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Pen Turning

By Camilla Harmston.

For the newbie woodys in the crowd this week's demonstration was a real treat. Watching Granville transform a couple of tiny, dull looking blocks of wood into 15 carat gold, ancient kauri, bolt action pens gave an insight into how quickly and easily such a thing can be done - or perhaps Granville just made it look easy.....

Using offcut pieces that had been donated to the club he had prepared the pen blanks - making them into square lengths and drilling a central hole fractionally larger than the brass insert all the way through. Scoring this brass insert with some 100 grit sandpaper he applied Tightbond superglue and, well, inserted the insert!

This needs to be left to cure for about 24 hours, but being prepared, Granville had already done this with another couple of blocks. Attaching the pen mandrel to the lathe seemed reasonably simple and he then made sure he had the correct bushes lined up for the particular pen kit he was using - this was less simple as the little devils kept slipping down the gap in the lathe bed!

A smear of 'Kaureme' on either end of the blocks to stop the bushes being inadvertently superglued to them and he loaded them onto the mandrel - one bush - one block - one bush - and repeat. 

Bringing the tailstock up firmly and tightening it so that the blocks couldn't slip Granville started up the lathe with a speed of around 2000rpm. Using his trusty bowl gouge he roughly turned away the excess and then began the process of shaping the kauri to the desired form and so it was flush with the bushes. 

Reducing the lathe speed and sanding through the grits from 100 to 600 until he was satisfied Granville then blobbed some Tightbond on a piece of kitchen paper and ran it along the wood. To speed up the drying process he sprayed some accelerator (Sid, in the direct line of fire, hid behind his notebook to avoid the fumes), sanded with the 600 grit, and repeated until he was happy - usually 6 to 8 times he explained. 

Once the process was complete the lathe was turned off, tailstock moved out of the way and the pen bits removed from the mandrel, a gentle tap on the lathe bed was enough to separate the pen section from the bushes and, while we all admired the finish, Granville chucked up a bit of wood with a hole in the centre. Apparently you can purchase a press to push the pen components together, but Granville just places the tip of the pen in the hole and uses the tailstock to press. And there you have a very smart looking pen!


For the second part of his demonstration Granville turned a pear from a banksia pod. Horrible things to turn apparently, and the vacuum system was deployed as the dust and debris was a bit grim. The banksia pod was mounted on a block which was lined with leather and had a screw coming out of it.

He started by turning the bottom half of the pear to the desired shape, drilled a little hole in the end to accept the screw, sanded through the grits as usual, blowing stuff out of the holes with the air compressor, and finishing with 'Kaureme'. Reversing it onto the screw, the finish was protected by the leather and Granville was able to shape and finish the top portion of the pear in the same manner.

Once the pear was removed from the lathe it was completed with a clove for it's bottom end and a gold coloured stalk and leaf embellishment that had been purchased. It may not be very nice to turn but the finished pear was a delight to behold and these are understandably popular items with potential buyers.

Thanks Granville!

Northland Woodturners & Woodworkers Club

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