Mr Pricklepants The Video!

So here it is, the thing you didn’t even know you were waiting for!
A little montage video from the garden camera, with an audio track featuring a song written especially for it! (Not by me, but by a great guy called Euan Bennett who turned a couple of simple ideas into a tune and I’ve mashed together to make as long as the video itself.)
pricklepants hedgehog

Meeting Mr Pricklepants

Wow, over 2 months!  Sorry for the delay in getting back on here, it’s been a busy time!
We’ve now moved into a fabulous 200-year old cottage with a lovely garden.  I’ve got my hobby room about 75% sorted (so basically it’s in as much disarray as the old one) and I’m working on getting the woodworking gear set back up.
The garden has also brought some new things, not least of all an abundance of nature.  Pictured above is one of our nightly visitors, Mr Prickpants, who is a decent sized ouchmouse.  We didn’t know if we’d have one, so bought some hedgehog food and popped it out – lo and behold, Pricklepants showed his little face and went for it.  After a few nights of watching him in the dusk I bought a nature camera and got a few great pictures, which have now progressed to videos. I’m trying to get to grips with the video editing that I had started to learn, so expect to see something soon!   

Having to sort and pack everything I’ve realised that I’ve actually tried quite a few things with my designs and attempts over the last 3 years.  I’ve made frame for binding books (which I made a few of and sold), made a frame for a wheelchair user to use a Nerf gun (unfortunately the parent I was working with didn’t participate much and the idea fizzled out near the end of the design), took up the lathe side of woodworking, resin casting to go with the pens which led to playing with resin in general, the 3D designs and prints in general….. my list seems to go on!  And I’m adding to them… we’ve now got a vegetable patch up and running, and I’m thinking about taking up some winter nights with traditional art, which I used to be quite into.
With so many things, I’m toying with the idea of getting a few of them onto video…. let’s see how far that goes.

Ok, that’s enough words for now. Have fun, and stay safe!

A small delay

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that for a little while we’ve been unhappy at our home since new neighbours moved in.  We’ve found a new property which is absolutely amazing and suits our calmer, peaceful lifestyle a bit more…. but like everything of this nature that has meant about 3 weeks of mad panic ahead. I’m having to sort out the cellar (long overdue) and get everything packed up, so I can’t see much work going on project-wise. 

I guess what I’m trying to say, is I might not get the chance to update here, and if I do it won’t be brilliant content of amazing new ideas 🙂  Sorry, you’ll just have to bear with me!

Stay safe out there!

About time for an update….

So, we’re into June now and 11 or so weeks from the start of lockdown in the UK.
I’m in a bit of flux with everything at the moment – the pen making has taken a back seat for the moment, as has the resin casting.
I’d like to be able to do better videos of my work and progress, so I’ve been learning a bit about video editing software.  Hopefully I’ll be able to show the results of that over the coming weeks.
The 3D design and printing has continued.
At the moment I have 2 main projects on the go, both laser related.
Up until now I’ve been using the small Neje laser unit with the pen jig, as detailed in earlier posts.  This unit has a working size of around 8cm square, so quite small.  In order to engrave larger items I’m converting my older “Ender 2” 3D printer into a laser engraver – I’ll cover that in another post.

The main picture and sketch above are my other project – another jig for the Neje laser, but this time for something much smaller.  This has brought about it’s own challenges and even though the model shown has all of the final pieces in place, the printing hasn’t finished and testing still has to take place.  Hopefully the idea that I have in mind is a unique one, if a little gimmicky and possibly even getting into the realms of being tacky. I’m not going to say exactly what it is just yet, just in case someone is watching who’ll dive in first and rob me of my millions! 🙂 

