Advice on minimal-tooling Pen Turning on a Taig?

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Bats

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I'm about to move into a little shoebox apartment about an hour away from my shop, and I'm trying to figure out just how I can continue making pens (to keep things simple, I'm only looking at kitted right now). I've got a little Taig microlathe (which I got cheap on craigslist and pretty much never used) that's just about the perfect size for the apt, but it's going to take some adaptation - especially since it'll have to be pretty much the only tool. Just to make things even more of a challenge: since I've also got all the usual moving expenses, I'm trying to do this on an extremely tight budget (so things like "Just get a Beall chuck" probably aren't going to fly, at least at the outset).

My usual prep process right now is to cut a blank to length on the bandsaw, center-punch & turn it round between centers (using a small steb center in the headstock), then throw it in the Pen Plus Jaws on a Nova chuck and drill it, glue in the tubes, then square it with a pen mill on the drill press.

I can get a compatible insert for the Nova (and I even have a spare chuck) so that part isn't a problem, I was thinking I could use a parting tool (like this one) to cut the blanks (a hand saw is obviously another option, but my technique sucks when it comes to straight lines - especially since I'm not sure I'll have space for a vise), and they make wood-turning tool rests (like this one), but holding it (both for cutting and for turning round) is eluding me. I can get a spur center (like this one), but that involves hammering a fair bit of spike into the blank, which just screams "split me" to my mind. I could stick the raw blank in the pen jaws, use a center drill on the ends, and then just run with a dead & live center, but unless the blank is perfectly straight & square (and most of what I end up with doesn't tend to be) those center holes are likely be somewhere other than centered - a big problem for fatter pens. Any brilliant ideas? Any just-kinda-ordinary ideas that I just-kinda-didn't-think-of?

I'm hoping there's enough torque that I can get by with a pen mill in the headstock - otherwise I may have to find a faceplate and go the Rick Herrell route, but that's an expense I'm hoping to avoid for the moment (it's something I've been meaning to get anyhow, but, well... budget).

Once I've got the blanks prepped I usually TBC, which probably isn't going to be an option (the Taig live center - like this one - has a point that's too narrow for anything except maybe a 7mm tube), so I'll likely be using a standard mandrel in a collet (like these, for the proprietary headstock taper) for turning and finishing. I can live with it, but it's not ideal, so I'm open to any suggestions there too. I could should make use of all these metalworking machines that I keep stubbing my toes/cracking my head on to make a .497" straight-shank body with a fat ball bearing head holding a real-sized live center, but I've got even less free time than I have money right now, so that's probably not happening in the short term. Maybe once (if) more money becomes available I can convince Mr. Herrell to come up with a solution to that too. The center, not the lack of time. Although if he can solve that one, he'll be a very rich man.

Chisels are another issue - since I don't think I'll have room on the "workbench" for my grinder - but I figure I can cheat my way around that one with carbide.

I'm open to any suggestions/alternatives/improvements. Also, if there are any stages in the process that you think I'm overlooking, you're probably right - and I wouldn't mind suggestions on those too.
 
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dogcatcher

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I used a Taig, whe traveling but rarely, I had the ER16 collet chuck attachment, using it I made custom sized bushings tof the kits I made.. The Sierra and the Slimlline. The dead center will work, that bushing was mad with a compatible end to the dead center. The other was the size of the 7mm mandrel with a lip in the middle. The ER end bushings fit a 1/4 collet, also based on the 7mm mandrel with lip to drive the blank. The diameters of the bushings was not used as a sizing tool. they were there to simply hold the blank in place.

Cutting, drilling, etc. was all done on big equipment before I left home. But I did think about getting a small drill drill press, but never really had the room for it. An Xacto hand saw and a miter box will work, but it sucks. Stick the pen mill in the headstock collet chuck for milling the ends.

Trying to remember my costs, I believe it was the ER16 collet, some scrap brass rods to make the "bushings", Later I bought some of these, https://www.soigeneris.com/taig-blank-arbor-100-dia-1132 so I no longer used the collet system, I turned the blank to make "drive arbor "bushings".

