Cutting blanks from rough stock

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Stevetaylor

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Hi All,

New to pen turning here. One question that I haven't seen addressed directly. Seems there are plenty of places to buy pre-cut blanks from, but is there any reason that you can't make your own blanks from rough stock?

Seems to my math that you can get 24-26 3/4"x3/4"x5" blanks from a single board-foot of rough lumber. At $3-10 per board foot, depending on species, works out to roughly 10-40 cents per blank. Not to mention that you can cut the stock in a way to get the best figure and grain orientation.

Or am I missing something?

Thanks,
Steve
 
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Carl Fisher

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Nope, you're not missing anything. I do it all the time.

I even use cut-offs from other wood workers that they would normally throw out. I haven't paid for a wood blank in quite some time.

Resin blanks are another story :biggrin:
 

Gary Beasley

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I've gone a step further plenty of times, cutting blanks from tree branches and other found on ground stock. You have to be sure the moisture content is down to acceptable levels before using them but thats not too hard to deal with.
 

hehndc

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Davison, Michigan, USA.
Steve:

I'll weight in here, though this is just an opinion. I cut most of my blanks. I can get my hands on real nice maple and cherry (birds eye, spalted, burl, etc.).

But I can't get many other woods I'd like to use, buying blanks is a good way to get your hands on some good exoctic wood without buying a board.

Acrylic blanks, for me are best bought, I could not make that level of quality blank without a big learning curve and expense....and I still might not get it.

Steve
 
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I do all this things.And cutting my own lets me enjoy a lot of woods I would not feel I could afford. I even buy som enice bowl blands on sale.It facinates me how many pen blnds I get out of small peices.
 

Stevetaylor

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THanks for all the input. Seemed like a reasonable thing to me, but I've been wrong about simple things once or twice in my life.

Now I just have to decide on a lathe and get started. (and also convince the wife that it wont be dollars wasted, THATS the hard part).

Steve
 

Wood Butcher

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The local Rockler store will sell you a foot of any board they have in stock as long as you leave them with 3 feet of wood left. I have picked up some cool bamboo. cocobola, zebre, lacewood, bocota, canary wood, red heart, blood wood and more for just a few dollars. I rip and cross cut and get a lot of good blanks for very little per blank cost.
WB
 

jfoh

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After you are in this hobby for a while you will learn to cut for figure more than volume. By that I mean that I would rather cut one or two great blanks out of a board than ten so-so blanks. A knot, sap wood or figured grain often is a very small part of a board but can make a much nicer pen when cut to make the most interesting pen blank. In fact most people want straight uniform grain in wood without grain pattern or knots. They cut off or grade down the wood we like the most. Nice how that works out sometimes.
 

robutacion

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After you are in this hobby for a while you will learn to cut for figure more than volume. By that I mean that I would rather cut one or two great blanks out of a board than ten so-so blanks. A knot, sap wood or figured grain often is a very small part of a board but can make a much nicer pen when cut to make the most interesting pen blank. In fact most people want straight uniform grain in wood without grain pattern or knots. They cut off or grade down the wood we like the most. Nice how that works out sometimes.

Yes, you have touched a important factor when cutting your own wood/blanks, one that I live with every day and I wouldn't wanted it in any other way...!:wink:

The thing is, there is wood and there is wood...!, commercially processed woods discard/reject the very "bits" that we wood-turners most appreciate, the more the wood is processed into clean boards for hardware stores and general wood stores, the vigorous selection those boards will go through so, the chances of finding the interesting flaws knots, spalting and other natural beauties (in my eye...!), are very slim, reason why I suggest people to buy a chainsaw and keep it ready to go with some extra fuel, oil and sharpening file) in their vehicle all of the time, logs, branches are everywhere, if you look for them...!:wink:

I spend a considerable amount of time in my life, showing, teaching, coaching others to process their own woods, even tough I make some money out of selling wood, processed or unprocessed however, I know for a fact that, the vast majority of those learning how its done, would never buy wood from me, either because of shipping costs or unable to spend much money on wood and many other reasons so, they can then, learn how to look around their neck of the woods with the "wood hunting eyes" the ones that only can see the wood/trees (like a filter, huh...???) and all of a certain, they start to pick up bits of wood here and there, take it home and enjoy splitting/slicing it all up, utilising a natural resource that would be otherwise wasted, my rule number one...!:biggrin:

They will get to the point/stage where, they just cut a slice of the log/branch/chunk and that slice/board at about 22mm for pen blanks, show spots with amazing grain, colours and other treasures, and you know you reached that indecisive point that I'm talking about when, you put that board/slice a side as you can't get to terms of ripping it up and loosing all that "picture/character"...!:frown::)

That when you have to stop and thing, how can I get the most out of it, and I'm not talking about, "most" is quantity of blanks made from it but, a few with a difference...! That precise point, is one of no return as you can't joint it back together and all be OK, no Sir, you have to live with the decision of where to get the blade to cut through.

And while it may look that, that "moment" is a bad thing and something that you don't thing that, you wouldn't be that keen and/or looking forwards to go through/experience, believe me, you want to be in that situation as often as possible, that feeds my excitement and enjoyment of processing wood from logs.

Is this addictive...??? you betcha, is extremely addictive, you let me know when you try it...!:biggrin:

Good luck,

Cheers
George
 

flyitfast

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Making friends with local tree cutting services, city public service, etc. will get you a lot of great wood to make some great blanks. As was said above, you have the chance to cut for figure and making the best of your raw wood. It has to dry, tho.
I have bins of blanks that have been free.
gordon
 

SloLouie

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If you have a specialty hardwood lumberyard nearby, stop in and check out their waste pile or the dumpster. I found some nice pieces, that they were happy to give me at no charge! Cabinet/countertop shops are a good place to pick up scrap Corian, usuaslly at little or no cost. Close by me is a custom pistol grip manufacturer that sells their cut offs (diamondwood, exotic hardwoods) by the pound very inexpensively. Once you start looking you'll be surprised whats out there. Again, another man's junk is our treasure!
Cheers,
Rob
 

sschering

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If you have a specialty hardwood lumberyard nearby, stop in and check out their waste pile or the dumpster.

That is what I have done.. The local Hardwood store has huge bins of off cuts to dig through.

I make my first pen today from a 6x4x1.5" piece of Lignum Vitae I got for $1 and cut into a few blanks.
 

gregmoser

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...and here I thought I was special! I do the same thing, cut some trees down and started looking at the cut logs saying "Boy that knot or ring would make a cool pen blank!"

and for the record you can make acrylic blanks SUPER easy. I did some out of fiberglass resin and PVC tubes... 1/2 or 3/4 PVC and cut em into 6" tubes, saran wrap and cork one end and pour mixed up resin in the open end. once cured you have blanks on the cheap!
 

Hendu3270

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and for the record you can make acrylic blanks SUPER easy. I did some out of fiberglass resin and PVC tubes... 1/2 or 3/4 PVC and cut em into 6" tubes, saran wrap and cork one end and pour mixed up resin in the open end. once cured you have blanks on the cheap!

.....but wouldn't they be called resin blanks?....and not acrylic blanks?...:biggrin:

And there's no problem getting the hardened resin out of the pvc tube?
 
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BSea

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I have also bought a few scraps of boards and made my own blanks. Unfortunately, once you get into this, you're looking for something new, and more exotic to try. At least that's what happened to me. But you can still get a good deal if you buy a slab or board, or a burl & cut your own. And you could probably sell enough on this forum to get your blanks almost for free. I've done the math, and I just don't think it's worth it as a hobby.


and for the record you can make acrylic blanks SUPER easy. I did some out of fiberglass resin and PVC tubes... 1/2 or 3/4 PVC and cut em into 6" tubes, saran wrap and cork one end and pour mixed up resin in the open end. once cured you have blanks on the cheap!