Bug Fix

Visitors may have noticed before now that my website has been showing in the address bar as unsecured and hasn’t had an https: prefix.
I’ve previously spent some time following guides online, but hit errors and just couldn’t get my head around them.
While playing around on YouTube, someone I was watching mentioned Fiverr, which I’ve never been on before. For those of you who don’t know, Fiverr is basically like Etsy but for services offered by people worldwide.
A search brought up quite a few people who offered fixes, but I was a bit wary as the most economical ones (ie, cheap) were all overseas.  However, I picked one who had a good number of high rating reviews and took the plunge…. was I going to regret this?
Now, I’m not completely stupid – I knew they would need access to the admin rights of my WordPress and Cpanel (basically the technical bits that run the site), so I changed my passwords to temporary ones so as not to reveal mine.
Well, barring any future security problems (which judging by the reviews aren’t going to be an issue), it was a 100% positive experience. The guy was beyond helpful, due to my old site logins still being in Chrome auto-fill settings, I had issues getting the right information to him… he even sent a little video of the error to help me get around it, and sorted the problem quickly and easily.  Actually, he also found a few errors I was unaware of that he fixed too (which I hadn’t realised were actually showing up in the WordPress control panel).
The long and short of it is that I now have my site secured (you’ll see the little padlock in the address bar) and I’ve totally enjoyed getting it done, all at a bargain basement price. Why so cheap? Well, being in a country with a MUCH lower cost of living and wage rate than the UK, the guy actually made an average 2 days’ wage for just over an hours work. My passwords are restored and to be honest, from the reviews and the money he must be making from his Fiverr work, I can’t see my website being any sort of target for hacking. Fingers crossed lol.

Doing my bit

It’s been a crazy week! Here in the UK it’s (for me at least) been week 2 of the govt instructed lockdown, week 3 of working from home; a week of Free Joe Exotic meme’s and possibly the funniest Facebook group I’ve ever been in, and a week of being…well, useful.
I think I know my audience here, and that means you probably know me personally. So you’ll know I’m not a big follower of internet fads, don’t forward that message you sent me offering riches if I pass it on to 15 people. You know I don’t go in for following things as a rule, but this time I’ve made an exception. 
The 3D printer has been working on making some of these retaining straps for some medical professionals  in my area – they hold the elastics of face masks so they don’t get uncomfortable being held in place by the wearers ears.
50 so far have gone to nurses in a maternity unit, and another 30 to a local hospital.  I’ve got more filament on order and will make them until I kill the printer with over-work or they’re no longer needed.  Hopefully the latter 🙂

It hasn’t all been that though, I’ve still managed to make the new rotating frame.  The new design went together well, all fitted first time and is a better unit all around. 
Assembly was a bit of a learning curve, with a couple of minor changes on the fly (I had to design and print nearly 20 little spacers to take up some slack) but when I powered it up, a real surprise was in store……
What? how? I filed the gears to make sure they were smooth, the bearings allowed everything to spin freely, I had printed stressed parts more densely to make them stronger. It was jumping as the top went down into the first swing, just like the original.  Then I had a thought – the whole design is a little top heavy due to the gearing. What if gravity was affecting it and pulling it down?  A few minutes in my design program, a few more minutes printing, and I’d made a counterweight for the bottom. 
And guess what? It only flipping worked! Yes, there’s still a small jitter, but not enough to be bothered about.  I set it going overnight with a test casting strapped in.  Came to it in the morning….. it was sitting clicking.  The frame was catching the side support.  After the set of 30 mask straps had finished I printed a newer support which gave some extra clearance, and that’s it – it’s done.  It works.

I love it when a plan comes together!

I’ve managed to finish the prototype Rotoframe, and it actually works!
Ok, it’s a little jumpy at 2 places in the revolution, but it turns the way it should.  The outer frame rotates, with the inner frame rotating at 2 times the speed in the opposite axis – like a gyroscope.
What’s it all for , and why am I going to such effort?
Well, I have an ultimate aim of something to try – I haven’t seen it anywhere else yet, on YouTube or in facebook groups – so either it doesn’t work, or no-one has tried it yet.  I find that hard to believe, but live in hope!
That’s why I’m not going to reveal the exact goal on here – I know I don’t get many of you reading this drivel, but just in case someone gets the idea and is quicker/more determined than me, I’m keeping it to myself for now 🙂
However, it has got something to do with making a hollow resin shell – which is where this all comes in.
You put a little resin into the mould, pop it into the middle of the frame (I’m using elastic bands to hold it) and set it going.  The resin sets quite slowly, so the rotoframe turns it through each plane as it sets so that it coats the inside of the mould with a thin layer as it cures. This should result in a hollow object.
As you can see from the video the first one is a bit jumpy. I’ve spent today re-designing it so I can use some little bearings which should make it all a bit smoother.  That new version is printing now.
Wish me luck ! 

