Skip has been on a wooden ring-making crusade and I’m the latest beneficiary of his crafty experiments!
This one turned out really good. I picked an exotic wood blank of pink ivory wood. It’s a very hard, smooth wood that ranges from pinkish to purplish in color. And, according to Wikipedia, it once was a revered commodity, allowed to be possessed only by elite inhabitants of the region where it is found. This one has a little freckle on it, which I love.
Skip got the kits from Craft Supplies USA, the Woodturners Catalog, each for a few bucks. You can opt for a stainless steel or titanium core for the ring. My ring has the “comfort core” –a rounded or finely beveled center that won’t pinch. You can also buy a two-piece core that looks pretty cool. See some of the options at their catalog page.
He went through 3 blanks before he found a technique for turning a ring blank that worked well. One of those three tries ended up as a little pile of sawdust on the shop floor! The practice blanks were of koa wood, an exotic variety from Hawaii.
Skip mailed a ring to a recipient who lives in Hawaii. When he opened the package, he discovered that the ring had separated from the titanium core, en route. They couldn’t figure out what caused the separation; could it have been the temperature changes, something to do with the glue he used (thick super glue), or another reason? We will analyze further after the next lot ships.
Skip, feeling better about most things visual, is looking for some new projects.
What with the popularity of essential oils, he found a great kit at one of his favorite online locations, Penn State Industries, for Aromatherapy Necklaces that hold a few drops of essential oils within little vials that can be turned on the lathe.
Here is one he made for me, out of “genuine olive wood from Jerusalem”! It is beautiful, and he said it took him about 5 minutes to turn on the lathe!
The kit comes with several wicks, so you can change up the variety of essential oil whose vapors you want to go around sniffing all day.
Since I feel a little cold coming on (what would the change of season be without one, right?) I put some drops of an oil called “Breathe” in the vial. The gold coupling that is attached to the vial, and can be threaded onto the neck chain, has little stylized openings, to let the vapors waft through from the wick.
What an awesome project; I definitely feel better already!
We have planned our annual family reunion [aka get away] for this year to be Rumbling Bald at Lake Lure. From what I understand this is where parts of the original Dirty Dancing movie were shot. Anyway since there are several hiking trails and lots of scenic spots to walk, I thought it would be a good project to make everyone a walking or hiking stick. This meant mass producing 38 walking sticks!! These would break down into two sections and fit into a carry bag which my wife would sew together from canvas. Well the reunion is fast approaching and I just finished the prototype. So maybe next year!! They might still work if we have a beach get away!
After some investigation, I found that the ideal length of a stick suitable for hiking and walking should be a length determined by holding your arm at your side at a right angle and measure the distance from your out-stretched hand to the floor. I made a cartoon illustrating this measurement and sent it out to all the families. Fortunately for this year, very few people responded. I picked one of the kids that did respond who also loves hiking and camping, and used his measurement for the prototype…. 41 inches.
The design was comprised of a decorative topper with a lanyard and compass, a wood upper section 1 1/8 inches in diameter with a standardized length of 24 inches, a wood bottom section with a length customized to the user, a brass coupling to connect and unconnect the two sections, and a brass fitting on the bottom section to accommodate an interchangeable tip, a stainless steel point and a rubber point.
The topper was padauk cut to a 6 inch length, a hole drilled for the lanyard and then turned on the lathe to a pleasing shape. This topper tapered down to 1 1/8 inch diameter to mate with the upper section of the walking stick. The topper was sanded up to 320grit and then friction polish applied. For a finishing touch, I laser engraved the user’s name on the topper.
A 2 foot length of 6/4 mahogany was ripped to a square cross section and then turned on the lathe to 1 1/8 inch diameter using a spindle roughing gouge. The spindle was then off set from center slightly and grooves cut at the upper end to enhance the grip on the stick. The spindle was sanded up to 320 grit, given two coats of dark walnut stain followed up by friction polish. This resulted in a beautiful finish. However for a walking stick with a lot of outdoor use, maybe a wiping polyurethane finish may have been better. We will see as my son is going to give this prototype a good working out as a test.
