Acorn Boxes

Recently I have made a number of acorn boxes. I listed the first few on Etsy and they sold quickly, so I made another batch of 4 which sold out as well. Currently I am up to 17 of them and counting.

Chasing Threads

I have wanted to try chasing threads for some time and found a used set of thread chasing tools on line over the past winter. I’m not sure which brand they are – the tool is one piece of steel with a “female: end and a “male” end, that reverses in the handle. While using the tool a plastic screw that threads directly into the handle tightens against the steel.

The femaie thread chaser.
The male thread chaser.

A couple weeks ago I was able to try them out. I made a little elm jar and glued pieces of PVC pipe into place on the lid and into the neck of the jar. With beginners luck, I was able to achieve usable threads and almost perfect grain alignment between the lid and the jar.

Large Black Walnut Bowl Rough-out

I got a start on a large black walnut bowl this afternoon. A friend of mine was over to borrow my lathe for something else and he helped me get it mounted onto the lathe when he was done but before he left. The first view is from the rear.

Mounted on

This blank after it was prepared measured almost 18 by 20 inches. Obviously a bowl is round so the largest it could be is limited by the smaller dimension. The next view is one “end” of the blank. The wood had sat unsealed for a week since the blank was prepared, so there are small checks in the wood. These will turn out.


This is the other “end” of the blank.

Walnut 3

The next pic is after about 4 minutes or so of turning, just trying to get the blank round and in balance.

Walnut 4

After another few minutes – the blank is much more balanced, but is not yet round – still oblong.

Walnut 5

After some more time, the bowl is now shaped. The bottom needs some work to be able to mount the bowl into a chuck to hollow the bowl.

Walnut 6

The other side of the bowl showing a mix of the sapwood and heartwood. To be honest, the sap from the heartwood will bleed into the sapwood as it dries and turn it black/brown. There will be some contrast between the sapwood and heartwood when it is finished, but not as drastic as it appears in these photos.

Walnut 7

Here is shown after a little more work. It’s difficult to see, but the right side of the bowl now has the “tenon” shaped up for the chuck to clamp on when I turn it around to hollow out the bowl.

Walnut 8

I have the ability to “core” these large bowls. Instead of turning the complete inside of the bowl to shavings, this allows me to cut another bowl blank from inside the large one. I leave the thickness of the large bowl at approximately 10% of its diameter. As it dries down it will warp and go noticeably out-of-round. Hopefully this is thin enough to dry without cracking and thick enough to allow me bring the bowl back to roundness.

Walnut 9

The picture below is after coring out the bowl but before I trim up the bowl with the bowl gouge. I was able to get an almost perfect core out of this bowl, which left me a second bowl of about 12 inches diameter and 3-1/2 inches deep inside. Unfortunately, as this walnut ages and dries, the differentiation in the grain will become less noticeable.

Walnut 10

Here are the three bowls made from the large bowl blank – a 17-inch bowl, a 12-inch bowl and a 8-inch bowl. The white material is a sealer that slows the drying rate down and that will hopefully prevent the bowls from cracking as they dry.. It is applied liberally to the end grain of the bowl to try to force the moisture to exit through the cross grain which makes the wood dry evenly. Otherwise the moisture leaves the end grain portions of the bowl faster than the cross grain portions of the bowl and causes the bowl to crack.

Walnut 11

All that’s left for now is to let them dry for a few months and then turn them to final thickness, I will likely add another coat of sealer in a week or so to add a little extra insurance against cracking as they dry. Oh, and I need to sweep up the shop. Again.

2019 Ornaments

We made a number of ornaments for 2019. Here is what we have left after the craft fair season.


Recently, I have been making a lot of pendants. One reason I find them so additive is because the way they display the grain of the wood. The same wood, turned face-grain or turned end grain, can have two vastly different appearances. I’ll be posting pictures below of several pendants.

It isn’t very intuitive, but to take a closer look at a pic, right-click on it, and then choose “…open image in new tab”. On you phone, tap and hold on the pic, and then select the option that opens the pic by itself.

The grid that the pendants are laying on is 1/4-inch squares. The two inch point is a heavier line because that is about the average diameter when they are completed.

Black Walnut with Ash Accents

This next group are very recently completed.

The next group are also recently completed. The simpler black walnut also shows up later as a set with earrings.

Group 3. The honey locust and the maple or birch were intended to be blacks to do laser engraving on.

Group 4. Pendant and earring sets.

Group 5. Some Older Pendants. The honey locust has no finish and will be drilled for a pinch bail for hanging on the cord.

Group 6. The cedar and the Dawn Redwood are very soft woods, but the figure makes up for it. The Dawn Redwood shows the use of a pinch bail.

Group 7. Some earlier pendants.

Group 8. Some older pendants

Group 9.

Group 9. More older pendants.

Group 11. More Older Pendants

Group 12.

Seam Rippers that Won’t Roll

When I first started making seam rippers, I used a small Dritz ripper and glued the existing ripper into a turned handle. After I received some input from my wife, who is an accomplished seamstress, I experimented with a few where I left a square portion on the handle so the ripper would not roll when it is laid on the table.

Later I began using a commercial kit from Penn State Industries to make seam rippers. Of the three kits available, the most popular is the double-ended version. At a recent craft fair a lady told me she liked my seam rippers except for the fact that they roll when they are laid on the work table. SHe asked if there was anything I could do about that.

I took that as a challenge. First I put together a simple router jig for the lathe. It consists of two three-sided open boxes, one of which slides inside the other. On the narrower box (which goes on top), I drilled holes to mount my router. On the sides of the boxes are slits to allow adjustment up and down to fit various sizes of lathes, if that should be an option. On the bottom of the lower box is a guide block to fit between the ways of the lathe.