A new idea in the pipeline

Just a very quick one before I call it a night tonight.
I’m currently into the 6th hour of 3D printing my next little project piece – using the same motor and circuitry as the Cup Turner (Which I haven’t tried yet, btw), I’m working on something that I haven’t seen anywhere else yet.  I guess that means I might have to video document it a little bit and maybe it’ll be my next YouTube video…..
Anyway, this picture is a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of the 3D design process, and how much complexity it can involve.  This exploded design is after I designed it all together as it will eventually be assembled.  If I think on tomorrow I’ll show it as a temporary assembly, it’ll probably be the weekend before the final build.  

Keep safe and isolated everyone!

Update – 03/04/2020 – 00:38

The printer has continued working today, turning that design into reality.  These are the bits that had been printed a few hours ago, now I’ve made a few updates and little size adjustments which are printing for the next hour or so, then the 2 final small connecting pieces need to print and it’s done.  That circular bit in the middle with the long stick coming out of it has already been re-designed.

I’ve also managed to roughly assemble the outer frame and link it up to the motor – it’s working ok, so the size is right, but the parts that are printing now should finalise it. It’ll definitely need fixed down during use!

So what is it?  I’ll let you know when I’m happy that it’s working, because after that Phase II needs to take place!

…sneak peak….
As I’m fortunate enough to have a screen/tablet, sometimes I do my working out on the computer too….. this makes sure I remember all the changes I want.

Quick Update

Nothing major to update this week.  Obviously like everyone else in the UK it’s been an isolation week with just a couple of essential shopping trips and staying in the house.
While everyone in my FaceBook pen making groups seem to be ploughing through projects, suprisingly I’ve done very little.  I’ve got a couple of projects I’m still working on, but again haven’t gone past the basic steps with them.  Let’s see what happens tomorrow…..
In the meantime, stay safe people, stay indoors and lets look after each other by keeping away from each other 😉

Actually, no, I lied!
I completely forgot that my new Arduino Uno board and CNC Shield arrived during this week! I’ve got my Ender 3 3D printer that does most of my work these days, and the Ender 2 (which decided a while ago it was going to just start being a pain for no reason) has been sitting there – so I’m going to utilise it’s hardware to make a larger laser engraver than my little Neje unit.  So I’ve had some interesting(!) fun trying to learn how to do that. Just waiting for the new laser to arrive and I’ll be trying it out!

OK, as you were, nothing more to see here 😉

Modified Slimlines

You’ve seen plenty of my slimline pens where the kit is made as-is with the centre band in place.
There’s an alternative way to make them where the body is a single unit without the centre band, which I quite like personally.
This week I bought the longer drill bits that are necessary to be able to make them, as you’re drilling right through the full length in one go.

Making them is a little more complex than a normal slimline – after marking the length required you don’t cut them down and drill them on the drill press.  Using a chuck to hold it on the lathe you use a long drill bit in the tailstock to drill through the length and cut it to length while on the lathe.  The tube for the clip gets glued into place as normal, but the lower tube just pushes in and sits there.  You pop it on the lathe and then turn as normal.

When assembling, you take the lower tube by itself and press the front piece into it, followed by the twist mechanism in the top end. The ink is inserted, then the whole lower section pushed into place without gluing – this allows it to be removed for replacing the ink.  The endcap and clip are then pressed into the top and it’s finished!  

The first one I made was the red and blue swirl one below; I’ve had the blank for a while and just haven’t found the right project for it until now.
I’m quite happy with the way it came out.  

Next came making one from wood.  In my box I found I had a couple of the black hardware sets, and remembered doing the mechanical pencil some time ago in Sapele – that also had black hardware and is a long, slim one piece.
Picking out another blank of Sapele, it drilled out nicely and turned down well also – as the top was quite narrow to match the pencil style, I gave it a nice bit of support for holding at the bottom.  Sanded down, cleaned and buffed with Yorkshire Grit, I finished it with my new friction polish mixture.
Fully assembled, it looks great as a set with the pencil!

