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Annnd…..Fall rolls into the Pacific Northwest…

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While the sun shines brightly outside of my office window, it is distinctly cooler outside and we are getting more rain than we have in the last month or so.  I love it.  So much better than the heat and sweat of the summer…

In other news, while my son joined the Boy Scouts back in February of this year, I have made the plunge and submitted my application to be an Assistant Scout Master. Now, the politics of the Boy Scouts versus Gay rights aside, (I personally have no problems with gay/lesbian rights I am very much a live and let live sort of person and the Scouts appear to be shifting their own stance), at the personal level the Scouts have really helped my son mature quite a bit and teach him a lot of outdoorsy stuff. After I got married, my wife was such a city girl that we never went camping and always felt the kids were missing out.

Since joining the Scouts, I have been on several camping trips (my first in almost 20 years) and even my daughter has been able to come along on a few. Its been grand fun and in the last year the garage has been getting filled with a proliferation of tents, sleeping bags and other camping related items. I have also been introduced to a fantastic new (to me) way to cook using cast iron dutch ovens.  Other Assistant Scout Masters in the troop have made some unbelievably great meals using nothing but a dutch oven set into the coals of a camp fire…

A couple of weeks ago we also made my first backpacking trip since 1990 on the Na Pali coast on the north shore of Kauai. In the middle of a PNW rain storm we hiked the trail at Barclay Mountain. A short two miles to the lake at the base of the cliffs with a backpacked stuffed with a four person tent (I am totally going to REI to get a lighter two person), sleeping bag, food, backpack stove and other accouterments.  It’s that last part I am going to work on because that shit was heavy…

This weekend we are going up to another campsite to help the owners chop firewood.  Fortunately we are not backpacking that one because carrying a 10 pound axe plus a backpack does not sound like fun…

Can you believe that summer is over?

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Between summer school, Boy Scout camps and work, the summer has once again escaped… School starts in a few weeks for the kids and we are probably in the hottest part of the season (well at least the most humid).  We still haven’t had a day topping 85 north of Seattle but the humidity is nasty. I shouldn’t complain too much. With the windows open the house never gets above 75 degrees.  Compared to the week I spent in Las Vegas attending Black Hat where the temps consistently topped 105… From July until this week I had five weeks on the road.  I topped MVP status already for Alaska Air and am halfway to MVP Gold.  I should be pretty close by the end of the year.

One of the things I appreciate about Alaska Air is that if you are pretty close by the end of the year they give you the chance to get those last few miles during the first month or so of the new year so I should be able to get Gold again this year. Also in travel notes…I actually took a close look at some of my mileage and hotel programs and it looks like Christmas will be well taken care of this year… :) Lets get through the rest of August and September without melting and the rest of the year is starting to shape up…

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So one day I sit in my garage surrounded by all sorts of nifty tools like a band saw, drill press and wood lathe and think…what the hell am I going to do with all this stuff. The house itself is new and I don’t feel like building a deck or anything. As I was reading a wood working magazine I came across an advertisement for a company that sells pen making kits. Huh…that seems simple enough. Two companies, it appears, sell the bulk of these kits: HUT Products and Penn State Industries. My first kits and other supplies I got from HUT but subsequently I have been ordering from Penn State for a couple of reasons, they seem to have a bigger supply and variety of stuff and they take PayPal.
Anyway, my first set of pens were all wood based, I have since given many of them away and others I sold to raise money for charity. The photo’s you see below were based on my first foray into making pens from acrylic mediums. Acrylic, by the way, stinks to high heaven as you cut and turn them so make sure you have plenty of ventilation and wear the proper safety equipment. The steps are the same though so if you want to see a step by step guide to making your own pens…read on.

Equipment needed:

Band Saw

Wood Working Lathe (Nothing fancy, the one I used is from Harbor Freight)

Drill Press

Drill Press Vice


Eye protection

Masks to protect yourself from breathing dust


Related to Pen Making:

7mm Mandrel (some styles of pens require a larger one but 7mm seems to be the most common)

Blank squaring bit

Pen making jig (this goes into the drill press vice to hold the blanks)

Bushing set (each pen kit requires a specific type of bushing set. Penn State often puts starter kits together which include the correct drill bit and bushings.)

Wood turning chisels

Pen Turning Step 1 – Get your kit togther

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Pen Turn 1 – Kit and Raw Acrylic Block:
Uploaded on 5/13/2013 4:02:05 PM
This is the pen in its raw state.

Pen Turning Step 2 – Cut the blanks to length

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Pen Turn 2 – Cut Blanks with Bandsaw:
Uploaded on 5/13/2013 4:02:05 PM
Cut the blanks with your band saw a little longer than the tubes so you have material to square later.
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Pen Turn 3 – Drill Holes for Brass Tubes:
Uploaded on 5/13/2013 4:02:05 PM
I use a drill press for straight holes for the tubes.
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Pen Turn 4 – Rough Tubes and Glue in Blanks:
Uploaded on 5/13/2013 4:02:05 PM
Use some sand paper to rough the tubes, apply a liberal amount of glue and insert into the blanks.

Pen Turning Step 5 – Square the blanks.

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Pen Turn 5 – Square Ends Evenly:
Uploaded on 5/13/2013 4:02:05 PM
So the kit parts are even…
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Make sure everything is tight so the blanks don’t spin on the lathe.

Pen Turning Step 6 – A mid-turn look.

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Pen Turn 6 – Mid-turn – Note the tool marks:
Uploaded on 5/13/2013 4:02:06 PM
This is what the blanks look like after the square edges have been turned down…
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