Next, I did something I said I would never do – I mounted a pen mandrel on my big lathe, I am using it because the lathe has a nice indexing system with 48 holes built into it.

This is pretty easy to use. First I place a glued-up seam ripper blank on the pen mandrel between bushings, and turn the blank until it is round, or almost round. I’ve learned that if the tube is glued off-center in the blank, I can leave a flat side on the blank.

Next, I place the router jig on the ways of the lathe and bring the tailstock back up to the mandrel. If there is a flat side already on the blank, I loosen the nut on the mandrel and turn it to the top side with the lathe spindle set to the Zero indexing mark.

I simply slide the jig along the ways with a large square bottom bit in the router.

After the first side is routed, I then turn the spindle the required number of indexing holes for the blank I am making. I have made 8-sided, 6-sided and 4-sided blanks. The 6-sided seems to be the optimum for not rolling and still comfortable in the hand.

Seam Ripper Handles before Finishing

After the sides are routed onto the seam ripper handle, I turn the ends. I try to place a small rise at the end for the user’s thumb to push against.

A caution – I check the tightness of the nut on the mandrel before every cut. In the picture above, the third handle down is round. This was a very hard wood (honey locust) and the vibrations from the router loosened the nut and allowed the barrel to turn on the mandrel.

Completed seam rippers with “won’t roll” handles.

Dawn Redwood – metasequoia

A couple years ago, at one my regularly scheduled medical checkups, my GP told me he had saved some wood for me. It was a Dawn Redwood shrub, which he had planted several years previously, but which had become unattractive.  When he cut it down, he decided the wood was too attractive to send to the landfill, so he saved it for me.  I was quite honored.

This tree has an interesting background. Scientists had seen fossil evidence of it, but thought it was extinct.  Then, in the 20th century, a valley in China was found where the tree was in existence.  Within a decade, it had been exported all over the world as an ornamental. Today, although the tree is in no danger of going extinct, it’s native habitat is considered to be threatened from industrialization and population growth.

The tree loses all it foliage in the fall, however it is coniferous. The foliage turns pink before it falls. The pink color is where the name Dawn Redwood is derived.

I have the opportunity to finish a few pieces from this wood, from a fairly large bowl down to a few pens. Here are some pictures. The first 7 pictures are of the most recent bowl. This bowl was sold at a craft fair in the fall of 2017.








The next few pictures were of the first bowl I made from the Dawn Redwood. This bowl was sold on-line in the fall of 2016.





One of the first things I made from this wood was a small lidded jar. The lid of  the jar is spalted maple and the knob on the lid is black walnut.  I gave this piece to my GP to thank him for the gift of wood.



How I set up the lathe to turn pens

There is nothing earth-shattering or new here – I wanted a place to post some pictures with text for a friend of mine.

Turning pens with the standard mandrel:

I use a mandrel to turn pens when they are “7 millimeter” size.  When they are larger than that I may or may not use a mandrel. There is a larger mandrel that is used for some larger pens from Berea hardwoods.

When I use a mandrel, I drive the mandrel with a 2MT collet.


This collet requires a drawbar – I use a long 3/8-NC bolt. The complete setup looks like this:


I turned the wooden knob to use with the lathe where this gets put on and taken off quite often.  The other lathe where I use this set-up is almost permanently set up. I use a bolt with nuts and washers for spacers and there is no knob on the hand wheel end of the headstock (below).


I also use the MT2 collet to drive my three-wheel buffing setup, as well as my mandrel for bottle stoppers.

A few notes about the MT2 collets:

  1. you do need to tap them out with a hammer – I loosen the drawbar a few turns and tap it with a brass hammer.
  2. The collets don’t fit the mandrel “exactly” – the 1/4 inch fits the 0.246 (“7 MM”) mandrel pretty closely, but to fit the “B” mandrel (same size as an L drill bit), the 5/16 mandrel collapses considerably past its nominal size.

I also use a “mandrel saver” from PSI for the standard size mandrel.


The complete set-up looks like this:


Turning pens with barrel ID larger than the 0.246 mandrel:

I use a MT2 60-degree dead center in the headstock to drive the barrel and a 60-degree live center in the tailstock. These fit into the bushings for the pen barrel and center it better than a mandrel.


(The bushings don’t match the finished barrel in the picture above – the bushings are for the Sierra Vista while the barrel is for a standard Sierra).

Then, to finish the barrel, I remove the bushings and drive the barrel directly with the 60-degree dead center. This eliminates bringing the gray sanding dust (iron) from the bushing onto the barrel.


You will get a little slop-over of CA onto the end of the barrel – this can be sanded off, or even cut off  with a sharp knife if the CA is not set up too hard. (I use a knock-out punch mounted in a Jacobs chuck in my tailstock and a  purpose-built sanding disk that screws onto the 1×8 thread on the headstock.)

Bushing maintenance

People, even some “experienced” penturners forget that the bushing needs some maintenance from time-to time. Things to look for in order of descending importance:

1: CA (or other crud) build-up on the step of the bushing. This is the area indicated by the point of the knife blade in the picture below.


2: CA (or other crud) build-up on the back of the bushing. This is the endof the bushing facing the camera in the photo below:


If this area is not clean, and you are running the bushings back-to-back (like on a Cigar pen), the bushing can cock slightly and throw BOTH barrels out of round.

3: Condition of the hole in the center of the bushing. The bushing should slip easily over the mandrel if a mandrel is used. Use a letter D drill but to clean and re-size the hole.

If a mandrel is not used, the end of the bushing that fits over the 60-degree center must be round and perhaps have a slight chamfer. Clean it up with a countersink mounted in a wooden handle.

4: Buildup of CA on the bushing. This can fool the woodturner into thinking the pen barrel is turned to size, when in fact it is still too large.