Noble, Gisi Blanks and Simple Wood

I seem to have developed a few nemesis pens that just won’t go right for me; the custom pen I’ve been working on for a friend for a while, the Saturn V pen and all of the Noble style pen kits.
The Noble kits just aren’t a lucky one for me; I’ve had tubes stick halfway in when gluing, lost kit parts, numerous blank failures when drilling and turning… the list seems endless.
Until today! A simple Black Walnut design, I glued the tubes of this one with a slower setting glue that expands slightly as it sets.
I also used a new sealing finish on it which is a home-mixed one that’s quite popular at the moment; a mixture of denatured alcohol, French polish and Tung Oil.
Tung Oil alone dries quickly but gives a matt finish.  French polish dries glossy but takes a while to dry.  Mixed together, the denatured alcohol works to help them combine.  Left alone it separates, so needs to be shaken before usage each time…. but I like the finish it gives 🙂 

Gisi Blanks

There’s a particular style of blank called a Gisi blank – I believe I’ve mentioned these before when I did a white one.
That last one followed a long route, where I 3D print the blank outline, cast it in silicone to make an outline mould, cast that in resin then filled the outline with different colours.
This time around I’ve printed five new designs – these two are very similar and would probably work well as the body and cap of a single pen.  I’ve filled the 3D prints directly with the same colour scheme and I’m quite looking forward to turning them.
Obviously the first image is the actual items, the second is a 3D simulation of them turned down.

Simple wood slimline

I’ve had a few new things that I’ve tried go wrong lately, so did this nice slimline just to lift my spirits and to try out the new polish described above.
Can’t remember which wood it is, I just picked one up and worked it 🙂

Hello YouTube!

Well, it’s finally happened – I’ve uploaded a video onto YouTube!

It’s hardly exciting, but it’s a start… my assembly of the 3D printed mug rotator that I made.


Coffin Mould

I’m playing with the idea of adding videos on here, and had to start somewhere.
I’ve recently made a black resin coffin trinket box to try out a different colouring technique, and yesterday cast the lid.
In the resin casting community on Instagram, demoulding videos are quite popular, and because it’s a short process I decided to go down that route for my first attempt…. and here it is!
at 30 seconds long with no sound it’s not exactly ground-breaking, but it’s a new first for me!

The Sparkly White One

In my last update I mentioned the white sparkly pen that I made the body for then realised I didn’t have silver hardware to go with it.  Well, the new pen kits arrived, and now that it has been received by its new owner I can post this picture.  As usual with anything sparkly, the photo doesn’t do it justice! 
I like it so much I can easily see a similar one coming in a different pen design quite soon.

The Harlequin Progresses

I’ve now cast the second set of cubes for the Harlequin pen.
It’s a terrible photo which was taken in a hurry – when I got it into the computer I found it was out of focus and overly bright. (Note to self : wear glasses when using camera!)
But it gives you an idea, and I’m quite looking forward to getting the cubes sanded down and glued together. 

Insomnia Coffin

Last night I woke up in the early hours, for some reason just wide awake and couldn’t get back to sleep.  4am probably isn’t the best time to start a resin casting, but that’s what I ended up doing.
I’ve never cast in this mould before and went for a technique of dusting the inside edges and all of the bottom with Purple dust and pouring in a flat black with just a touch of charcoal powder.  Quite pleased with it, although on one edge there was a tiny air bubble. (You can see it better in the photo than in real life – on the leftmost top edge in the picture).
It’ll make a nice trinket box somewhere in the house 🙂

Shoehorn, Harlequin and gift pens

It’s been a busy couple of days with some good results!
For some time now I’ve been wanting to do one of mans’ greatest inventions – a shoe horn.  You can get the kits, but frankly I think the price of them would force the price of the finished item past what people would be willing to pay.  However, while out shopping yesterday I found some with tacky handles which I knew would be perfect and bought a few to try.
This morning I got to it and using a section of birch from a wood bag I have, cut it down to size and gave it a shot.  It was a nice bit of wood, had a bit of a twist to it that had split it slightly but gave it good character.  When I turned it down, the split had to be filled (CA glue and some of the sawdust from the turning itself) and the result is… well you can see for yourself!  Finished with sanding, Yorkshire Grit and Danish oil.

