About Me

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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Taking Time Off for School

So I've been called to task on my on-line negligence. I honestly didn't think anyone noticed! :)

What have I been up to? Why no posts? Well, there are two reasons:

1) I'm trying really hard to be a more positive person, which kind of goes against my grain! Most of the thoughts that end up in my mind and that I find ought to have some "air" are rants of one sort or another. It seems to me like if I don't have something on the mind to whine about, my brain is empty.

2)...and more importantly...I've been going to school. Not that I've been going anywhere, particularly, nor have I been sitting in any classes anywhere. There are no real instructors at this school.

School, huh? One of the most important things for me, something that my beautiful wife showed me many, many moons ago (BK, in fact: Before Kids) is that I do have a love for learning things.

For about a million years now I've been saying that I think that I'd really like to learn how to make pens. I love pens; it's a fetish of mine. Big, hefty ones especially. I also love wood. I have long been saying that I'd like to be able to take some wood and turn it into a pen.

My lovely wife called my bluff at Christmas last: she bought me a mini lathe. She always has faith in me, and that's a good thing. I said that I'd like to do this thing, and she actually thought that I would be able to do it! What the heck...?

So, I started looking into it in earnest. One thing that I found is that there is virtually no resources in my area for learning how to safely use a lathe. What tools are needed? What are the appropriate (and somewhat more importantly: the INappropriate) techniques? How do we remain safe while doing this? My bluff called, I needed to find out!

There's really not a lot of on-line help either. What I've found is a lot (and I do mean A...LOT) of resources that show a person how to turn this sort of bowl or cup or whatever, but they all seem to presume that the viewer knows very well how to turn to begin with. So, it took me some time to learn a few things.

I am a slow learner. In fact, when I showed my brother my first pen, he said that he didn't think that I had found the class that I was looking for. I told him that I had not. I read, watched some videos, read, asked around, read, got a DVD to watch, read, read, and tried some initial turning. I read like I learn: s....l...o...w...l...y

I've now made close to 15 pens and a few mechanical pencils. It's a pretty cool hobby! If you like woodworking, and you love fine writing implements, this is a great hobby to take up. Even a lout like me can make great-looking pens in very little time. Here are some pictures of a few of the pens that I've made.

Pen #1, a "Slimline" pen made from Rosewood:
If you look closely, you might note my primary error on this pen: I left the wood too wide, so that the barrels are too proud of the metal band (the pen's "belt"). I feel like I should have been paying closer attention to this detail, but overall I'm very happy with this first attempt.

Pen #2, a "Slimline" pen made from Paduk (pictured beside the above Rosewood pen):

You can't tell very well by this picture, but the Paduk (the one on the right) pen was an improvement upon the 1st Rosewood. As expected: I got better with iterations, and continue to do so today.

Eventually I started making other styles of pens; my starter's kit came with parts for what they call "Trimline" and "Comfort Grip" pens. Pictured below along side the two above is a Comfort Grip pen that is made from Rosewood. Sorry for the poor photography. I also got a nice camera for Christmas, and have been trying to figure that out; these images were taken with my iPhone.

So far, I've only made a few different kinds of pens, and only from Rosewood and Paduk. I intend to do a lot of different projects from a lot of different wood types, and I'll probably babble on about some of them in here.

You may recall a conversation that we had about how Christmas gifts ought to be made...this is perhaps the first step to me getting to that point.

We shall see.


  1. I'm so very sorry to tell you your photos didn't come through....and I want to see your pens. Could you try again please?

  2. Aw, nuts! I can see them even if I log out and view them as a guest. Lemme try some hocus-pocus, but I'll have to rely upon you to let me know whether they came through!

    Moment, please!

  3. All updated! I hope they come out, but please let me know.

  4. There they are in all their splendour. Beautiful job. We have a man making us a couple of keepsake boxes out of an old maple table...if there are any scraps left over I'll send you some. Are you going to try to make a fountain pen?

    1. Thank you for the kind offer!

      I do indeed intend to make some fountain pens, and I will share them when I do. There's an amazing number of things that you can do and make, and I intend to enjoy as many small projects as possible, including an array of boxes.

    2. I'll be your first customer for a fountain pen and I will let you know if there are any good maple scraps. It's a VERY hard wood.

  5. Ooh, fountain pen! I'll take one. Teak, please.