The topper was attached to the upper section of the walking stick with a dowel. The bottom of the stick was drilled with a 3/8-inch bit to a depth of 1 inch so that one end of the brass coupling could be inserted with epoxy.
The bottom section of the walking stick was produced much like the top section, only cut to length to provide the overall 41 inch length. Two distinct differences, however, in its construction. On one end of the spindle a 1 inch long 12.8 degree taper was turned using a bedan. The other end of the spindle was countersunk with a 7/8 inch Forstner bit and then a 3/8 inch hole drilled in the center. This allowed me to insert the other part of the brass coupling in the recess so when the two parts were screwed together, you would not see the brass coupling and the joint would be difficult to discern. I could have done this drilling on the lathe but the bottom section of the walking stick was too long for me to mount a drill chuck on the lathe with a bit with the lathe bed I was using.
Here’s the You tube video that shows some of the process details.
I installed the coupling, the brass fitting for the walking stick tip, the leather lanyard with a nice silver bead on the end [compliments of my wife’s bead stash] and glued a small compass on the top of the topper. DONE!! And maybe done for a year. It will be mailed off to one of my sons for testing. I am also concerned that the coupling between the two sections of the walking stick may be a weak link. We’ll see if it holds up or if my son ends up careening down an abyss later this summer.
After a fun visit to North Carolina, I’m convinced that it is the friendliest location of all, for artisans and makers of all creative crafts.
First off, I had to make a stop at the Cary Quilting Company. The shop was busy with pending classes and folks stopping in to visit and talk with the proprietors. I didn’t do any prep work before I darkened their door, to look for particular fabrics or items, but just tried to find interesting things that mightn’t be found any where else. As so many little quilt and sewing shops seem to fall prey to underpatronage in favor of cheaper, more ubiquitous big box outlets, I want to do my part to keep them in business, if I can. Within reason, that is.
Clock wise from back left: a packet of patriotic Moda Red, White and Free cotton, the Big Book of Scrappy Quilts by Martingale, the Cary Quilting Company Block 3 fabric and pattern for the 2016 Quilt! Carolina Carousel Quilt, I Love North Carolina Pillow Pattern , the 2016 Row by Row Cary Quilting Company pattern and top fabric for “Home in the Oaks,” and a 2017 Plate: “Stitch Local.”
The pillow pattern is a pretty fun idea. I’ve never really seen anyone get excited about an odd-shaped pillow that represents one of the United States. I live in Florida, and I’ve never seen anyone in FL get excited about a state-shaped pillow. But in NORTH CAROLINA, the residents react with utter delight! “Oh, cool!” they say when they see it. Like they’ve always wanted a very odd-shaped, off-kilter, jaggedy, state-shaped pillow and they just now realize it! Or a North-Carolina-shaped mobile hanging from their ceilings, or Christmas ornament, or doorknob hanger! I mean, they get almost as excited about a North Carolina-shaped pillow as we do about a plushy Florida gator!
Meanwhile, we stayed in Carrboro, a creative little town that is an extension of Chapel Hill, the home of UNC. Carrboro is overflowing with charming little crafts stores and hippie hangouts. One shop, WomanCraft Gifts, had loads of handmade things from local artists, including jewelry, wooden pens that had been turned on a lathe, wood segmented bowls and boxes, paintings, ceramics, quilts, dolls, clothing, all sorts of things from the practical to the beautiful.
I found this apron with an attached tea towel sewn into the waistband, and I had to get it! Why? Because the tea towel reminded me of when my grandmother taught me how to do Swedish Weaving when I was little, on huck cloth like this aqua-colored piece here. This apron is of a very soft fabric. And what a great pattern.
Another creative item on sale in WomanCraft was the Chapel Hill Toffee, which is made by a local family business. Ah, yeah! It definitely tastes as good as it looks on the box top here:
We took a stroll through the Historic Carr Mill Mall, which has several gift shops, a perfume shop, high-end clothing and shoes, and a savory fabric shop: Mulberry Silks.