Harlequin Pen

As you may have saw with my Valentines pen, sometimes a lot of prep work goes into a pen long before it hits the lathe.
I’ll often design sections in 3D which are printed and then used to make silicone moulds; the resin is then cast and sometimes some real assembly work takes place before more resin is used to make the actual blank.
I’m in the middle of one of those type of pens at the moment.  It’s not for any special occasion, just something I want to do.
This is a harlequin style pen; a simple design at the moment with just two colours (Pirate Gold and Blue).
The 3D model needed to create the silicone mould is a set of 12 cubes in 2 sets of six.
They are then cast to make a set of the first colour (as in the photo) then the same again with the second colour (currently setting in the mould).
They’ll be assembled and tubed as per the second design picture, then should end up like the final design picture when turned.  I’ll update as we go!

Gift Pens

In my post of 16th January I talked about a pen where I matched the font on the laser engraving to the hairdresser shop font; the Chantelle pen below is the finished item. The photos really don’t pick up the nice speckling in the black upper section!
The second pen is pinecones cut down and set in blue/white resin, and is a custom order.  Terrible picture, I’ll take a decent one tomorrow when I hand the pen over. I had to mess in Photoshop to get it to show the patterning, so the colours aren’t quite accurate.

What else?

I’ve finally gotten around to doing a white glitter pen body for a colleague that I’ve been promising for some time.  This is also a “version 2” pen, as last time as well as the white glitter I added some bigger silver glitter bits which went dull and looked like grey splodges. I was hoping to complete that today, but found that I was out of the silver version of that pen so have had to order some more :-/
Last week I thought my cup turner design was complete.  When I came to disassemble the old one, I realised a little change that would make assembly easier (simply a grooved hole in the top to pass the wires down) and while I was on added some outriggers to the base for stability. That was it, nothing else needed!
Or so I thought.  When going through a quick dry run for assembly, I realised being able to hide the smaller circuit board inside the tower would make it look so much better.
That’s now re-designed and printed so I can get down to it and make an assembly video.  It’s been so hard making myself wait and do that, I just want to get it made now that I have a couple of mugs to try it on. 🙂 

Contrasting wood and metal

Yet again I seem to have left it a couple of weeks.  I’ve been busy casting a new pinecone blank, making a cup turner for resin (more on that below) and this pen – Make from contrasting woods (Black Walnut and a wood from a selection pack that was listed as Kiaya, but I can’t seem to find that wood on Google) and some metal trim as per the detail pics.
To get the rounded ‘V’ metal shape I used a 3D printed jig for my bandsaw which lets me cut perfect 45° angles. I carefully marked the halway point down the vertical axis of the blank, cut from one side down to my mark, then the same from the other side to split the blank in two with the V.  A thin sheet of metal is then prepared with glue and placed between the 2 pieces as they are pushed back together in a clamp, bending the metal and gluing it in place in one go.

The Resin Cup Turner

Sometimes when browsing the internet, Pinterest or my Facebook groups I get an idea into my head of something that I want to try in the future, and this usually ends up in me buying something.  One thing that’s really caught my interest lately is resin-coated travel mugs – there’s some great designs out there!
The way it’s done though, is that the mug is coated in resin and then turned very slowly while the resin dries to give it an even coating.  You can buy little motorised machines which turn the cup at around 2-5rpm but they’re not so cheap for what they are, especially just to try it out.
While I was playing around with putting new software into my 3D printers a couple of years ago now, I bought two little Arduino computer units.  These are little computer boards that you can plug other things onto (like motors, sensors etc) and then you connect them to your computer and put the programs into them which they then sit and run themselves.  For a couple of quid I bought a little stepper motor and controller board, then connected it up to one of these Arduino’s and programmed it to turn the motor at 2 rpm. 
I then measured up all of the pieces and designed a holder for them, a little connector for the motor to hold a length of bamboo and a Magic Sponge.  The first design (printed in red) was more of a test to make sure my measurements were right. The second (with modifications to the base) was functional, but looked a bit strange and was a little unsteady.  It also had an extra join in the tower where I wasn’t sure of the height and so made the column and the motor holder in 2 pieces (that way if it was wrong, I didn’t have to reprint it all). The third one (in black) is much more the finished item – it has an extra length for stability when it’s free standing, but also mounting holes to screw it down.  The motor column is one piece too and a much neater design.  I have a 4th and final version planned which will just include an adaptation of the motor mount so I don’t have to pull all the electronics apart when moving them from one assembly to another, and another outrig for even better stability without needing to screw it down.
When assembled it certainly does the job!  Now to buy a couple of cheap travel mugs and start playing! 

