unique shape.  I had used a variety of tool types but with no success. I also found that trying sandpaper was not a good idea in that the friction heated up the plastic to the melting point.  Several viewers suggested printing up various other types of blanks, so  I decided to try printing a cylinder to match the required barrel size for a pen.

The pen kit I selected was a PSI Woodworking Products #PK-PENXX “Slimline – Pro” Gelwriter Click Pen.  I also used a #PK-PENXXBU 3 piece bushing set. The two barrels for this pen are each 2 1/32-inch long with an 8mm hole for the brass tube insertion.  The outside diameter of the bushings is about 10.7 mm.  This would set the turn down diameter for the ends of the pen barrels.

pen project
designing the project

Using the 123Design software supplied with the Dremel 3D printer, I designed a 10.7 mm diameter cylinder 2 1/32-inches long with a 8mm diameter hole. I exported this to the Drexel 3D printing software. Using the white filament, I printed one set of pen barrels.

3D pen
3D printed pen barrel in white filament

The 8mm holes appeared to be too tight to insert the brass tubes so I decided to take an 8mm drill bit and ream out the holes to the proper size, BAD IDEA!! The friction of the bit generated enough heat to reduce the barrels to a white plastic blob hanging off the drill pit. So I took a set of barrels and tried to press-fit the brass tubes. It worked!! And the fit was so tight that glue was not necessary.  Using two barrels with brass tubes inserted, I built up one of the “Slim-line Pro” pens. This was a test, so I made no attempt to apply a finish to the plastic. I would not recommend this otherwise.  The texture of the plastic barrels is not mirror-smooth and would be easily stained under normal use.

3D pen test
test pen complete

On to another pen build… taking two more barrels, I press-fitted a brass tube into each barrel. I then used the bushing set to mount the barrels on a pen turning mandrel and set the mandrel into the head stock and tail stock on my lathe.  Using Tulip Red Gilders Paste Wax, I applied two coats of wax, wiping off the excess and buffing after each coat.  Following this step, I applied nine applications of thin CA glue.  After this glue cured, I took Micro-mesh wet-sanding pads and sanded the CA finish from 600 to 12000 grit. I followed this up with a plastic polish.  The final pen build is satisfactory but the surface of the barrels has a slight ripple that can’t be covered over with thick CA glue.  In the future, I may try some different colored filaments.  I have also air brushed 3D builds with some success. An air-brushed design protected with CA glue might be a good option.  More on this later.

tulip red pen
red 3D printed pen project

Here’s the You Tube video of the process:


To Carve or Knit? That is the question!

by skip

After dinner, my wife and I settle down in front of the TV.  We really enjoy our companionship, so we find TV shows we like, and really find it somewhat easy to agree on the shows. Now, we have been good listeners to each other…I know Jennifer doesn’t like old Westerns, corny musicals or listening to the endless drone of cutting wood on a lathe, like you hear on some YouTube channels. We both like British murder mysteries so we tend to migrate to these shows. BUT (the eraser word) while I sit there with a glazed-over, mindless expression watching the TV screen, Jennifer is multitasking: listening to the program while knitting a beautiful creation. I NEED something to do besides totally wasting my last few minutes on this planet glued to the TV.  I could go to the shop but I like being close to my eternal companion!  Now don’t get me wrong, we do spend hours talking to each other… we love sharing ideas whether personal, working, political or hobby related. There are however (another eraser word) hours spent in our LazyBoys watching TV.   So I got the idea to try to develop a new woodworking skill, whittling or carving. I can’t drag the power carving systems into the TV room… too noisy and creates too much dust. It would have to be handwork.

So here was the plan: buy a box of basswood cutoffs and get a FlexCut starter knife and strop kit. So for under $100, I could be fully equipped to launch into wood carving. A large towel on my lap would be needed to catch the wood chips….. good light also necessary.   Artistic abilities? Whoa… where do I get that? I’m an engineer and need plans, a process, a base to build on. Thank goodness for YouTube! I found SharonMyArt!! Very talented carver of little people… step by step instructions, great results in a genre that I love. It has a historical background and with 21st century carving tools is perfect for me. Also lots of media available like books by Harley Refsal and Mike Shipley.

Now you will not only hear the clicking of knitting needles while Midsomer Murders are taking place but you will also hear the sound of that distinctive click as a V-cut terminates!


Sizing Up A Joint

I’ve been watching Rock-n H Woodshop’s YouTube channel, where he is trying out different ways of joining wood.

