Penmaking articles Penmaking Tips
'Turning' A Profit

Can This Hobby Make A Profit?

by Scott & Kathy Griffith, premiere turning artisans
Reprinted by permission from Creative Woodworks and Crafts Magazine

General procedures
Preparing your project for the lathe entails cutting the wood, drilling the blank for gluing in the brass tube, allowing the glue to dry and cure, and then trimming and truing the blank. When cutting the wood, leave it about 1/4" longer so as to account for any chipping out caused by the drill bit. You can always trim the wood, but if you cut it exact and the drill chips the wood or leaves a slight egg-shaped entrance, there may not be enough wood to cover the brass tube. Trimming the brass tube is not desirable since your kit may not fit properly, i.e. the pen point may protrude in the closed position.

Ideally, a drill press is used with a centering vise to drill your blank. The centering vise holds the wood securely as you drill, minimizing distortion and allowing more control of the drill process (see Fig. 2). Do not attempt to completely drill through in one plunge; this will overheat the drill bit and stress the wood so it may crack off the brass tube during turning. It is best to make several gentle plunges, allowing the flutes of the bit to empty and the wood to stay cool. Our rule is three plunges in soft wood and five or six in hard woods, plastics, or stabilized woods. This minimizes not only the wear and tear on the drill bit but also the number of problems on the lathe.

Once your brass tube is glued and the glue has cured, the barrel trimmer is used on both ends. There are several different methods of “truing” (trimming the ends of the blank to 90° of the brass tube), but the barrel trimmer is worth the investment since it minimizes the amount of brass removed and clears the brass tube of any excess glue or debris. We mount our barrel trimmer in the drill press and use either a pair of adjustable vise grips or a centering vise to hold the blank (see Fig. 3). With the blank locked into the vise grips and using the lowest speed on the drill press, insert the thin shaft into the blank tube and apply gentle pressure to the cutter.

Try to look for the shine of freshly trimmed brass as you back off from the cutter head. Once you see the circle of wood cleared by the cutter flush to the brass tube, it is done (see Fig. 4).

Flip it and trim the other end. Regardless of how much wood is removed, only the thinnest thread of brass should be ground off. This allows the bushings to fit securely against your blank on the lathe mandrel. Be sure to frequently sharpen all your chisels and gouges, double check that your drill bits are straight and sharp, and study the maintenance requirements of your machinery and keep them in top shape.

One lathe accessory to consider is the duplicator, which simplifies repetitive turning projects and improves the accuracy of matching finished items such as dart and chess sets and spindles (see Fig. 5). This accessory mounts to your lathe and allows you to duplicate patterns up to 10" in length. Not only are you able to produce matching turnings with intricate designs, but it is also possible to make straight cuts. There are profiles available on the market, but you can also create your own master pattern to use in the duplicator.

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Fig. 1. Three lathes: the Carba-tec 4se with duplicator, the Delta-Midi-Lathe, and the PSI Turncrafter Plus.

Fig. 2. The centering vise holds the wood securely as you drill.

Fig. 3. The drill press with the barrel trimmer.

Fig. 4. The blank shown here will be ready to
turn once the tube is glued inside.

Fig. 5. The Carba-tec with duplicator and template..
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