Tag Archives: blanks

Cursive, Print, Pen or keyboard!

Boy did I stir up a bees’ nest! Actually, I came upon one that had already been disturbed. It stemmed from a report in our town about the school districts in our state laying aside teaching the artistic skill of writing in cursive. The big debate was over  whether to make the kids learn how to write in cursive or not. Keyboarding, printing, and when one doesn’t have a smartphone, iPad, or keyboard, maybe, if you have to ….print…but,  please, oh, please don’t make ’em master themselves and their urges and as primary grade  students learn how to write in cursive.  Why that’s tantamount to making a youth practice the piano after someone has thrown a football or baseball his or her way. Hey, maybe I stumbled on a great idea: Let’s add "cursive teachers" to piano teachers, "tap dance  and baton teachers"  and have writing recitals. What d’ya think? We could sell videos, give away smart phones or mini iPads….the possibilities are endless.

Now, I’ve taught youth in the preteen category for over 50 years and I know what it’s about when I say with regard to learning how to write, "There’s trouble in River City!" Yeah, Yeah, I know that some eager to "be on the curve" techie type is going to say: "old man, readin’, ‘riting and ‘rithm’tic when out with the hitching post." Really?, perhaps, (Why, just the other day, I saw an electric car tethered to a power outlet on a post, hmmm) just maybe, that’s part of the reason why we Americans have a hard time keeping the label, "Made in America" on the products we buy and use. Sure the kids are bright, and yes, they learn quicker that the speed of light, but, in my opinion, it seems that part of their brain is being short-circuited while they’re being under trained when tthey’re not required to learn how to write their names. Most of them can’t read the "hen scratching of their peers, much less the letters and gift cards that grandma or grandpa sends them. What happens in our family is close to "rip open the card, glance at the picture, and show me the money." It’s really simple, they act like that because they can’t read either the printed or written words that are placed before them.  "R U with me so far?"  It used to be that I would get requests to translate letters sent from Germany. It was because the recipients didn’t know the language or recognize the letters with their special markings, etc. What I’m writing about here is nothing like that. It’s far more problematic.

Let me tell you that something relative took place in a class I was teaching just yesterday. The need for translating came about because a fellow who had been ill missed class. His buddy had been kind enough to take notes for him while hie was gone.  Then it happened… the sick dude, as he was called, was given the unreadable notes for the class taken by his buddy. But the notes were worthless! Why? Because the note taker’s "printing" was so bad that the words  were unintelligible for his friend. What made it worse, and, I think proves my point, the guy who took the notes was asked to decipher his printing and he couldn’t!  He couldn’t read his own writing. Ouch!

So… I guess I’m aiding and abetting the youngsters in their misery by making a pen that has both a ballpoint with which to write on one end, and a interactive tip on the other end with which to swipe or stroke a screen. Sometimes you have to ride two horses at the same time. Which brings me to my shop project for today. I was experiencing a little problem in achieving true roundness on my pen blanks. This I determined had to do with the flex of the mandrel that they’re turned on. So, when I came upon the solution presented by one fellow turner, I thought I’d give it a try. Well sure enough it worked…in the picture you can see how I still used the mandrel, but turned only one section of the stylus pen I was making. The note taker in the story above will get the stylus/pen with which to learn and to practice learning how to write in cursive while stroking his iPad. LOL!



Share this post on your Favorite Social Network

Storage is at a Premium

 

Over the past few days I’ve stayed away from turning pens or making pen blanks. Why? Well, like so many other things in my life I didn’t think ahead far enough to consider what I was going to do with the blanks once I had made them! I was so excited that I was having success in getting different species of wood from various sources, and then, with the new blade on my table saw I was able to make blanks with such reckless abandon. With all that excited success I hadn’t figured out where and how I was going to store them and organize them according to the different woods.  I began to think that I couldn’t be the first person to have such a problem and wondered what others might have done and/or be doing with all the various pieces of wood 3/4 x 3/4 5.25" piling up in their shops. So I started to look  on the internet. You know the saying, "You can find anything on the internet."… well, that’s almost true.  I picked up a few ideas while surfing, but, it became clear that if I wanted something to suit my needs I’d have to design and make my own.

So, I took a deep breath, got out my 6" ruler, a sharp pencil, and some plain paper. Actually I use the back sides of old bulletin stock that I have saved for note taking, scratch paper, and shop drawings…..  I keep them all filed in my hanging file folder system. That way I do know where old ideas are, and  I can dig out unfinished projects and/or  completed projects or tool evaluations that I’ve kept for later reference.

 

First I put down in writing the goals: 1) Storage, 2) sized to be portable, 3) able to be mated to another unit through a hinge system, 4) suitable for table display for shows, fairs or association meetings, 5) low cost as a proto-type, 6) dovetail construction with dados for divider panels. With these criteria articulated I began the process:

I drew, measured,  and erased until I came up with the storage cabinet proto-type pictured. It’s c. 24" x 24" x 5.5" deep with 16 –  5.25" square cubbies. (that’s 400 pen blanks of 16 different varieties at my fingers’ tips. A similar unit hinged and on a travel dolly would allow me to handle 800 blanks.  However, I plan another set for kits for pens and bottle stopper kits and blanks. I have since had suggested that I might include finished pen and stopper space as well.) Each cubbie will be labeled accordingly.

I looked at my scrap materials for low cost purposes and found that I needed to buy some 3/4" poplar, the rest I had on hand. Total cost for the project $32.86.

Before I could do anything, however, I had to learn how to do dovetails! Anybody do dovetail joints lately?  I remember from wood shop some 57 years earlier using a saw, ruler and sharp pencil and lots of practice to make a simple box. Times have changed. A few years ago I had the good fortune of getting a Leigh Jig as a gift from a widow. There were bits, a wrench, a square screw driver, some extra fingers, a video tape, and one of the best written instruction books I’ve ever read. I have the routers, so I thought, "okay, let’s get crackin!" Well, I want you to know that I spent more time reading, watching, and making mistakes over the past week or so than I will admit to my spouse. Whenever she would ask: "What are you doing down there anyway?" I would come up with a different and more creative excuse. Bless her heart, she’s lived with me long enough to know when I’m being innocently evasive, she will go to her sewing and knitting room without pressing me further. Yay!

As you can see the joints aren’t perfect, "But for the first time wad’ya expect?"  One thing I’m satisfied with is the fact that it turned out square!  Once I got this far I could show the little lady my project. She responded with: "Well now why don’t you make the granddaughters some ‘hope chests’ with corners like that?’" (There are six of them!) Talk about a slippery slope.

Back to pen blanks for now!



Share this post on your Favorite Social Network

Pens – the basic stuff

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.



Share this post on your Favorite Social Network