What goes into making a hand-crafted "Pen?" First of all you have to buy a "kit" from one of the many suppliers. Most of the kits are imported from the pacific rim countries since they seem to be able to produce the parts and styles for the least amount of expense. I will talk about them in another post, however, since today was given over to the other most important part of a custom pen, the body, let me focus on the process I follow preparing them for turning.
This morning, after I delivered my grandson to school, I made my way to one of the local wood supply shops in the Twin Cities. Most of their products are made on a custom order basis and most of their woods are domestic. They do, however, handle a great selection of exotics used in the custom crafting of everything wood for fine homes throughout the US. I go there from time to time to see what they may have in the cutoff area and carefully go through the inventory to pick out something that catches my eye and looks as though it will allow me to make a pen with great character. Today I was able to pick up some Tiger Wood and a very nice piece of burled walnut. In both instances a planned to cut the boards down to end up with some cross grained as well as straight grained blanks.
I don’t make up too many blanks at a time as each one of my pens is crafted as seems proper. I match the different kits with the different blanks before I do any cutting or turning. After I have examined the wood I draw out the cutting direction and make all the blanks 3/4" x 3/4" x 51/4". This morning’s wood products yielded about sixty blanks. I save the smaller cut-offs to be used in glue up objects. All the sizes of blanks and pieces of the same species are kept together. With the blalnks cut, I then write on each one the wood species so that when finished I will be able to accurately describe to the end user the source and type of wood used to make their pen. Some of the Tiger Wood I placed in my CedarShield chamber to begin the process of stabilization by immersion. Those blanks will soak for 24 hours, and then I will take them out and rack dry them for 72 hours. This process I usualy save for wet or green wood, but as an experiment of sorts I tried some of the already dry Tiger wood. Since it was already kiln dried I didn’t bother to test it with a moisture meter to see its H2O content, nor did I weigh the pieces before their 24 hour bath.
Since I was in the cutting and labeling mood I sized some, Bamboo, Ash, Maple, Hickory, Cherry and stgraight grained Walnut that I had on my shelves. I ran out of time for that project and will get some pictures up later.
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I suppose a library of printed books could be filled with a discussion about pens, pencils, and the many different forms of writing instruments used by mankind throughout the ages. In all the cases that I know they are an extension of the human hand that allows the user to make some kind of mark. Those markings are different than those made with a brush in that most pens have only one point at which they touch the surface upon which the mark is to be made and left behind. Brushes on the other hand have many bristles and together are used to carry the medium that is being used to make a mark. A fountain pen comes close by using the two parts of a nib between which the ink flows to make its mark.
From charcoal, cunieform styli, quills, lead pencils, and many other different forms and instruments loaded with or carrying some sort of stained liquid an individual was and is able to convey by pictures, doodles, or complex symbol set, the ideas their minds have conceived and learned to portray in some form of writing. It is fairly amazing how the human brain can be trained to transfer ideas to graphics or things that can be seen and understood by others. As a student of languages, whether it be singular or multiple, to be able to read and write is a very important part of education, socialization, communication and interpersonal interaction. Although the keypad upon which my fingers are pressing to write these words does that and much more, there is an enduring quality to hand writing that makes it preferred in so many contexts.
As a pen maker I try to imagine how and for what the writing instruments that I craft will be used and by whom they will become an extension. From the time that I have been able to write I have been aware that when you see my hand writing you see something unique and special. My signature is mine, my letters are easily distinguished from those of others, and the style itself tells a trained observer many things about me in addition to the word or marks I have written. This is mostly true for everyone. At the same time I have always been aware of the differences in the pens and pencils that I have used because I am left handed and hold my hand in a way that is different from most of the other people that I have watched as they have left their mark. When I add my signature to something, I do it very carefully and with purpose. Unless I agree to what is being signed or written I will not add my signature.
It is with that same care and attention to detail I like to believe that I make my pens and those pens I might make for others. I hope that the pens that come from my hands become an extension of that person’s self. That’s why I can call my pens "signature" pens. They are all unique and specially made to my standards and according to the ability that I have at this point in my life. If you should want one, please let me know and I will make one for you.
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