As The Lathe Turns #34: The One Piece

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Blog entry by William posted 05-25-2013 07:21 PM 2574 reads 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 33: Promises And Challenges Part 34 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 35: Used Ideas On New Pens »

The feedback I’ve been getting on the pens I’ve been making told me that a lot of people, maybe even most, like the pens best without the band, or center ring. I wanted to go a step further though. It absolutely pains me to cut some of the woods to make these pens because, no matter how well you line up the grain while assembling them, the wood never seems to look as beautiful as it did before it was split down the middle to cover the two blanks to be used with the slimline pen kits that I’ve been using.
What I wanted to do was to figure out a way to use one solid piece of wood for a pen without spending more than I can afford for higher priced kits. I knew there had to be a way, but I just couldn’t seem to figure it out. Then I stumbled across this article, realized how simple it is, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t gotten it till now.

The first one piece pen I made was out of ziricote. I started with this wood because I just think it is a beautiful wood. Also, the last pen I made with this species of wood, I used a blank that was so pretty that I think it actually physically hurt me to cut it.
I was quite happy with the result.
The hardest part of making the one piece pen, in my opinion, is getting the seven millimeter hole drilled cleanly all the way through a four and a half inch long blank. There are several ways to do it. I will tell you how I done it, but keep in mind that it is not the only way.
I think drilling the blank on the lathe would be the best way to go. I have a drill chuck for my tailstock, but did not feel confident enough in my ability to get it perfectly centered in my expansion jaws to drill such a small blank straight enough not to have a side blowout.
I decided to go with the drill press. I had a long enough drill bit. The problem is that my drill press only has four inches of travel on the quill. So I drilled as far as I could with it. I drilled slowly and backed out often to clear the material. It is easy to overheat the bit going this deep. Then after I’d drilled four inches, as far as I could, I loosened the chuck, drew the bit out of the chuck about three quarters of an inch, and then finished plunging all the way through the other end of the blank.

I was happy enough that I decided to then try a new wood that I had never turned before. This pen is made of chicarella. The blank looked amazing. However, after turning it almost down to size, it looked instead kind of bland. So I played with the shape and added some burn lines to dress it up a tad.
Then my wife seen the pens. She absolutely loved the ziricote pen. The chicarella? Not so much. She explained though that it really wasn’t the wood she liked about the first one, but the one piece design and the smooth shape. Then she left the shop. This gave me ideas. She liked the pen design, but not the wood. I remembered that a while back she looked at one of my cocobolo pens and went on and on about what a beautiful wood that was.

Everyone ought to know by now. If I see an opportunity to make my lovely wife something that I think she’ll like, I do it.
Here is her cocobolo, one piece, pen.


19 comments so far

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 3298 days

#1 posted 05-25-2013 08:18 PM

VERY nice pens! And I’m with your wife, I like the smooth design too.

I’ll be glad to send you my address so you can mail me one :-)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3966 days

#2 posted 05-25-2013 08:19 PM

Fantastic!!! Now that’s what I’m talking about.
This is one technique that I will surely employ….
Once I finally setup my lathe!!!

Great job William!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4625 days

#3 posted 05-25-2013 08:39 PM

The one piece pens look great.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 3905 days

#4 posted 05-25-2013 08:54 PM

they look great william you have come a long way on these pens , the chicarella could be called cinderalla wood it dont have something no wood gran ,the burns helped but it still needs something a glass slipper maybe just seem like a bland wood

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View William's profile


9950 posts in 4133 days

#5 posted 05-25-2013 10:32 PM

Thank you all. I’m glad you all like them.
I’m getting quite a bit of pens made. Now I need to figure out a way to sell them.


View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 3438 days

#6 posted 05-25-2013 11:56 PM

Put me in the likes the one piece pens better camp too. Those are some good looking pens, William. Keep it up.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3981 days

#7 posted 05-26-2013 12:29 AM

The one piece seems to be everyone’s favorite! Certainly my favorite. I can see where drilling that hole that long can be very tricky. But looks like you have it mastered (unless there is a pile of scrapped pieces with crooked holes somewhere).

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View William's profile


9950 posts in 4133 days

#8 posted 05-26-2013 01:35 AM

Thanks Rich. I think I will keep it up since I enjoy it so much.

Andy, thank you. Actually, I only messed up one blank, and I was able to save it.
The cocobolo blank tore through the side at the very end of the drilling. I was able to trim the blank back until it had just enough material left beside the hole to allow me to turn down to the size of the nib. Then I squared up the ends to match the angled hole. This made the pen about a quarter inch shorter than it should be, but I doubt anyone would ever notice that unless I told them.
It actually isn’t that hard to drill the hole with a little imagination in a 3/4×3/4” blank. The only reason the cocobolo became an issue I think was the size. It was my last cocobolo blank and it was only 1/2×1/2” That didn’t leave much room for error.


View Doe's profile


1440 posts in 4121 days

#9 posted 05-26-2013 09:24 AM

Wow, my vote is for the smooth one as well. You are a genius at solving problems with what you have.

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View William's profile


9950 posts in 4133 days

#10 posted 05-26-2013 10:22 PM

View clieb91's profile


4264 posts in 5226 days

#11 posted 05-27-2013 02:04 AM

William these pens look good. Thanks for the article it is on my reading list for as soon as I am done goofing with a pen in the shop. :) Look forward to reading it.

Something to try with the bland looking woods is to burn it with another piece of wood. That is what I have done to add depth to an otherwise bland looking piece.

Click for details


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

View William's profile


9950 posts in 4133 days

#12 posted 05-27-2013 02:27 AM

Thanks Clieb. I’m going to have to do some experimenting on that idea. Do you just hold the wood to the spinning pen blanks until it heats up enough?


View clieb91's profile


4264 posts in 5226 days

#13 posted 05-27-2013 02:48 AM

Pretty much. I use the corners edges and just start moving it back and forth and holding it in the areas to darken some spots or widen areas. Really soft woods do not do well as the burner just makes lines.


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

View William's profile


9950 posts in 4133 days

#14 posted 05-27-2013 02:50 AM

Thanks. I’ll give that one a try.


View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4095 days

#15 posted 06-02-2013 09:06 AM

Very kool William. Thnx for the link also.

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

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