Monthly Woodworking Meetup – Pen Turning

by | Sep 4, 2019 | 0 comments

Monthly Woodworking Meetup – Pen Turning

I had the privilege of being invited to a monthly woodworking meetup by Robert Balfour (@revivalwoodcraft) and Adam Dodski (@opieswoodwork) this last weekend. The group was invited to Bobby Zander’s (@zanderwoodshop) shop at his beautiful home in northern San Antonio. Bobby, and his wife Karin (@zzhoney), have a great shop setup that they recently built behind their home. The shop even has AC, which in southern Texas is a must (trust me, I know because mine does not) and it comfortably accommodated 10-12 people working at 6 lathe stations.

I’ve never turned a piece of wood, I’ve never used a lathe, I’ve never been in someone else’s woodshop using their tools. So for me it felt a bit odd when you don’t really know your way around and you feel a bit out of place. But the group made me feel so comfortable that my apprehension quickly dissolved and I was able to learn how to turn wood for the first time. I honestly think I had been avoiding learning this skill because I knew it would only mean I would want to get myself a lathe and I don’t really have room for one in my shop right now, and I was NOT WRONG! These Rikon Lathes were pretty nice for the small projects we were working on. They would be great for any beginner wood turner and are more affordable than one might think. Even a starter set of Lathe Chisels aren’t too pricey. (and of course I have them on my Amazon Wish List, who wouldn’t?)

Turning wood is almost cathartic, it’s relaxing, it’s a zen feeling. You can stand there and just feel the wood spinning and transforming into something beautiful right before your eyes. And for someone who really appreciates symmetry, turning a block of wood into a perfectly round “thing” was extremely satisfying.

So what were we making?

Pens of course!

The quintessential first-timers project to get you used to the equipment, tools, process, and procedures of wood turning. We started out with a pen kit that consists of the hardware for the ballpoint pen itself. These also are quite inexpensive, and the quality of the hardware was pretty nice considering the low cost. The most important piece of this project is of course the wood blanks used to turn the pen handle and finally you’ll need a lathe mandrel.

The last piece of equipment is optional but makes this project quite a bit easier and that’s a drill bit kit that is designed for this hardware and it can be used over and over again. Or you can go the SUPER efficient route and just get yourself a Pen Turning Starter Kit which includes all the hardware and tools needed for making 2 pens, with the exception of the wood blanks.

All in all it took about 2 hours for our entire meetup. That include a nice introduction to the group for new members and some basic instructions on what we’re going to be learning and how to do each of the tasks involved in turning a pen. After I’ve done it once or twice I bet I could turn out a pen in about 30-45 minutes. That’s VERY quick compared to some of the projects I’ve been doing lately that can take weeks! But this isn’t really at the same scale as some of my other projects, but it sure is relaxing!

After our 2 hours were up, we were excited to see what everyone else had created and I have to say, not too shabby for a bunch of beginner wood turners!

I want to say thank you again to the group for being so warm and welcoming and I eagerly look forward to the next meetup at the end of September!

Until then, happy woodworking, and learn something new every day!

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