Pen Press and stripping it back

Not much time in the cellar this weekend – yesterday was spent helping the eldest daughter move into a new place, and today I’ve working on the blank for a friend that has been bugging me for a while.  The main problem with it is that it’s quiet important that the hole gets drilled perfectly down the middle – even doing it on the lathe I’ve had a few non-starters with that, so I’m currently printing a jig for a drill guide that I’ve found that I bought a few years back and never used.

The picture today is a pen press – when making pen kits, you literally press the hardware into the tubes. I’ve previously been using the jaws of my Workmate because I’ve been too stingy to pay £50 or so for a proper pen press.  Well, with some hardcore printing, a toggle clamp from ebay and some wood I’ve made one of my own.  The handle is turned on the lathe with guitar string used to burn the lines in, and the base is some nice solid chopping board.  The rod is a 10mm bamboo knitting needle.

If I get the chance (and inclination!) I’ll upload a video sometime of it in use. 🙂

This is a pen I made last year – it’s a hair scrunchie set in white resin.  The photo really does it justice, as it doesn’t show the imperfections in the pen – I added some glitter but it was too sparse and the colour was too harsh and wrong for the pen.  The white colouring I used had dried bits in it which made it into the mould and ended up as white dots.  I really wasn’t that happy with it, and it never made it onto the Pens For Sale page for that reason.

The pen making world goes through fashions just like everything else.  Someone comes up with a new idea, it gets copied like wildfire and suddenly everyone is doing it.  One of the latest things is giraffe pattern pens.  Not to be left out, I printed a mould mould (a 3D printed mould to make a silicone mould), made the silicone mould, then cast the blank. It wasn’t great, I didn’t seal off the bottom of the blank enough so the colour I used to fill the white sections leaked out through the bottom leaving the level of resin about 3mm too short.  Doesn’t sound much, but it makes for a bit of size difference in a 20mm blank.
Anyways, back to the scrunchie pen – today I finally got sick of it, popped it onto the lathe and stripped it back down to the tubes. Cut down and drilled out the giraffe blank, popped the tubes in and started re-doing it.  Nope, not my day today! The cap blank ended up being too thin to be of any use and the resin chipped off the end of BOTH of them – lost the piece for the cap one, found the body one and glued it on only for it to chip off in the same place again. I sanded it down and turned it around to the good side just to get a picture where it looked ok, but then stripped both of them off the blanks again.

Photo’s to follow.

Let’s see what I come up with next…. 

Iroko bowl and Valentines pen

I’ve just had my first proper attempt at making a bowl, and I’m really pleased with the result!  It’s about 5″ across, Iroko wood, finished with Danish oil and beeswax.

My work on a valentines theme pen has made more progress – check out the making of page!

The saw works! & Valentines Pen

I’ve had the house to myself for the last couple of weeks, so you really would have expected to see some real progress and new stuff here today…. but no. Why?  Because I decided to involuntarily test my bench saw blade with the end of my finger. Yes, it definitely works, as the amount of blood and slight amount of discomfort demonstrated.
Nothing too major, just sliced  down through the tip catching the nail a little, but enough to need strapped up a bit with gauze and tape.  The dressings are all off now, it’s healing really well and the feeling is back now.  But it meant that I couldn’t get much done in there as trying to work and avoid doing anything with the finger was impossible.
The real shame is it meant I got nowhere with my Chinese New Year pen.  The photo’s I have of that and it’s design and progress will probably just end up in my ‘How It’s Made’ section, and I’ll get an earlier start on it for next year.

