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OT-ish: Wood Lathe and Pen Making

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  • OT-ish: Wood Lathe and Pen Making

    This one eventually gets to be an on topic post, but it takes so long, I thought I should make it an OT. . .

    My brother-in-law hasn't been a hands on kind of guy most of his life. Due to events over the past few years, he decided to do some of 'our' kind of things. He bought an old bar table and decided to refinish the real wood etc and make a nice piece for the house, to get some introspective time. Weeks of sanding, dying, finishing etc gave him both satisfaction and mental peace. A few pieces of furniture later, a bit of boredom has set in with just fixing old stuff instead of doing new stuff himself, however, becoming a real woodworker takes time (which he'll do), space and a bunch of machinery, the latter of which just don’t fit in yet. So. . .

    I decided to get him a tiny lathe for pen making (Grizzley G9247) as that fits the space requirement and appears sufficient for pen making. However, upon 'tooling him up' I found that there are very few pre-drilled pen blanks other than some really standard materials. I think half the fun of that hobby is using some exotic material etc to make a real individual pen.

    So, finally the on topic part: Would you think that it is practical to take this lathe, remove the tailstock and build a jig (using my mill, lathe etc) which would bolt in and hold a 3/4 x 3/4 x 6" long piece of wood on a slide. Then, install a drill chuck using the MT #1 in the spindle and a 7mm (standard pen making size) drill. Hopefully, then he could clamp the standard size square stock without a hole in the new tail stock jig spin the lathe up and drill the hole through the pretty close center of the wood block by pushing it on its slide?

    I'm pretty capable of making the attachment, I'd say, and as a machine designer by day, I think I'd only have to make sure I didn't make the jig so complex as to cost megabucks! I figure a slide mechanism (probably without any bronze or bearings), a key to locate it in the keyway of the lathe bed and maybe a drill bushing to keep it kind of centered should do the trick.

    My goal is to set him up for this so he can buy the exotic species which are 3/4 x 3/4 x 6-ish locally or on-line and make something of his own, instead of either a) getting me to drill it (3 states away) or being stuck buying a few hundred dollars worth of drill press etc, just to play around when he wants. Space is critical, and I figure the little lathe could do this pretty easily, if the jig made sense.

    Thanks for reading. Any thoughts from either the tinkers out there or someone who has tried the pen making hobby as well.

    Holiday Greetings,


  • #2
    Don't see why it would not work. When I need a hole in a block I'm turning I sometimes just lock a drill in a pair of vise grips and shove it in. I turn a lot of oak and walnut and dont have any problems drilling it.A cheap 100 dollar drill press would be better but if you dont have the room try your way.


    • #3
      Have you tried marking & center-punching the center of each end of the block, mounting the proper sized drill bit in the headstock spindle and using the tailstock center to push the block into the drill, drilling half-way from one end, then reversing and drilling from the other end? He may want to hold it with a pair of pliers, but I have done it bare-handed with no trouble.


      • #4
        I drill all my own pen blanks. The process is to turn about 3/4 inch of one end of the 3/4' x 3/4' x 5" blank round. then i grip that in my chuck -- yes it is a wood chuck!. The drill bit is held in the tailstock and advanced with the crank.


        • #5
          Sandy H:
          Lee Valley Tools sells the Taig lathe and mandrels a, blanks and pen parts to do exactly what you want to do. The Taig lathe is ideal for pen turning and can be set up for metal turning as well as you progress in skills. I have watched a demo of a fellow turning pens on this machine in Lee Vallyes Edmonton store and it is very impressive - I highly recommend it especially if you want to turn beautiful pens. As I say, they have mandresl for holding the pen blanks and pre-bored blanks in many exotic woods and Corian as well. They also sell wood gift boxes for pen sets. Worth a look.


          • #6
            I also make pens and these guys a hard to beat for supplies.
            Pen making supplies is a major part of their business.
            My suggestion is to get an independent 4 jaw chuck ($49.95 in their spring 2004 catalog)for the wood lathe.
            Paul G.

            [This message has been edited by Paul Gauthier (edited 12-23-2004).]
            Paul G.


            • #7



              • #8
                Thanks for the replies and links. They are all good reference material. I never knew the Taig had an optional wood configuration. Its a little over budget, but I'm sure a better lathe then the $140 wood special. Hmmmm.

                Also, from the links there appear to be a handful of different species available pre-drilled, so it won't limit him to doing just a few types, so I guess the problem is basically resolved.

                Hopefully I'll e able to post a pic soon of his first pen!



                • #9
                  Why not try this;

                  make up a wood block with a step or fence to hold the blank,
                  bolt it to cross slide or compound, blocked up to the proper height so the center of the blank is at the spindle center height and aligned parallel to the centerline,

                  Make a simple clamping arrangement like a destaco clamp or even a C clamp,

                  Then to drill blanks, just place against the step or fence, clamp and feed the blank against the drill in the headstock chuck with the carriage feed.

                  Then you have turned the lathe into a mini horizontal boring mill and blanks up to the legnth of the carriage travel (about) can be drilled.


                  • #10
                    The Grizzley lathe appears to me to be a simple wood turning lathe only, no cross/compound slide. If I tried this in my shop, my only concern would be spindle speed to get the final finish. If the Grizzley wood lathe is used, counting in his exposure to tools, I figure some sort of 'clamp and push' type of mechanism will keep both our minds at ease!

                    Maybe I'm making too much out of this.

                    Happy New Year!