This was a few years ago, not even sure where all of that stuff has gone to.
 

magpens

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Just a tip ....
You say .... "My usual prep process right now is to cut a blank to length on the bandsaw, center-punch & turn it round between centers"

Rather than use a center-punch, the action of which can initiate a split, I actually drill a shallow 3/32" hole with a battery drill.
Proceed from there with the TBC.
 

Bats

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I used a Taig, whe traveling but rarely, I had the ER16 collet chuck attachment, using it I made custom sized bushings tof the kits I made..The Sierra and the Slimlline.
I've got the headstock with the proprietary collet taper rather than the ER16 (and, while it's a whole lot cheaper and easier than replacing the headstock on my South Bend, it's outside the budget right now), but the idea should be consistent - and even for the proprietary headstock, the individual collets aren't too expensive.

The dead center will work, that bushing was mad with a compatible end to the dead center. The other was the size of the 7mm mandrel with a lip in the middle.
Hrm... that's something I hadn't considered, but really probably should have. So for the slimlines you're basically just using a 60° hole on one end of the bushings, with the other sized to fit in the 7mm tube? I'm not clear on the "lip in the middle" part, though.

Cutting, drilling, etc. was all done on big equipment before I left home.
That's what I'm trying to avoid. Otherwise I'll end up cutting all my blanks for slimlines, only to decide that what I really wanted to make out of them is a bunch of Sierras. Because I'm contrary like that.

But I did think about getting a small drill drill press, but never really had the room for it.
Same problem. There's a slim chance I'll have space for it next to the lathe (I haven't gotten in to make measurements of the place yet), but since the only thing I use it for on pens right now is the end mill, there's probably not much point.

An Xacto hand saw and a miter box will work, but it sucks.
I've tried that before - it definitely sucks. But it occurs to me I might be able to get away with using the Xacto miter box with a little dozuki pull saw, which should make things a bit less painful.

edit: Just tried it on an offcut. It's not a lot of fun. The teeth, despite having no set, still like catching on the slot in the miter box, and the box itself is only .735" deep, meaning that even 3/4" blanks come up over the top of the slots. Still, even if it's not much fun, it might be viable if I get desperate.

Trying to remember my costs, I believe it was the ER16 collet, some scrap brass rods to make the "bushings",
I'm short on brass, but I think I've got a fair bit of aluminum, and I know I have tons of 12L14 steel. Not that I've ever actually tried turning steel on the Taig, but I can always do that bit on the big lathe while I'm up here.

Later I bought some of these, https://www.soigeneris.com/taig-blank-arbor-100-dia-1132 so I no longer used the collet system, I turned the blank to make "drive arbor "bushings".
I noticed those in the shop, but hadn't thought of using one that way. That's not a bad idea at all.


Another problem I just noticed is that depending on the length of the tubes (slimlines might work, but nothing any longer), the Taig bed may not be quite long enough to fit the long parabolic pen bits I usually use - at least with the thicker Nova chuck - so I may have to pick up some new jobber bits (I've got a full index of SAE bits - or would, if I stopped breaking all the little numbered ones - but I think a 7mm is my only metric jobber). Or I could go back to that "small drill press" idea, but finding a small one with a long enough stroke to keep me from chucking it out the window is likely to be difficult. And more money than I really want to spend right now.
 

Bats

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Just a tip ....
You say .... "My usual prep process right now is to cut a blank to length on the bandsaw, center-punch & turn it round between centers"

Rather than use a center-punch, the action of which can initiate a split, I actually drill a shallow 3/32" hole with a battery drill.
Proceed from there with the TBC.
It's not a problem I've ever run into - maybe because on all but the hardest woods I just press the punch in to make a divot, rather than hammering or using a spring punch - but that does sound like a good precaution, at least with split-prone woods.

Of course that adds another tool to buy (or buy a duplicate of) and find space for. I've got a sinking feeling that by the time I get this straightened out, I'll have a full shop set up down there and be living out of a sleeping bag in the closet.
 

magpens

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... on all but the hardest woods I just press the punch in to make a divot, rather than hammering or using a spring punch ...

A divot may be all you need . . . but my lighting is not the best, so a small shallow hole is, for me, easier to find "by feel".
 
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