Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Detour - Custom Pens

While I haven't added any custom pens to my web site as of Jan 21, 2012, eventually I will have some there, so you can check back for as long as you have the patience to do it. 

There is a ton of info out there on YouTube about "pen turning". Some of the videos were really helpful for me, no doubt. While no individual tool is outrageously expensive, the tally at the end of the day for the pile of stuff you need can definitely get your attention. Here are some of the necessary pieces of equipment I have acquired so far to make pens. In addition to these things, you need a pen mandrel that fits the lathe you have, turning tools, brad point drill bits. the actual pen kits, and the blanks that wind up as colorful and interesting barrels to your pen.

This first picture is of a centering vice. Once set up properly, you can drill repetitively without trying to find the center of the pen blank each time you create holes for the brass tube that runs through each pen barrel.    

Once the hole is drilled, a brass tube for the particular pen kit you use is glued into the barrel material. The brass tube must be roughed up a bit to allow the glue a good surface in which to bond. Then the over sized barrel material is sanded flush to the ends of the brass tube. At this stage, the piece is inserted onto the mandrel of the lathe for turning. 

This is the lathe I chose. It's a Jet Lathe with variable speeds. It operates by using both pulley changes and an electrical rheostat at the left side of the machine. The lathe uses what is called a 2MT mandrel, with MT meaning Morse Taper. At the left of the machine (head stock), the mandrel with the 2MT fits snugly into the hole. If you have ever removed the chuck to a drill press, you will know what that means. It keeps the pen barrel centered perfectly while you turn it.

In between the headstock (on the left) and the tailstock (on the right), the correct bushings for the pen kit you are turning are placed on the mandrel shaft. Then you turn down the material you chose to make the pen barrel from all the way to the outside diameter of the pen bushing. There are also spacer bushings that can be used to allow room for the tool rest that is seen between the head and tail stock in the above photo. Once the material is about a 32nd over sized to the bushing, the remaining material is sanded flush to the diameter of the pen bushing. At this stage, the finish of your choice is applied while the lathe turns. There are a host of choices available for finishing the barrel of the pen. 

After finishing the barrel, the pen parts are pressed to fit to the pen kit. There are many ways to do this. I chose to purchase a pen press to do the work.

After all that, you should have some pens that look like this. The barber pole pen is a kit that uses 4 differently-colored laser-cut ribbons of wood that are interwoven and glued together. After the glue dries, the barrel is glued over a brass tube just as the others are done. Finishing from then on are the same as before. Extremely sharp turning tools must be used when making the laser-cut pen kits. There are a variety of these laser-cut kits available. The barrel alone for these kits can run from about $20 all the way to $60. Then, the pen kit that fits the barrel also must be purchased. Pen kits range from about $9 to about $50. Some kits go together quickly and other are a bit more time consuming. 

Update - And all...

Holy crap! Where did all the time go since I last posted. My brain feels like one of those little twisters ( whirlywinds for those of you who live east of Colorado )  that you see traversing a zig-zag pattern on a vacant lot or something. My time is generally spent making razors, engraving - both for me and others, reading western fiction, learning more about my new Canon EOS T3 camera, maintaining contact with family and friends (both of them), keeping up with house chores, and taking my dogs to the lake on my boat. The list is much more extensive, but you get the idea. 

As if I didn't have enough to keep my old-ass busy, I decide to buy a mini-lathe so I can make shaving brushes and bowls to go with my straight razors. Well, of course, there was a tangent that sort of just slapped me up side of the head in the process. Since I love writing instruments of all kinds, I had the epiphany to learn how to make pens as well. Not that it would be all that difficult, it's just that it adds more peas to my already-full plate. As it turns out, I started having way too much fun with it. It's much easier than making razors, for sure. Because of all that, I figured that sooner or later I'd start putting some of them on my web site.   

