Pen blank just catches, doesn't cut?!! HELP!!!!!!!!!!

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Forum topic by framemayven posted 07-17-2017 06:02 PM 865 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View framemayven's profile


3 posts in 822 days

07-17-2017 06:02 PM

Topic tags/keywords: turning penmaking

Just getting started in pen turning and with everything finally set up, when I bring the roughing gouge up to the blank to begin to turn it just gets stuck. I know the gouge is sharp, I practiced on a piece of 2×4 without any problems. I am lost and frustrated. Any and all help gratefully received.

8 replies so far

View HokieKen's profile


10917 posts in 1647 days

#1 posted 07-17-2017 06:12 PM

Could be several things. Does the spindle stop turning or does it keep turning but the blank stops?

If the spindle keeps turning but the blank stops, you don’t have your spur center inserted into the end of the blank properly. Or, if you’re using a chuck, it’s not gripping the blank properly.

If you’re locking the spindle up completely, you’re probably just approaching the blank wrong with the tool. Watch some you tube videos on using a spindle gouge. Make sure your tool rest is at the right height and distance from the workpiece. Lay your spindle on top of the work piece and slowly move it down until chips start coming off. Make sure the corners, or “wings” of the gouge aren’t engaged.

Hope that helps. More information will help us give more specific suggestions. Welcome to the site!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View mrg's profile


860 posts in 3508 days

#2 posted 07-17-2017 06:14 PM

Add more pressure with your tail stock. Make sure your mandrel are tight.

-- mrg

View Dustin's profile


698 posts in 1249 days

#3 posted 07-17-2017 06:17 PM

Let me start by saying welcome!

Now on to the matter at hand:

How are you presenting the gouge to the blank? To find the “sweet spot” when I first started, I’d elevate the cutting edge of the gouge in an exaggerated fashion above the blank, with the bevel above the piece. I would then gradually lower it down, riding the bevel (or following, as some folks think “riding” implies applying pressure) while gently lifting the rear of the handle. Once it starts cutting, you’re in the “sweet spot”.

And how are you sharpening your gouge? Practicing on a 2×4 isn’t much of an indicator, as they are usually very soft and have a high mositure content and a dull tool could still work to some degree on them. Did you sharpen the gouge? Are you using it straight from the box with the factory edge? I think you’ll find that on many lathe tools, being new-in-box doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be sharpened.

When the gouge catches, is the motor stalling, or are the bushings for the blank slipping? If it’s the latter, maybe try tightenting those (thought not too much: if you’re using a standard mandrel/bushings combo, that could bend the mandrel). If the motor is stalling, then it’s likely to be one of tool presentation, tool sharpness, incorrect speed, or some combination thereof.

Hope this helps, and let us know how it goes!

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View Dustin's profile


698 posts in 1249 days

#4 posted 07-17-2017 06:30 PM

Whoops…pretty much everything I mentioned was posted while I was typing :p

Sorry for the redundancy, and good luck!

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View lew's profile


12860 posts in 4264 days

#5 posted 07-18-2017 01:50 AM

Sometimes increasing the lathe speed slightly will help reduce this problem.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View MikeUT's profile


195 posts in 1868 days

#6 posted 07-18-2017 02:54 PM

I’m with MRG, Your mandrel needs to be tighter. If you have a mandrel saver, tighten the tailstock. If you have a normal mandrel, crank down on the nut. If it still grabs, hand tighten it then grabs some channel locks and take it another 1/4-1/2 turn.

View framemayven's profile


3 posts in 822 days

#7 posted 07-18-2017 09:32 PM

Thanks, Mike. That finally did it. Of course, I then got carried away and turned to much so it just split of the blamk. I’m now trying to figure how fr to turn the blank.

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4262 posts in 3070 days

#8 posted 07-18-2017 10:12 PM

Are you using a pen mandrel and is the brass in the wood blank? If all of that is Yes then you are not putting enough pressure on the pen blank. Some of the mandrels have the brass wheel nut to tighten up the whole thing and others like me just do it between centers with a specific head and tail stock centers and if the last is how you are doing it then the tail stock needs to be tightened just a tad to much and you will split the wood and over size the brass and it will not fit on the pen kit.

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

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