English Oak (Southern Ohio)

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mark james

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Sep 6, 2012
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Medina, Ohio
OK, here's a story about a typical (FOG) blank - "Found on the ground" ...

The past 4 years, my wife and I have been assisting my In-Laws when needed. They live in Southern Ohio, we live 2 1/2 hrs away in northern Ohio. As the Coronavirus became more concerning, we have had more opportunities to "spend quality time" with them. They are both 94, and have lived in the same house for 70 years :eek:. Prior to being married, my Father In Law lived in the house next door. There is an English Oak tree between the two houses with a diameter of a bit over 4 ft in the yard that he said he thought it was a "tall tree 85 years ago". (We won't question our elders' memories! ;) ). There are many English Oaks in this town (Washington Court House, Ohio), that are LARGE! I would not be surprised if the tree in their lot is 150+ years old.

So a few weeks ago as my wife and I were getting ready to leave after a 10 day stay, I noticed a branch had fallen in the drive. It was reasonably thin - 2-3" at the most, and about 4' in length. I tossed it into the car and we drove home. I truly did not expect it to be usable, but hey...

This past weekend I cut a section and was able to get enough material to cut a blank with the pith out of the section. I further cut it to length for a Zen kit, and drilled the tube hole. I waited another 48 hrs to see if the hole shrunk, or the blank split. It was dry as a bone, no movement in the wood - the branch was dry.

I turned the blank, used 2 coats of walnut stain (wiped off) to accentuate the open Oak grains, then used 2 coats of Wipe on Polyurethane for the finish. Not a perfect pen, but fine for the intent - My Father-In-Law loves it as he is familiar with the tree for the last 85+ years of his life.

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mark james

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Nice Mark! There's a lot of wood out there that would probably surprise most of us after turning it.

I agree Bobby. Initially, this did not perk my interest, but I was interested to turn it, if it was dry.

The English Oak has a tighter grain pattern vs American White/Red Oak. Very plain, but with any tint to accentuate the grain it is very nice. There were a few holes I needed to fill, but hey, I have weeks, and weeks, and weeks of time available :D;) ...

Let's give a vote for FOG blanks !!!
 

JohnU

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Ottawa, Illinois
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story Mark. It’s great you guys get to spend time there and enjoy those big old trees. There just aren’t enough of them around anymore. I have always been a “Wood guy”, even though I spend most of my time pouring resin. I find that pen absolutely beautiful! I love the changes in grain, the knot holes and bark inclusions. I would take local woods with that character any day over exotics. There’s no comparison to the artistic abilities of Mother Nature. You sure picked the right piece of that limb to bring to life. I can’t imagine what it must mean to your father in law, and the memories he has around the tree. Well done!
 

mark james

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story Mark. It’s great you guys get to spend time there and enjoy those big old trees. There just aren’t enough of them around anymore. I have always been a “Wood guy”, even though I spend most of my time pouring resin. I find that pen absolutely beautiful! I love the changes in grain, the knot holes and bark inclusions. I would take local woods with that character any day over exotics. There’s no comparison to the artistic abilities of Mother Nature. You sure picked the right piece of that limb to bring to life. I can’t imagine what it must mean to your father in law, and the memories he has around the tree. Well done!

Thanks John. I agree with all you expressed.

I lost my father when I was 15. My FIL has been my role model in many, many respects. I love him as my own father and easily spend time with him. We Kayaked together, camped together, and for 8 years we spent "Father's Day's" by ourselves out in the woods just enjoying the rivers and calm and peace. This pen was an easy project to turn a dead stick into a meaningful object - it was appreciated, and was enjoyable to turn. A late Father's Day thread... ☺
 

Larryreitz

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Feb 8, 2015
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Salem, CT USA
That is a great pen, Mark, and a very good background story also. I was wondering if this species of oak gets cut up for lumber and is commercially available. It sure seems to have a more attractive grain pattern than the white or red oak typically available in New England.
 

leehljp

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Excellent work Mark. I too have made pens from wood from trees in relatives yards.

Great idea to stain with walnut and remove to highlight the grain. Another thing: as much as I push CA as a finish, I too have used poly and lacquer, but do as you do - poly, lacquer and others require time for curing before handling. Most people don't want to wait 24 to 48 hours for paint to cure after spending an hour's actual working time in making.

I find this in flat work too. Too many of my online friends will spend 20 hours making something and want to finish it is 2 hours. Finishing takes as long and longer as the building. "Finishing" is the presentation. Give it all the attention and time it needs.
 

its_virgil

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Wichita Falls, TX, USA.
Awesome pen Mark and an even better story. Gifts like this are especially appreciated by the person who receives the pen. I will not hi-jack your thread with a couple of similar stories. Maybe we should start a thread for similar stories. I'm sure many of us have at least one and probably more. I know I do. Again, great story and pen. I too like what you did with the stain. It really made the wood look its best.
Do a good turn daily!
Don
 

alanemorrison

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Jan 15, 2019
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N Ireland
Thanks for the story, Mark.
I started turning using English Oak.
I got mine buying old drop-leaf tables at the auctions.....very cheap and very dry.
Alan
 

mark james

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That is a great pen, Mark, and a very good background story also. I was wondering if this species of oak gets cut up for lumber and is commercially available. It sure seems to have a more attractive grain pattern than the white or red oak typically available in New England.

Hi Larry. I don't know if English Oak is an available wood source. I certainly can get more for making pens if there is the need. This was truly a chance opportunity with the small branch having fallen behind my wife's car. I had to move it just to back out or run over it. The end grain is much tighter than Red Oak, and it turned very nicely. There are still fairly open grains, so my thought for the light stain was to accentuate the pores and I was pleased with the result.
 

robutacion

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Australia - SA Adelaide Hills
I call that a piece of wood with great character, working with knots and flaws are not for some folks and that is OK by me but, I don't mind myself to create stuff out of the most knurly pieces of wood so well done Mark, well done...!

Cheers
George
 

howsitwork

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Thirsk
Nice work and the source adds interest. The features of the wood add the challenge and the result speaks for its self !

The whole point , for me anyway , is it gives you pleasure and brings joy to others, these days that’s enough !
 

mark james

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Medina, Ohio
Nice work and the source adds interest. The features of the wood add the challenge and the result speaks for its self !

The whole point , for me anyway , is it gives you pleasure and brings joy to others, these days that’s enough !

Ian, that is very true. It was fun to turn, came out just fine and has a lot of importance to my FIL. If I turned a beautiful Desert Ironwood, Rosewood, Amboyna Burl, etc - it would not have meant much to him.

And yes, these days, simple pleasure and joy for others goes a long way for me.

Be well.
 

BigRob777

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May 1, 2005
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Newark, Delaware, USA.
I found some cut osage orange beside a road some 14 years ago. It has sat in a box in my shop since. Your post makes me want to dig it up and see what it looks like. Where's my plow when I need it?????
 
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