Check this out! I ran a post on the only shaving forum in which I still participated. I expressed the same small level of excitement about pens as I have here. Keep in mind, the thread I generated had nothing to do with trying to sell stuff that wasn't even on my site yet. In fact, I never tried to hawk any of the stuff I offer on my site while participating on that forum. My mission there was to educate folks about straight razors, tell them how things were done, and provide a little entertainment along the way. I also donated many items of value to the members of the forum along the way, the last contribution being a custom strop that I would not duplicate for less than $800. I did most of my writing to help contribute to the traffic for the forum since one of the owners of the site is a good friend. Additionally, my contributions were exclusive to that specific forum. I did not copy and paste my information to every other shaving forum on the web.  I didn't do it, ever, to put money in my own pocket. For those of you who know me, you know that's true. To add to all of the above, I "purchased" a yearly recurring contributor button at $100 a pop. Imagine my reaction to the following private message that I received from one of the moderators before I even got around to posting a single picture.

"Hi Bill,
I saw your post in the Nib forum and thought I would drop you a note to see if you are interested in a vendor subscription.
As you know sales offers and business promotion can only be done in the Vendors area on B&B to keep the core of B&B non commercial.
I would be happy to move your thread to the Vendors area if you are interested. If not we have to remove it."

Excuse me? I could have chewed nails like they were bubble gum!!! The audacity of these folks to actually attempt to extort an additional $300 a year out of me for the privilege of helping them out with yet another "how to" thread lit a short fuse. The thread I generated had no transgressions whatsoever in it to have the vendor sheriff let me know I broke some sort of convoluted interpretation of a perceived offense. It parallels a CHP officer driving by to issue me a speeding ticket because he sees my wife's Corvette in our driveway.  For those accustomed to my congenial temperament, I'm sure you have a slight inkling as to the type of response I had for them. You ready? Waaait for it...  

"A vendor subscription? Seriously? Have you not paid any attention to the contributions I have made to this site? Were you not aware that I just made an $800 strop that was given away as a promotion to bring additional traffic to B&B? Are you not aware of the countless threads I have created to help the straight razor community at B&B? What about all the straight razor "how to" threads I generated, all the while having a web site that sells straight razors? If you think I made the pen thread to generate business to sell pens, then you are just plain stupid. Did you miss the "Contributor" tag as well? It's the subscription that I just cancelled with Paypal. Now you want to squeeze me for vendor fees? You can not only remove the thread, you can kiss my ass, you &*^%)!"

That "&*^%)!" appearing in the sentence above was actually written just like that. I didn't use a real swear word like "asshole" or anything. I was actually proud of myself for holding back and not telling him what I really thought of his plan for extortion, and for not delivering it in the manner in which I really thought he deserved to be treated. The mod-without-a-clue writes back:

"Wow Bill,
How incredibly rude. 
Many vendors contribute, donate items and still follow our simple rules while comporting themselves like a gentlemen.
Please refrain from posting your business related items in the forum.

Thank you,
... "

Yuh, right! Vendors that donate a sample pack of soap or a couple DE blades. The reasoning behind their donations are only done to benefit their own business. When I donated, it was for the benefit of the forum members as a gesture of good will. I'm not even going to bother with a tally because my money and my time to do it was not the issue. The issue was genuine contribution, not what the vendor sheriff was referring to. What a complete insult that he would compare other vendors as a whole to what I have done for them. And... of course, those other vendors did it while comporting themselves. Comport? Comport? Pompous-ass piece of shit! I got his comport hanging!!!  I am not a gentleman, I am a man... a good one. A generous one. An honest one. An honorable one. These folks who pretend to be true gentleman without the good sense to know right from wrong really tick me off! It's important to point out at this point that people without a clue don't know it. I'm sure that mod is walking around going, "What? What? What?" 

Needless to say, I won't be leaving any more information on that site. I'm sure my absence won't even cause the most minuscule difference to them, so it's not like I'm taking my football home or anything. Instead, when I have the time, I'll just be able to put what I have to offer on this blog and on my web site.  

Ok, off my chest... now off to pens and restoration and stuff. If that site wanted continual information about razors and such, they'll just have to steal it from here from now on.