.....but wouldn't they be called resin blanks?....and not acrylic blanks?...:biggrin:

And there's no problem getting the hardened resin out of the pvc tube?
Most people that pour there own blanks use Silmar 41. It's a poly resin, and is pretty easy to work with, and doesn't require a pressure pot. And they come out of PVC very easily the 1st pour. After about the 3rd pour, you want to start with a new piece of pvc. Look in the casting forum for more information.
 

ttpenman

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"The thing is, there is wood and there is wood...!, commercially processed woods discard/reject the very "bits" that we wood-turners most appreciate, the more the wood is processed into clean boards for hardware stores and general wood stores, the vigorous selection those boards will go through so, the chances of finding the interesting flaws knots, spalting and other natural beauties (in my eye...!), are very slim,"

I worked at a hardwood lumber mill and the guys on the chop saws spent the whole day cutting defects from boards. Those defects provided me with all the cool wood around knots and other defects that I could ever use. And I'm sure I recovered only a very small percentage of nice stuff. I have enough stashed to make pens for the next 2 lifetimes.

Jeff in northern Wisconsin
 

Kenny Durrant

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You have brought up a very addictive part of the hobbie. Like mentioned before I look for wood all the time. I always check out the lumber section in wood stores as well as the pen blanks. Keep in mind a very nice piece of lumber may be very appealing to the eye but by the time you turn it down there might not be much left to the character of the wood. I also have made pens from special tree from farms where friends and relitives have grown up or have a special meaning. Just make sure you give the wood time to dry, a whole different topic. I drive my wife crazier slowing down to check out trash piles when neighbors trim trees. You never can tell where your next pen might come from if you keep your eyes open.
 

FlowolF

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Ribble Valley, East Lancashire, England.
]

<bits snipped>

Yes, you have touched a important factor when cutting your own wood/blanks, one that I live with every day and I wouldn't wanted it in any other way...!:wink:

<snip>

Is this addictive...??? you betcha, is extremely addictive, you let me know when you try it...!:biggrin:

Good luck,

Cheers
George

I know this is a bit of an old post but I'm a bit of a new member and just had to 'like' and reply to your post as I came across it -

I have never paid for a piece of wood for material, or even used commerical off-cuts and give aways, or old discarded timber - I 'hunt' all my wood from wild drop wood to make rings/knife/tool handle blanks etc. and now no doubt - pen blanks.

I won't buy a piece as there's more beauty here in what I've learned to hunt down and steal from tomorrow's humus fodder and such that it's unreal. I pass more beauty in deadwood in a few miles of walking than I could use with months of concerted effort.

Yeas I am lucky in where I live but I'm *far* from alone - most who haven't 'seen' yet just don't know how or where or with which faculties to 'look' yet.

However when those scales do drop from thine eyes, the drop fast and hard and the addiction *BITES* hard too.

After I filled more space by far than I had to spare, with gorgeous pieces of spalted, knotted, burly, wormeaten mineral stained wood, I *had* to stop going for so many walks and/or taking my knife and pruning saw with me when I did - I was returning home after a couple hours walking with a massive hiking rucksack full of the stuff, every other day LOL!

Peel yer eyes and brace yerselves folks - she's a jealous and hard mistress.

Be Well! ',;~}~

FlowolF
 

Boz

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I just bought some maple for a bed project from a local wood mill. There was a big knot on one end of the board and they were going to cut it off. I noticed that the wood on the other side of the knot was spalted. I said it is not furniture grade but I can use it. They gave me a good deal for a 11 inch wide board of 4-1/4 that they thought was no good.
 

monark88

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Another, maybe over looked light wood, is American Wild Plum. Its a very light wood that puts out a lot of long thorns on limbs. The thorns, along with smaller side branches, 1/4" dia. or so look somewhat like "eyes" on burl wood, when turned down. A goodly amount of and knots, also. I would imagine any wild plum with lots of thorns would give the same or similar, effect.

The advantage of this tree is that after a couple years, if you plant the tree from a sapling yourself, as I have, you can cut it down to a post size and by the following spring/summer there's enough new wood for more blanks. Costs $0, just patience.

Russ
 

FlowolF

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Ribble Valley, East Lancashire, England.
Another, maybe over looked light wood, is American Wild Plum. Its a very light wood that puts out a lot of long thorns on limbs. The thorns, along with smaller side branches, 1/4" dia. or so look somewhat like "eyes" on burl wood, when turned down. A goodly amount of and knots, also. I would imagine any wild plum with lots of thorns would give the same or similar, effect.