So, into February, and my feature pen for this month is obviously going to be a Valentine’s Pen.  I’m aiming to have the design and first blank completed by the start of Feb (this weekend). It should have been sooner but I was out of silicone for the mould and financially January was a flipping long month.  Got that now and as I’m typing this the mould is hardening.  The picture above is the 3D printed pieces for the blank.   If you can’t make it out too clearly, they’re rows of hearts – they interlock into a guide sleeve to make a blank which will be cast white with red hearts in it, as shown in the pictures below.

A couple of weeks? Again? Already?

So yet again it’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted on here – I really need to get more regular!

What’s going on at the moment?

Well, I’ve been watching a few more YouTube videos on making pens from scratch without kits, and bought some tools I need to do that.

I’ve bought a special kind of clamp that will let me make a pen press for quicker and easier assembly, as at the moment I’m using my workmate which really isn’t up to it.
My better half, Tammy, reminded me on Saturday that I still hadn’t made a pen for her hairdresser which she wants to give as a gift as apparently they can never find a pen. So, I thought I’d look at that today.

 What goes in to deciding what a pen is going to be/look like? I’m not made of money so the first thing is what pen kits I actually have in stock. Once that’s chosen, I have to decide the material – is it going to be wood or resin? If it’s resin, am I going to use a blank I’ve already cast, or have I got a new one I want to try? If it’s wood, is it going to be plain or decorated?
This one needs a name on it, so I have 4 choices. Laser etching, Wood with a waterslide transfer, resin with waterslide transfer, or 3D printing the name and then casting resin around it. I only briefly played with that last one a while ago so still need to go back to it to try it out further. Also, the name is 9 letters long, so small 3D printing would be needed. Nah, not in the mood for messing with that right now. Waterslides – hmmm. I’m in the middle of a pen that has become my nemesis which involves those, and it’s mightily hacking me off at the moment, so no thanks.

I’ve decided it’s going to be wood with laser engraving. Now, a nice touch (or so I thought) – I believe she actually rents a chair within the salon, so instead of just doing her name in some cutesy cursive font I figured it would be nice using the same font as the salon logo. But how? Most business owners wouldn’t have a clue what particular font has been used in their logos, and I wasn’t going to look stupid by asking. There’s a website I like which lets you identify fonts used in pictures, which would be perfect if I had a decent picture. A quick search, and I managed to get a blurry-ish picture of their outside sign – would it be good enough for the program to identify it? When looking at fonts, there’s LOADS of subtle differences to identify them. On this particular one, I noticed the letters had little corner fillers, and the T top bar was flat on one side but angled on the other – that would be the deal maker in getting the right one.

I downloaded the picture and while the human eye could pick out the shape, the important bits were pixellated badly. I had no other choice than to pop it into Photoshop and trace the outlines into a new picture layer. Saved that layer off as an image, and Bam! The website picked it up perfectly, and there was a free version available. Installed, checked and it’s a perfect match!
My laser requires an image to be a particular size, so back into Photoshop, created the blank image and popped her name in. Flipped it so it’ll be the right way around and voila – all done!

And there we have it – for one simple pen I’ve already spent 45 minutes on it before even going near the lathe or doing any physical work.

Okies, work to do, catch you later!


I’d like to say a massive thank you to all of you who in 2019 have taken the time out to visit my site and read my drivel, and wish you a happy and successful 2020!

New Toy Update

I know, it’s been 2 weeks without an update -sorry!
There’s a good reason though – I’ve got a new lathe 😀
While my original one was doing the job, there’s more that I want to do with making my own pens from scratch and making some of my hole drilling more accurate, and it couldn’t take the machine parts that are needed to do this.  I’m still getting used to the new one and seem to be hitting a rough patch with the new resin that I bought too, so no new pens to show.
The resin I bought this time around heats up a LOT more when curing, and it’s a lot less predictable than my previous stuff, so I’m ending up with some sub-par results and wasting blanks.  Going back to the other one very soon!

Custom Orders and New Pens

A pen that hasn’t made it into the website is the one I keep for my personal use.  I can’t sell it – when I made it I made a mistake and it ended up being out of true, with the wood meeting the metal tip section being slightly out of line. A friend at work wanted to buy it, so I’ve re-made it. In case you can’t guess it’s the thicker Walnut one with the black and white accents.  See the steps in making it in the “Making Of” section!
The other is also a custom pen based on the one currently for sale but with a Stylus kit rather than the rose gold slimline. It’s a little while since I made the original one, so took a couple of attempts to remember what I’d used to make the blank.  They never turn out the same twice, and this one has more pink and a brighter blue – good job the new owner likes pink! (The picture actually shows it a little more shocking pink than it actually is.)