His recent video discussed the weakness of joining end grain in miter joints. This brought to mind a workshop I had done for some Cub Scouts where we built tool totes. In that workshop, I discussed the problem in assembling a tool box where end grain might join end grain. I mentioned a technique that I had picked up somewhere where you can glue end grain to end grain if you size the end grain with glue before your final glue-up. The object was to fill the end grain with watered-down glue and let it dry before you did your joining of the two boards. So I decided today to put together an experiment to test the strength of an end grain joint after sizing.  I used Titebond II for all the glue-ups.

For the test I cut several pieces of ¾ inch thick spruce into small rectangles. I applied the glue sizing to the end grain of two pieces and just for something different, I also applied the sizing to the side grain of two pieces.

wood samples
samples for experiment

After the samples had dried, I glued and clamped the pieces together. I took two other sets of the same wood and without sizing, glued and clamped these pieces.

end grain
sized and unsized samples, glued and clamped

After 10 hours, I attached a screw eye to each set of boards so I could hang weights from the screw eye.  The opposite end of each board would be anchored and weights added until the joint failed.  With some degree of accuracy, I could then calculate the torque in ft-lbs needed to break each joint.

Next day…… not very scientific procedure but interesting results. The long and short of the tests, I couldn’t get any of the joints to fail using this method. The video shows the “technique”.  A bucket was hung from the screw eye on each sample and weights were added to the bucket. My big concern was whether or not this flimsy bucket would withstand the tests.

I tested the two side grain samples first. I added up to 18 pounds weight to the bucket resulting in about 6 ft-lbf torque. Neither joint failed. When I pushed down on each sample, both samples failed, not at the joint but at the edge of the workbench, each sample splitting along the grain.

Next I tested the two end grain samples. This time I added 38 lbs to the bucket in each case (about 13 ft-lb torque). No failures. I even took one of the weights and struck the end of each sample and still no failure.

Without additional equipment, I wasn’t able to take the end grain glued joints to failure and measure any difference between the sized sample and the unsized sample.  So in desperation I put each of the end grain samples in a vice and attached a clamp to use as a lever (see last section of video) and pushed down on the end of the clamp until the joint broke.  I did this off camera so you’ll have to trust me but there was significant more force needed to break the sized glue joint!  Success!

sized joint
sized end grain joint, after lever action
unsized joint
unsized end grain joint, after lever (a cleaner, easier break)

For some excellent advice and glue tips take a look at YouTube videos by Jeremy Broun.

Hopefully some of the YouTube woodworkers who have used apparatus to measure joint failure will be able to duplicate this and put some numbers on the results. I’m satisfied from a pseudo-scientific observation that sizing an end grain to end grain joint adds significant strength. I guess this begs the question: is it worth the extra time and effort to use this method? I’ll leave that up to my fellow woodworking pundits!


A Crafty Craftsy Class Boosted my Sewing Self-Esteem

by jenny

People sometimes ooh and ahh over the featured sewing projects in the blog, and I have to laugh that they think I have superior talent and ability, or something. Truthfully, if I can do it, just about anyone (who has been sewing for decades and decades) can do it. Sewing never came naturally to me.

My mom was a Home Ec major in college. Even though she went into the medical field and also later taught public school, her college major included cooking, and sewing clothes, drapes, and slipcovers for furniture. Late in life, she made some fantastic Baltimore Album quilts which, in my mind, are very complex items to sew. She was somewhat ambidextrous and she was good at math, but claimed she had no artistic ability.

My brain was apparently wired very differently. She considered me pretty much unteachable.

My junior high school Home Ec teacher, Miz Thomas, was in a continuous state of teeth gritting whenever I (along with my equally good-for-nothing classroom work group) was in contact with her. I did manage to make a red A-line skirt in her class (I think my mom finished it). This launched a long career of me imagining great items of clothing, and falling short when it came to actually making them and being willing to show up in public wearing them.

Fast forward a generous number of decades, to me taking a Craftsy Class online, about Garment Industry Secrets with Janet Pray.  The real object of the class was to make a jacket that is rather like a classic Jean Jacket, but with a couple of different details. The pattern features some design elements that are a bit complex for my humble little repertoire: interfaced collar and cuffs, topstitching, curved seams, front button placket, topstitched breast pockets with flaps, and welt pockets in the lower front, and they want you to sew without using pins.

I chose a fabric that was not at all recommended. Why did I do this? If I was going to go through all the motions of conformity, and had traced the pattern and painstakingly cut it out, why would I use a fabric that wouldn’t provided happy results? One, I had this fabric in the stash for at least 10 years. Two, although I have a large fabric stash, it has lots of 1-yard pieces, but not too many 3 1/2 yard pieces of anything. And I didn’t want to buy a nice big expensive pile of yardage to make a mess out of.  And three, I thought it might look good with a purple department-store-bought dress I already own and am not ashamed to wear in public.

