My world of turning #6: We are Santa's Elves...

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Blog entry by JJones98042 posted 10-07-2012 12:22 PM 2445 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: First class. :) Part 6 of My world of turning series Part 7: 2013 Year in review »

With the Summer drawing to a close, I wanted to get a head start on my Christmas gift making so that I don’t end up in a position where I’m out of time and feeling rushed (I know how easily that happens). The bulk of the gifts are pens that are now complete. I had setup a little production line to make the pens and learned a few tricks along the way.

Lessons learned:
  • Since I was doing over a dozen pens, it helped to do things in stages. I made all the decisions about kits and blanks and placed them into baggies labeled with the recipient’s name.
  • I kept most of the pens limited to only a couple of styles (slimline and euro). I turned all of the pens for one style (first acrylics, then woods) and then moved to the next style. This way I reduced the chance of delay/confusion with the bushings, differences in assembly, etc.
  • I did all of the “prep” work up-front. All the blanks were cut, drilled, tubes glued in place, and final trimmed to length before any of them were turned.
  • Acrylic material is more “friendly” to turn than Polyester resin. The PR blanks are more brittle and prone to chip-out.
  • I thought my tools were sharp! A fresh sharpening makes a world of difference with the plastic blanks! Sharp enough for wood does not equal sharp enough for plastics. Seriously, sharpen the tools!
  • Both PR and acrylic blanks can be produced quite a bit faster than wood since you don’t have to apply a finish! Cut, sand, polish, done!
  • Since my turning sessions were fairly concentrated (all the prep was done ahead of time), my techniques seemed to improve quite a bit more than if I had turned 1 or 2 pens per session from start to finish.
  • I found myself completing the basic shaped pens almost exclusively with the roughing gouge. My technique improved as I went (practice, practice) and I discovered that I could not only turn the blanks to shape, but that the finish was good enough that I was able to skip some of the coarsest grits and go right to the 320+ for finishing. :)
  • I became much more confortable with my skew chisel! The skew and I have never been on friendly terms. I overcame my reservations and used it quite a few times with no “surprises”. :)
  • Separating blanks and bushings with CA finish: I tried a new technique that I saw on an Internet Video. After the finish is applied and polished, I now use the toe of a small skew chisel (plunge cut) to separate the blank from the bushing. By doing this, I avoid having to “break” the bushings off which can lead to sharp jagged edges and (in some cases) ruined blanks.
  • I now use the MM pads to quickly hand chamfer the edges of my blanks after they come off of the mandrel before assembly. Just a quick pass is enough to “break” the sharp edge that can be left behind (acrylics or CA).

Well, that was round 1 of the Christmas gifts. Now I have a handful of misc gift projects to complete (some turned, some not). Here are a couple of the other projects recently completed:

I finished my first bottle stopper. The wood is yellow dyed spalted maple with CA finish. There will be more of these to come as gifts. Fun project!

Below is a perfume pen made from an Amethyst acrylic blank.

The picture below is a purse sized perfume atomizer kit from Craft Suppliers. The wood is Curly Koa treated with BLO and then my “standard” CA finish. I REALLY like how this wood came out! I plan to make a couple more of these for gifts. They are quick and easy! :)

Onwards toward Christmas!

-- "Keep thy airspeed up, lest the earth come from below and smite thee." - William Kershner

4 comments so far

View clieb91's profile


3791 posts in 4613 days

#1 posted 10-07-2012 12:29 PM

J, These all look good and good tips once again. I am in the midst of close to 60 pens for a couple of craft fairs. The batch processing is certainly the way to go. With my pen rack I have I can hold 20 pens at a time so I have been turning then assembling them in batches of 20 but I have all 60 of them prepped already.

Good luck with all the other gifts to come, can’t wait to see them.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View Ralph's profile


167 posts in 2811 days

#2 posted 10-08-2012 01:34 AM

Just beautiful.
How can I get on your list (Christmas list, that is)?

-- The greatest risk is not taking one...

View Brett's profile


951 posts in 3437 days

#3 posted 10-09-2012 01:14 AM

Great write up Jay! Very clear and well stated.

-- Hand Crafted by Brett Peterson John 3:16

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3482 days

#4 posted 10-15-2012 06:49 PM

Santa is comin to town soon.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

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