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I Got to Turn Wood Again!

As many of you know I have been churning out acrylic pens for the past few months for my wife’s school. I have made no secret of the fact that although I like the finished product, I do not like the turning of acrylic. The smell and the hardness of acrylic make for a less than enjoyable experience. I stopped construction of the Roubo to set up the lathe and since the weather is a little warmer here in Maryland, I opened the garage door to vent the acrylic smell which worked well.

I have finished the last green and white acrylic pens for this school year and was ready to break down the lathe and get back to Roubo, when on a lark, I decided to turn some wood. (gasp!)

This is where it gets interesting. Wood turns so much easier than acrylic and doesn’t dull your tools so much. It was great to feel the greater control over the tool in a softer medium. I was having so much fun that I ended up turning a few pens. These two pens got me thinking.

Every woodworker is fascinated by the exotic and highly figured woods and pen makers are among the most voracious users of the exotics. Here is a great example why this is:

This curly Koa makes a beautiful pen and the curly grain makes the light dance. Here’s a close up of the grain.

I am going to keep this one for myself!

I mentioned that I turned one more pen and this one was an interesting contrast. I have a drawer dedicated to pen blanks in my shop. Lately, like a typical woodworking packrat, I have been taking my small leftovers from furniture projects and cutting them into 6″ lengths and just throwing them into the drawer. It makes pen turning like Christmas because I pull open the drawer and am surprised by the variety of species at my fingertips. In this case I decide to try somethign different and pulled a blank of Quartersawn White Oak. I love the smell of it so why not.

Isn’t it amazing how stunning straight grain can be. It was an eye opening experience for me because I usually lean towards the highly figured in my pens, but this was an exception I was not expecting.

Maybe straight grain is not just for hand planing anymore!

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