So although my project wasn’t glitch-free, I was ok with the result, I had a good time doing the class, and as the pattern and the tutorial are still good, I look forward to trying another take on the jacket some time.

finished Islander jacket from Craftsy Class

True Confessions! Some of the problems I caused in the project that I had to overcome:

Thought the cuffs were 2 collar pieces and sewed them together, and trimmed and clipped the seam allowance before I realized they were cuffs, not collar. Had to pick all out with seam ripper.

Chose a sheer, burn-out fabric that was actually see-through in some places, showing serging on the underside of the seam allowances. It didn’t take long pressure with a hot iron very well, to adhere the interfacing, and the texture was somewhat crinkly, and it got scorched in a number of places. Because of the sheerness, I decided not to make the welt pockets because I thought it would look too busy in the torso area. Using the recommended jacket-weight fabric, all you’d see on the outside would be the small diagonal neatly-trimmed and topstitched slash pocket openings  in the torso area.

Ripped out an imperfect seam in the sleeve, and re-sewed it only to notice later that the burn-out roses in the fabric were shredded by the seam-ripping and also burned by the iron. Had to cut out and re-sew a new 3-piece sleeve.

Had to re-sew the front facing twice, because it was crooked and puckered.

But overall, I’m happy with the result! You can see more pics of it on the Craftsy projects page.






Step-by-step Process of Making a Rollerball Pen out of a REAL Cigar


Earlier in the year, one of my students was nice enough to give me a cigar to turn into a pen for my niece’s husband.  I told my student that if he could get me another cigar, I would make him a pen, for his generosity in helping me with the earlier pen.

This was special for this student, since a friend of his has started rolling cigars. (Take a look at our earlier blog for some historical notes on cigar production on Florida.) His friend’s cigar company is Bat Brothers Cigars. I was told how it got its name but I think I’m suppose to keep it a secret.  The cigar he gave me was a nice fat cigar and looked like it would make a great pen blank.

I decided to use the PSI Classic Elite 2 pen kit with the roller ball option.  This pen kit has two barrels and looked like it would be perfect for the length of the cigar I had to work with.  So I removed the cigar’s paper ring and set off to stabilize the cigar.

cigar ready to be made into a pen blank

Before putting the cigar in the vacuum chamber, I snipped off the mouth end of the cigar so the resin would be able to easily enter the cigar from both ends. I then placed the cigar in the vacuum chamber, placed the retainer on top of the cigar to hold it in place and covered the cigar with Cactus Juice, allowing about an inch more of liquid above the cigar. I then turned on the vacuum pump and began to close down the vent valve to place a vacuum in the chamber. Then I waited for the bubbles to stop coming out of the cigar, an indication that all the voids in the cigar would be full of resin. And I waited, and waited! I was surprised to note that this cigar took an exceptionally long time to fill with resin. The previous cigar had not taken anywhere near as long. I think this was a good sign that this cigar had more voids, and might end up more stable than the last cigar I did.

After the bubbling stopped, I released the vacuum, letting the chamber return to atmospheric pressure, and removed the cigar quickly and wrapped it tightly in aluminum foil. While all this was going on, I had preheated the oven to 200 degrees F. I built a small aluminum foil dish and placed the wrapped cigar in the dish to protect the oven if any of the resin leaked from the wrapper on the cigar. I waited about three hours and removed the cigar from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. When I finally unwrapped the cigar, I found it was rock hard. I didn’t remember the other stabilized cigar being this hard. I concluded that this was consistent with the longer time it took to completely fill the voids with the Cactus Juice. This cigar was more completely filled with resin.

I went to the disk sander and sanded each end of the blank. I observed that each end of the cigar blank was filled with resin, resulting in a smooth surface after sanding. Of course during the sanding process I got to experience the smell of fresh cigar smoke! This was in spite of having on a dust mask.

I took the brass tubes from the pen kit, measured off the length of each end of the blank and used a band saw to cut the two barrels for the pen. There was just a small scrap of the cigar left. Then I set up my lathe with a pen chuck and a Jacob’s chuck to drill the 10mm hole through each blank. This created a lot of cigar dust which proved useful later on in the process.

I roughed up each brass tube to give their surfaces a little tooth for the glue-up into the blanks. I used 80 grit sandpaper for this. Using thick CA glue, I glued each tube into its appropriate cigar blank.  (I would find out later that I could have done a better job of gluing. ) Once the glue had set, I went to the disk sander to trim up the ends of the blanks down to the brass tubes. Lots more cigar smell and cigar dust!