The left hand blank is the one used – the right hand two were me getting it completely wrong before I remembered what I’d used, and the 2nd from left is a Christmassy blank.
I went to make a pen from this one today, but it chipped.  Even though it glued back in with no problems it’s left a crack showing.  Also, it seems I didn’t use a strong enough concentration of powder so it’s a little translucent.  I’m calling it a fail, and will be stripping it off the tubes. 🙁

Oh, I’ve also added two new pens for sale – both in the Euro style, one is a nice red/black swirl and the other is Acacia wood with a subtle gloss French polish finish.

Woods Sample Stick

Woods Sample Stick

After talking at work today and being asked which woods are available, I’ve made a little sample stick.

After a bunch of photos, this one gets the colours and grains most accurately – though colours do change slightly even within the same batch of the same wood, so it is still purely demonstrative and the actual results may vary slightly. 

The finish I’ve started using is a little more work than just doing a solid gloss coating (which I’m happy to still do on request) but gives a nice slightly satin finish where the texture of the wood is still felt (as opposed to the glassy plastic feeling of the gloss finish).

Xmas Ornament and Finally Quitting

A very quick bit first – I’ve have a small number of Xmas Bauble kits for a couple of months, and finally decided to put one of them to some use.  This is a blank that I made for another pen, then changed my mind and realised I wanted to go a different way with it.  It’s a nice blank that took a bit of work and a few experiments to get right and I didn’t want to waste it.
Quite pleased with it 🙂

Finally Quitting It….

For the last 3? 4? weeks I’ve been working on a special pen.  It seems like forever, and I’m constantly being thwarted with problems.  One of the big ones is that while inserting the tube into one of the early blanks for the cap, it got stuck halfway in.  Thinking it wouldn’t be much of an issue I cut it at the end and glued it in the other end.
Well, that blank ended up failing so I had to cut it off the tube(s). That was already the second attempt in wood, so I gave it up as I had an idea in resin.
The first resin attempt worked but it was a small blank and when I drilled it out the hole was too close to one side. I made it again and all went well – when the brass tubes were inserted they left a gap of about 2mm inside, but that wasn’t a problem, was it?
Yep, apparently it was.  When applying to the pressure to insert the end cap and clip, then the screw end, that 2mm gap close up and buckled the resin as it was only a couple of mm thick itself. Another failure to cut off the tubes… but in disassembling it I managed to crack the end off the screw end.  Not a problem – that’s hidden inside the tube when it’s made.

By this morning I had decided to do that pen onto a different kit.  I’m out of resin so can’t do anything yet, so decided to create something different from that pen. Using wood measured so the tubes touched inside would be ok for pressing together so I went for that.
This blank turned out really nice – with my new Mango Wood for the main body and Sapele for the ring, it went together really nice and was enjoyable to cut down.  I’m experimenting with new wood finishes and that also went great with this one.
But again, assembling the kit pieces turned out to be a pain, and the screw end that had previously cracked just wouldn’t go in properly which seemed to be caused by the trim ring.  In trying to disassemble it, the whole blank snapped where the tubes come together.  That was it, finito. No more.

Nah, I couldn’t let it beat me. Glued the blank back together, back onto the lathe, re-sanded, polished and finished.  Final assembly attempt (without the ring) and it just wouldn’t do it. I ended up trying a bit ham-fistedly by this point and the screw part of the tube fitting is knackered. That’s it. There’s nothing I can do to salvage it now – while it still looks quite nice, it’s useless. (Look carefully where the plastic meets the wood on the left).

But thankfully I can put that to bed now and stop messing with it.  I’ve learned quite a bit about what you can and can’t do, and when to cut your losses.  I should have learned it 2 weeks ago 🙂

Mango Wood Slimline

I picked up a nice piece of Mango Wood last week and this weekend I’ve had the chance to cut it down into blanks and play with it. 
Here’s the first pen – a nice slimline, polish finished with wax to give it a very satiny look and feel.