We picked up some sumptuous food items from the friendly market, which was having a couple of taster specials going on. Patrons who come into the store with their little kids in tow are encouraged to shop seriously:
We picked up some BBQ from the Cross Ties restaurant, which consisted of a bar straddling two train cars.
Our order included “a plethora of sauces,” including the famous Carolina BBQ sauce that is vinegar with some hot pepper flakes. When I saw the vinegar and flakes in the little plastic cup, I thought, “What are we supposed to do with this?” but when applied to the smoked pulled pork, it tasted so right!
Last week was our Spring Break and we did a whole lot of nothing.
Not complaining,,,not exactly. Our little “first world” problems are not really problems, but choices. We did a lot of householder-type things. And we helped and connected with some other people in our sphere of acknowledgement, ha ha, our little universe. How do you decide if a project is worthy of your time, talent, and trouble?
One thing I took on was to fix some pillows at the request of someone in my circle who takes care of an elderly fellow.
Someone in the old man’s life had done a marvelous job of creating the needlepoint canvases on these beauties, which now showed a faded frog (?) on a toadstool in the rain and a green polka-dotted slug (?) under a cascade of spring flowers. The pillows themselves looked to be handmade out of a sumptuous yellow wool fabric. But apparently a dog had used them for sport, and the stuffing was popping out of a number of unsightly shreds.
The first step was to undo. The manual equivalent of the “undo” link was to rip out all the seams so that the pillow pieces were left intact,
to be used as patterns for the replacement fabric. It turned out to be the first real workout I had with the lovely seam ripper Skip made for me, by turning it on the lathe (see kit here).
I also saved the cording that was inside the piping edges, two strips of piping for each pillow. The new fabric was a piece of cotton (as far as I know) I had in the stash.
The machine has a special foot that I love to use when applying mini-piping, the pre-packaged kind made by Wright’s, but that little groove was not going to work with this larger cording. So I used the narrow zipper foot, an attachment that is handy for a lot of tasks.
Next, I needed to sew the piping onto the new pillow backs, and then onto the side panels.
On the first pillow, I went ahead and attached the top piping to the side panel, then sewed the needlepoint panel on 3 sides to the sandwich of piping and side panel. The fourth side would be hand-stitched after the fabric was turned inside out and stuffed with the pillow form. On the second pillow, I sewed the piping directly to the needlepoint panel, then sewed the piped needlepoint piece onto the side panel: I believe this is how the pillow was originally made because I could see the hand-stitching that closed the opening in between piping and panel, after the pillow had been turned inside out and stuffed.
On the pillow in the forefront above, I hand-stitched directly to the needlepoint canvas, which I didn’t really feel good about, because the machine-stitched one behind it will probably hold up better. I reused the original down pillows, which were scrunched-up a lot inside the smaller pillow casings. But apparently that’s how the owner liked them and they’re very cushiony.
The needlepoint panels were a little faded and soiled-looking, but I didn’t know if I should try to wash them. I finally went to the yarn store and procured a bottle of Eucalan, a highly recommended no-rinse washing preparation for wool and other delicate fabrics. As the brand name hints, it’s made from eucalyptus oil and lanolin. The lady at Yarn Works cautioned that the article shouldn’t be soaked in a liquid because that would remove the sizing from the needlepoint canvas. So I mixed about a spoonful in a bowl of warm water and dabbed a clean wash cloth in it, then wrung it out and gently rubbed it over the smudgy areas of the needlepoint. It didn’t come out looking brand-new; actually I can’t tell any difference in the color or brightness, but after it dried it smelled a little better than before.
I wonder what the story was behind those little pillows–were they made by his wife, who has been gone for a few years now? Or were they made by another family member or a cherished friend? I hope they bring to mind a little spring-time cheer!
