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!
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