The advantage of this tree is that after a couple years, if you plant the tree from a sapling yourself, as I have, you can cut it down to a post size and by the following spring/summer there's enough new wood for more blanks. Costs $0, just patience.

Russ


Our Blackthorn (sloe fruit) - is essentially a thorny wild plum, and the wood of that is gorgeous too with some nice pin marks from the thorn and small twig budsites. Very hard, and creamy, with tones from pale gold through orange tones with pinks and purples. Also occasional pieces with purple heartwood. Looks delightful where it's been scarred and grown over too.

Made a couple of rings out of some and used some for knife handle parts. Don't know how it turns but hard as it is it cuts beautifully with a good blade.

Wonder if the two are at all similar?

',;~}~

FlowolF
 

monark88

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You know, Shaun, could be. There's so many different types of wild plum, I wouldn't be surprised. AT first I didn't care much for it, but I made a couple because the wood was free.

Sold both Slimline pens and for some unknown reason, I began to take kindly to the wood. I'm just in the process of reorganizing the garage, with wife's assistance (she does pretty good, as I sit an watch her to make sure she's doing it the right way.

If you have a piece of your wood laying/lying? about, I'd sure like to see some pics. I'll try to put up some of the Wild plum that I have tomorrow.

Russ
 

FlowolF

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Ribble Valley, East Lancashire, England.
You know, Shaun, could be. There's so many different types of wild plum, I wouldn't be surprised. AT first I didn't care much for it, but I made a couple because the wood was free.

Sold both Slimline pens and for some unknown reason, I began to take kindly to the wood. I'm just in the process of reorganizing the garage, with wife's assistance (she does pretty good, as I sit an watch her to make sure she's doing it the right way.

If you have a piece of your wood laying/lying? about, I'd sure like to see some pics. I'll try to put up some of the Wild plum that I have tomorrow.

Russ


Well I know I have a few small bits to hand, but I'll see if I can't find a little branch of it in my stash.

Quite a 'famous' historic wood round these parts of Europe - the fruits are used to make Sloe Gin, and the very, very hard and tough wood when fire hardned especially, has been used to make staffs, and it seems by the Norse for practice swords (capable of cutting and killing) and nails to build oak ships with.

Ayways, away for a few hours now but when I get back I'll find some and take pics.

Cheers again, and be well,

FlowolF
 

FlowolF

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Ribble Valley, East Lancashire, England.
Hey Russ,

Well, I went and dug out the few pieces I could find and wouldn'tcha know it - they aren't the best examples of the thorn/spur/eyes at all, but anyway here goes:


NjkxNzU5MTk2NTQzMUExRTZGNzE6ZTk4MGMxMzFkNjA1MGJhMDg4ZDg2ZmM2NjBhNWFjZGM=
NjkxNzU5MTk2NTQzMUExRTZGNzE6MTU4YjI0OTMzN2IyZDRkNjUxMDA0OGVmYzBjYzNmMWM=


I removed bark from afew sections, and you can see a few examples just above, but the pieces I've uncovered before have been full of them, as you'd expect from the look of the lower piece of wood top photograph, but there's no way I was getting all those and the bark beneath off any time soon - that stuff is *tough* - Neither of my Mora knives would make short work of it and my little belt sander isn't up to anything like the task, heheheh...

What you do get from the pictures is the creamy nature/feel of the bare wood and the gorgeous colours - the brown/black/purple of the bark is gorgeous in itself, and then you get some purpling just beneath the bark in some places, and when it becomes part of an inclusion from scarring etc. it a delight to uncover. Add to that some of it gets purpled heartwood sometimes too.

Makes great tool handles or handle butt-pieces, not to mention it, along with hawthorn (another beautiful wood, hard as nails and full of colour, especially when scarred and age battered in a hedge) make for killer hedgerows around here ',;~}~


I'll try and snap a shot of the little blackthorn trees/bushes nearbye here soon - especially when devoid of much leafage, they making razor-wire look like candifloss ',;~}~

FlowolF
 
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