I then inspected the ends of the blanks. The ends looked pretty solid, but as a precaution, I put some thin CA glue on the ends, hoping it would wick down into the large pores that I could see. Using the proper bushings for this pen kit, I mounted the pen blanks on the pen mandrel and prepared to turn the project.

The cigar blanks were still coated with some resin so I decided to use 80 grit sandpaper to remove this, before I started using any turning tools. To remove the majority of the blank, I desired to use a round carbide tool. I turned the blanks with very light cuts, stopping often to check the work. My previous experience with a serious blowout prompted me to work slowly and carefully as I turned the cigar. I was making great progress when my worst fears came to fruition: the smaller blank exploded in pieces!  I found all the pieces and began gluing the blank back together. There were a few voids left, which I filled with a mixture of CA glue and some of that cigar dust I had collected. Looking at the way the blank came apart, it appeared that the failure was due to insufficient glue contact between the brass tube and the cigar.

Back to the lathe! Since I was very close to the diameters of the pen bushings, I decided to finish up the turning with 80 grit sandpaper. This worked very well and allowed me to quickly complete the rough “turning” and move onto final sanding. After sanding to 500 grit dry sandpaper, I cleaned the surface of the blanks and began the application of thin CA glue. After a few coats, I checked the surface of the blanks and used thick CA glue to fill any imperfections.  I wasn’t looking for perfection since this was a cigar. After 10 coats of CA glue, I went to the wet sanding with micro-mesh to 12000 grit, cleaning the surface between grits. I followed this up with the One Coat plastic polish.

Finally I could remove the blanks and assemble the pen. All in all, I was happy with the final pen and hope my student will be happy with it also.

fine cigar pen
finished fine cigar pen

I guess the next pen will be a revisit to the ant pen in response to one of our Australian viewers.

Part 3 Display Cabinet Update

You can see why it takes me so long to get something built, if you go back and see when I started this! Between teaching, grandchildren visits, woodworking merit badge stuff, etc.,  there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to make shavings.

Thus far, I have sanded the cabinet’s framework, given it several coats of wood conditioner and added a couple of applications of Minwax red mahogany stain. There is still some blotching I have to deal with, but the distressing I applied (not a lot) really is giving me the aged look I was hoping for. I have brought it back inside to gel a little while I work on the brass and leather components.

brass rod display cabinet jennyskip
brass rod

I cut the ¼ inch brass bar stock in the lengths required to span between the front and back frames to support the glass shelves. Using the golden rule, I laid out the shelf locations and made a drilling guide to help me locate and drill the holes in the frames for the bar stock. You can see in the picture where I dry-fitted one of the brass bars in the frame. I haven’t decided yet to round off the ends of the rods and let them stand proud on the front of the frame.

I cleaned all the leather panels with Dr. Jackson’s Leather Cleaner from the Tandy Leather Company and then conditioned the leather with Dr. Jackson’s Leather Conditioner.  After the panels had dried overnight, I gathered together a tape measure, thick CA glue and some painter’s tape. I found the center of the larger panel and marked it with a pen. I measured the dragonfly applique and tried to outline the space on the leather for the applique with the painter’s tape. Bad idea… the painter’s tape would not stick to the leather! So I made a couple more dots on the leather with a pen to guide me to set the dragonfly by hand. I did get a little squeeze-out, which was hard to remove.  Not sure how to deal with this. I’m going to take a waste piece of this leather, put some CA glue on it and see if acetone will take off the glue without taking the dye out of the leather. I am considering alternatives: 1. Don’t do anything (it will be almost impossible to see the glue squeeze-out in the foyer where this will be…a sleazy alternative), 2. If the acetone removes the glue and takes out some of the dye, touch up the spots with leather dye if Tandy has some to match, or 3. Pry the appliqué off, trying not to damage it so I don’t have to go crawling on hands and knees back to the sewing room to get a new one made. Then carefully apply the dragonfly to a square piece of the same leather, tool a border on the square and then glue the square over the damaged area of the panel.

dragonfly leather panel jennyskip
panel in place

In the next post, I’ll report on how all this leather stuff worked or didn’t work. I will joint, plane and glue up the mahogany panel for the bottom shelf, finish staining and clear coating the framework and install a bottom panel for the lower compartment of the cabinet.

I still have to install the leather panels, miter the ends of the brass rods to frame the leather panels, construct the top for the cabinet, cut and ebonize the glass stops for the sides of the cabinet, and begin working on the back of the cabinet.

Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts