If I had known this earlier . .

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leehljp

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I am on a fact finding mission. Can you help?

What do you wish you had known earlier in pen turning?

or in different words:

Knowing what you know now - IF you could go back and start over in pen turning - what would you skip, change or do differently?

answers for instance:
- I wish I had known about the difference in an MT 1 and an MT 2 lathe.
- I wish I had known the advantages of VS
- I wish I had known this was going to cost so much!
- I wish I had started with a DC system or learned to use a mask from the beginning.

What can you contribute to this post that could possible help someone else in the future?

Thanks!
 
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aggromere

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Mar 27, 2009
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I had no tools what so ever when I started turning pens. nada. I went out and bought a band saw, drill press and lathe. The bandsaw and drill press are ryobi from Home Depot. I still use the bandsaw but it can't cut straight. The drill press broke and I do all my drilling on my lathe now.

If I know what I know now I would have;

1. Skipped the drillpress and bought the stuff to drill on the lathe.
2. Got a good table saw instead of the bandsaw. With what I paid for the drillpress and the bandsaw I could have gotten a pretty nice table saw.

None of that applies to you guys that are already wood nuts and have tools. One thing I would warn the new people about is the cost associated with gearing up to produce pens if you start from scratch. I have spent at least $5,000 on tools and such, blanks and kits. I had no drill bits now I have at least 30.

I have even more but I will leave it at that for now.

Good luck on collecting info.
 

edman2

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Feb 2, 2007
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Greenbrier, AR. USA.
Lee,
My first thought was your first example. Bought an MT1 mini lathe and wish I had known the difference. And #3...if I had known what it was going to cost I probably would have never started! Some things are better learned later!:biggrin:

Wish I really had understood how much difference SHARP tools make.
 

1080Wayne

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Brownfield, Alberta, Canada.
Don`t think that I would change very much . One of the things that I did from the beginning was to save my mistakes . With time , practice and knowledge gained from this forum , most of those have been reclaimed into satisfactory pens . I don`t want the pile to ever get to zero , because I want to continually push the envelope of what I can create . That , and the remote chance of someday making a profit , keeps me turning round .

Wayne
 

dogcatcher

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I guess I started back wards. I had all of my tools and had been woodworking for almost 30 plus years before I even heard of people making pens. All I had to do was buy some kits and a mandrel. Costs still add up when adding in machine wear and tear and other little expenses that are incurred especially as a hobby.
 

GoodTurns

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Apr 20, 2007
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use the lathe. extra parts don't make everything better. drilling on lathe and turning between centers make everything more accurate (for me anyway!!!).
 

Josh Gertz

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Apr 23, 2009
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Queen Creek, AZ, USA
Hmmm well since this weekend I had my first "lesson" in turning, the information I have gathered so far is this:

MT#2 all the way, you are way too limited with MT#1 and most people soon realize that they may want to try things that will require them to buy a new lathe.

From seeing the difference between VS and not I dont really think there is a big difference. Let me explain a bit, I dont mind having to move the belt and while the dial is a huge convenience and saves time its a saving to get started. What I never saw anywhere on the forum either was that even on a VS system you have to change the belt for different speed ranges as well so its almost a wash. If I have the money Ill go VS but I may want to use that extra $100 on a grinder which I would argue is more important so you always have sharp tools.

Im going to buy cheap blanks in bulk from eBay until I get the feel for using the tools. Actually turning a pen is much different from watching videos, there is a lot more finesse involved that will come with a lot of practice. Knowing angles for cutting, learning different cuts, learning how to use a skew properly and knowing when to sharpen and how to sharpen. I think I may burn through about 50 or so blanks just figuring it out before I use any good materials for a pen.

Thinking outside the box. Seeing how someone actually works is invaluable, Jason had a lot of tricks that I didnt think of and havent seen anyone else do. Things like turning his own custom MT#2 clamps and jigs to use on specific things, using simple tools to do things that people are buying $50 custom tools to do, little things like where to get cheap glue, etc.

Thats what I have so far, Im sure there will be more specifically after I go buy my lathe...sooner than later I hope.
 

Randy_

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Not too many things turned out to be a surprise for me as I spent several months on this forum and reading books before I vere turned a blank.

One thing I missed was the need for a 60° live center; but I figured that out pretty quick. The thing that took a while to figure out is that all of the relatively small chisels and gouges sold for pen crafting never get out of their box any more now that I have purchased full sized tools.

Also wish I had invested in a digital caliper the same day I purchased my lathe. I had an old vernier caliper; but it is hard to read, quickly, so I didn't get it out very often. A digital caliper or a dial caliper will greatly improve the quality of your work!!
 
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artistwood

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Nov 13, 2008
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bloomington, in
i would have bought a Jet instead of a turncrafter pro, i would have superglued the walnut burl blank when i got closer to the tube, i would have CA'd the ends of the blank with thin ca before i started turning it, i would have come to this site first, i would have gotten professional help using a skew and saved a few practice blanks, i wouldn't have tried to turn alloy silver with a wood lathe (i finally got this one almost finished), i would have rearranged my shop AFTER i finish my canoe so i can find the lathe, drill press, pen press, my blanks and kits, etc.....
i would have thanked all the people here in advance for sharing their knowledge so willingly and for their friendship. it's never to late......THANKS FRIENDS!!!!! ...bear
 

Gordon

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Apr 25, 2005
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I wish I had discovered this forum and it's resources for learning the craft - before I just started throwing money into self training. Got expensive and lonely !
 

Stephen

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Oct 20, 2007
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Sharp,sharp,very sharp tools, no mandrels, only skew, Johnny CNC Bushes, Ca/BLO, TN kits only, buying from IAP members. Read and reread the forums to update knowledge which is never ending.......
 

hilltopper46

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Jun 28, 2006
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East Troy, Wisconsin, USA.
...buy a few extra tubes with your first order of any style of pen. If you really mess up turning a blank, but want to get that first kit assembled, spare tubes really come in handy! Also, if those barrels that you thought were going to look wonderful turn out sort of so-so, it can be handy to have a couple spare tubes lying around.

... a pack of nitrile gloves from Harbor Freight is a great investment.
 
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skywizzard

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Jan 15, 2009
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Canton, GA
Lee,
Not much I can add from your observations. By benefit of this forum I did learn the difference in the MT1 and MT2, and the importance of the VS lathe. I thought I was aware of the cost, LOL, it just seems to grow and grow. The most important thing I wish I had know about was the need for good DC and mask, especially dealing with CA. I, like you, have developed a SERIOUS reaction to the fumes. It is now under control thinks in part to your posting regarding the problem. Thank you.
 

jkeithrussell

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I wish I had known how unreasonably difficult it would be to develop a consistent, reliable way to get a durable finish on a wooden pen.
 

keithlong

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Mar 14, 2009
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Athens, Alabama
Being a newbie, I will chime in and say that I read alot of helpful info on here and got the lathe with a MT#2. I bought the starter kit from Penn State, claimed that it had everything you needed to start making pens. They failed to mention about the 60 degree live center and dead center, which I now have. And I never thought about ordering extra tubes. But I now have them. Thanks Guys for all your helpful info that you so generously shar with us. Keith
 

mikemac

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Sep 4, 2006
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Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
I wish i had of purchased a bigger lathe at the beginning. I started with a Delta Midi, but quickly realized that bigger is better for a lot of things. Just having the weight and horsepower of a bigger lathe to turn a larger bowl blank is very useful.
 

RedJeepClub

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Apr 9, 2009
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Bluffdale, Ut
The finish on a pen is one of my biggest challenges.

I wish I had known how unreasonably difficult it would be to develop a consistent, reliable way to get a durable finish on a wooden pen.
I agree, I still have not found a finish that I really like on the pens. I tried CA-BLO once with bad results, I have since tried all sorts of other friction polishes, and have a great looking finish, but I am not sure of the long lasting durability. I am using a combo of Mylands friction polish and carnuba wax.

Once other thing I had real problems with, it wobble with the mandrel. So after turning the pens it is out of a round just a tiny bit. this causes the pen to be out of whack after final assembly, when the pen is turned on the transmission.

I have also ended up making all sorts of jigs for drilling, pen assembly, and sharpening.

Ian
 

ed4copies

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Racine, WI, USA.
ASSEMBLY!@!!!!

I ruined more pens in the first months, because I rushed through assembly. The pen was FINALLY turned and beautiful, NOW get the darned thing DONE!!! I knew nothing about glue in tubes (there WAS no IAP a the time), so I forced the fittings in the holes and cracked MANY pens. Also didn't think about reinforcing the material with CA BEFORE I turned it.

Probably MY most expensive lessons.
 

Mac

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Feb 15, 2008
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Bingen, Arkansas
would have bought sharpening system first, and practiced on cheap tools instead of
trying expensive tools from the get go, as there is a learning curve to sharpen tools.
As for pricing ,I took my experience with sales and working in public and priced my pens higher than anybody around here , some $5 more, some $20 more and have done well.So I would'nt change that .
 

mdburn_em

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Mar 16, 2006
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Location
Chesapeake, VA, USA
Knowing that a mandrel, bushings and a good CA finish are counter-productive. Attempting to use them all together will cause poor fit or sanding through the finish.

Practice, practice practice my CA finish on test turnings before attempting to do one on a pen. Explain that if I can do it on the test turning but have problems on my pen, I'm sanding through the finish.

I should know how thick of a finish I am putting on. (How else can I tell if I'm sanding through it?)

tube insertion tool is a waste of money.

mini-tools are worthless.

You can achieve a fabulous finish without MM.

Most click mechanisms suck.

Don't waste money on an analog caliper, get the digital first time.

Get in line immediately for a PH vise

I would have liked someone to have explained the woes of barrel trimming to me and especially warned me about those crappy, over-priced all-in-one kits.
 

TX_Planes

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May 2, 2009
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61
Great stuff. I would second what others have said. I wish I had found IAP sooner....no scratch that....the cash did a immediate outflow after discovering IAP.

Great site and I am sure saved me from many mistakes and wasted $ on gimmicks.

I wish that I had ordered more kits and blanks with my first several orders. I spent lots of money on shipping charges due to small orders. Order up folks you'll be glad you did.
 

GouletPens

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Nov 9, 2008
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Ashland, VA
I would have found this site sooner.

I would have stopped wasting my time with all my experimental finishes and gone straight to CA.

I would never have bothered with slims, classic americans, carbaras, el grandes, robustos, or any of the other hundreds of kits I bought in my initial excitment, then ended up reselling later.

I can't really complain about anything else though.....I love making pens and if it weren't for my mistakes, I wouldn't be able to make pens like I do!!
 

chriselle

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Sep 1, 2008
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Ito City, Shizuoka, Japan
Finding this user group earlier would have been of benefit. I had already been turning pens for a number of years and info during the first year or two was pretty rudimentary. Other than a few stinkers along the way (friction polish:bulgy-eyes:) the evolution has gone well.
 

Sabaharr

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Mar 7, 2009
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Slidell, LA
I wish I had known that WOODCRAFT wasn't the only place to get supplies. I could have started for almost half of what I spent.
 

GouletPens

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Ashland, VA
I wish I had known that WOODCRAFT wasn't the only place to get supplies. I could have started for almost half of what I spent.
oh yeah.....add this one to mine! Though, the guys at WC were very helpful, and since I didn't know this forum existed at the time, they were actually a big help to me. BUT.....I probably spent thousands more on inferior products than I would have knowing what I know now. Go figure. :neutral:
 

Joe L

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Jan 29, 2009
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Surprise, AZ
Hi Hank...

The list is endless...and some of the things have already been said. If I had my "I wish I'd...." It would be very simple.

That you write a reference text "Before you buy a tool for turning... READ This!" It would have a bunch of sub-chapters.... "How to avoid...." with recommended solutions.
1. Tools needed.... sources: IAP Library and IAP Forums
2. Supplies needed... sources: IAP Library, IAP classifieds, IAP Forums
3. Other supplies available... commerical catalogs, Google search

You get the idea. Finding IAP was the best thing for me. Great tips, lots of posts and pen photos to inspire and motivate.

-joe L
 

John Eberly

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Nov 3, 2008
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Grand Haven MI
If I knew then what I know now -

I would've started off buying the $39 25-piece drill bit set from Rockler or somebody else and saved a bundle on one-off drill bits that cost $8.99 each.

I would've followed through on my original impulse to serial number and photograph all of the pens I made.
 

leehljp

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Thanks to everyone that contributed to this. It is helpful and I am including a link to your input for those that are new to this forum. I think this can be very beneficial to those that are new to pen turning and especially to those that are just starting out.
 

keithkarl2007

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Apr 22, 2008
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i'd have asked around about the best lathe to get. I've bought johnny cnc,s bushing and stuff for turning between centres and i'm still turning out of round. It has me so depressed i feel like selling all the penturning stuff i've bought in the past year, i've tried everything and almost broke down during the week, its just really frustrating

(sorry for venting)
 
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JohnU

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Jan 31, 2008
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I wish I would have found this place sooner. My pen making was the first real turning I had done since High School Shop, so my know how was simply what not to do in terms of safety, rather than how to. I made lots of sawdust and ruined many of real nice blanks on slimlines. Not to mention I sold about 100 pens for $5 each in the beginning, but it kept me going and it got the word out that I make them. Now that Ive started casting, I wish I would have started it earlier, throwing away lots of worthless wood. Everything I know and learn is because of this place so .... I WISH I WOULD HAVE FOUND ALL OF YOU SOONER! Thank you all.
 
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