The last attempt resulted in a really unsatisfactory outcome, to say the least! This time, I took on a new approach. Instead of coating the brass tubes of a pen kit with dead fire ants, I decided to mix the fire ants with Alumilite resin and then pour the mixture into a Slimline mold. The nubs in the mold would leave an imprint on each of the pen blanks, which would provide a guide for drilling the 8mm holes required for the Slimline Pro brass tubes. Once the resin had cured, the casting was removed and the pen blanks separated and drilled. The blanks were equipped with Slimline Pro bushings and placed on the lathe pen mandrel.
I turned the blanks without incident, using a carbide finishing tool. I then sanded the turned blanks up through 500 grit. After applying several coats of thick CA glue, the blanks were wet-sanded with micro mesh to 12000 grit, wiping the blank with a paper towel after each grit. A plastic polish was used to finish up the blanks.
The final outcome was a very smooth, somewhat glossy surface. There were some white blushes on the surface which were probably due to areas in the casting where the fire ants may have separated from the mixture. Fire ants do float! (see our first fire ant pen blog) Also since the casting had fire ants mixed throughout, when the blanks were turned any ants near the surface would be sheared off, leaving a surface etched with small shavings of the ant bodies. I hope my fire ant research friend can see more detail under the microscope!
In conclusion, this method provided a more conventional method of turning a pen blank. There were no blowouts and a relatively smooth and finish-friendly surface. I’m just not sure anyone can tell that there are about 1000 fire ants in there!
The last pen we built, using a couple of cylinders printed with the Dremel 3D printer, was treated with red gilt. I did not sand the pen because in previous attempts, the plastic overheated and softened. This time I decided to wet sand the plastic cylinders using a range of micromesh pads. This produced a very smooth surface. My grandson wanted a pen with a gold color so I used an antique gold gilt. He seems to be happy with the appearance even though the gold is not shiny gold, but antique gold. I applied several coats of thin CA glue, to add extra protection for the gold finish. I did make another pen for his mother leaving the white surface with no added color.
So, I am happy with the surface produced with wet sanding. The next attempt I would like to make, is to use the 3D software to design more interesting surfaces. This may have to wait, while I work on another fire ant pen.
After our last blog and YouTube video on a fire ant pen build , a follower of ours from Australia asked if we could make a fire ant pen for her. This was several months ago, and we have just gotten around to finding the time to try this pen build again.
I had forgotten how I successfully completed this project last time. Since it took me two tries before, I was hoping I could get it right the first time, this time!
I took the brass tubes from a slim line pen kit and coated them with thick CA glue before rolling them in a pile of dead fire ants. After coating the tubes with fire ants, I placed the tubes in a 7mm pen blank mold. Using Alumilite resin, I covered the brass tubes and fire ants using the 7mm silicon pen blank mold.
After the resin cured, I removed the pen blanks, and squared off the ends with a disk sander. The blanks were placed on a pen mandrel set in a minilathe. Using a carbide turning tool, the blanks were turned down to the bushings for the Slimline pen kit. The blanks were then sanded through the grits to 500 grit sandpaper. The sanding was followed by several applications of thin CA glue. Following the CA glue application, the blanks were wet-sanded with microbes to 12000 grit.
The pen kit was assembled using a pen press. I sat back and took stock of the final product….. it was dog ugly!! (I can say this since I have cats). I’m not just saying this because it is made of fire ants..it really is ugly. The Alumilite didn’t cure properly, probably because there must have been some moisture in the fire ants. I’m not sure that is the reason, since the fire ants were cleaned with ether and dried. Besides the white streaks, several pieces of the Alumilte and fire ants broke off the brass tubes while turning. I tried to patch the voids with thick CA glue mixed with the turnings, but with little success. The final cylinders left the lathe, looking lumpy and ugly.
So what have I learned? Probably to never try this again! But I will. Next time I’ll paint the brass tubes black before adding the fire ants. I’ll saturate each layer of the fire ant applications with thin CA glue. I might also use sandpaper to finalize the shaping of the blanks after a rough turning with a skew. Hopefully this will reduce chip-out during the shaping.
Watch out for a follow-up blog/video on another fire ant build. This pen will not find its way to Australia!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.