New to buying exotic blanks

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RockandCole

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Jan 2, 2017
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Footville, WI
With penturning being a new hobby, so is buying pen blanks, and searching out small pieces of exotic wood. I've found lots of "cool" stuff on PSI and the likes websites, but surely there are other options than constantly paying for shipping and hoping the piece you receive is decent. I went to a local woodcraft and bought some raw wood from their seconds barrel earlier this week and had good luck, so I guess the big question is, where can I get super exotic wood for super cheap so I can play into this new hobby (addiction) without stressing the finances even more (or upsetting the wife)? Of course buying cocobolo or rosewood in bulk is an option or the big grab bags, but I'm just praying there is a cheaper option that guarantees more variety, like the seconds barrel at woodcraft.
 
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Skie_M

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I found it amusing that the name of your post happens to be the name of an IAP vendor ... Exotic Blanks has been around here for a good while, and has an excellent selection of the truly inspiring and esoteric... Good luck keeping your expenditures there from your wife! :)


In any case, if all you want to do is practice, hit the local Lowe's or Home Depot and find their scrap/off cut wood bin ... practice on old hardwood pallets (make sure you remove all screws/nails and make sure it's not preserved wood - poisonous dust!), and check local cabinetry/countertop shops and wood shops for scraps they are tossing out.

Many shops deal with very LARGE pieces of wood, and the sizes that we need are not just tiny, but PUNY in comparison... most of them are happy to hand over what you need for a turned pen or the possible promise of future work ...


Oh, just a small addition ...

Check the IAP sales forum real quick, there's one going on that is the proceeds of an estate sale ... the money will benefit the IAP. There is currently an offering in there for a selection of 27 blanks for 40 dollars, and the available selection in it is quite nice ... you may also need to give some money for the shipping and handling as well, but it's a good cause and a great deal!

Here's a photo of that offer:
 
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wood-of-1kind

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Toronto, ON, Canada
Try "bartering" for wood blanks here and "other" forums. You indicated that you got some lumber from Woodcraft recently. Do you have extras? Perhaps someone else will like your offerings and be willing to trade for some of their "surplus" blanks. Give it a shot.
 

jttheclockman

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Feb 22, 2005
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NJ, USA.
You are going to find woods that have that special character and grain patterns are going to be spendy. Any burls are also going to be top dollar. The better the blank the more money it commands. You will also notice if you start buying woods in board form and then cutting to pen blank size the character that you first saw in a large board is gone in a small blank as 3/4" X 3/4" That is why burls and heavy grained woods such as olive wood stand out more and command $$ Just the nature of the beast. You do not practice with pieces like that. You save those for the special pens. Start selling some of those pens and you recoup your material layout very easily. Good luck and happy turning.:)
 

RockandCole

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Jan 2, 2017
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Location
Footville, WI
Many shops deal with very LARGE pieces of wood, and the sizes that we need are not just tiny, but PUNY in comparison... most of them are happy to hand over what you need for a turned pen or the possible promise of future work ...


Oh, just a small addition ...

Check the IAP sales forum real quick, there's one going on that is the ... the money will benefit the IAP. There is currently an offering in there for a selection of 27 blanks for 40 dollars, and the available selection in it is quite nice ... you may also need to give some money for the shipping and handling as well, but it's a good cause and a great deal!

Thanks for the reply, I noticed the offerings from the estate sale earlier, but the bundle of 27 is probably a little out of the budget currently.
 

RockandCole

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Jan 2, 2017
Messages
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Location
Footville, WI
Try "bartering" for wood blanks here and "other" forums. You indicated that you got some lumber from Woodcraft recently. Do you have extras? Perhaps someone else will like your offerings and be willing to trade for some of their "surplus" blanks. Give it a shot.

Great advice! I didn't even think of this, I spent a good portion of my evening cutting and tubing all of the more "interesting" pieces yesterday, had I not done that, I'm sure my bocote sapwood, curly olive, and african blackwood could have easily offset the cost for some simpler blocks. Plus, a member here could probably have done something more creative than a slimline with them, which is all the kits I have currently. If I ever come across another treasure trove at $2.99 a pound, I will definitely consider this!
 

duncsuss

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Jun 29, 2012
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Wilmington, MA
There are chapters of the American Association of Woodturners in Madison and Rockford, not sure how close you are to either of those but you might check them out.

The turning club I belong to has a "wood swap" at each meeting, and the members who are pen makers sometimes trade surplus blanks for different ones.

There's also WoodBarter -- many people there sell great pen blanks at very fair prices.
 

RockandCole

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Jan 2, 2017
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Location
Footville, WI
There are chapters of the American Association of Woodturners in Madison and Rockford, not sure how close you are to either of those but you might check them out.

The turning club I belong to has a "wood swap" at each meeting, and the members who are pen makers sometimes trade surplus blanks for different ones.

There's also WoodBarter -- many people there sell great pen blanks at very fair prices.

Thanks for the reply! I am not too far from either area, I will definitely look into both!
 

Jdubfudge

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Nov 14, 2016
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Kailua, Hawaii (Oahu) Zip 96734
Are there local trades shops in your area such as guitar manufacturers or high end cabinet makers? If so, maybe swing by and say hello to see if they have any cutoffs.

Here in Hawaii there is a shortage of koa at the wood supply stores because of the weather we've had for the last few years. When it's available, it goes quick. Talking to the sales guy at wood shop, he recommended getting with ukulele builders.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

RockandCole

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Joined
Jan 2, 2017
Messages
34
Location
Footville, WI
Are there local trades shops in your area such as guitar manufacturers or high end cabinet makers? If so, maybe swing by and say hello to see if they have any cutoffs.

Here in Hawaii there is a shortage of koa at the wood supply stores because of the weather we've had for the last few years. When it's available, it goes quick. Talking to the sales guy at wood shop, he recommended getting with ukulele builders.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

I just moved to this area from 12+ hours away a few months ago, I have no clue who to talk to as far as cabinet makers and the such, but I will definitely be asking around at church this Sunday.
 

Herb G

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Nov 13, 2015
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Southern Maryland
It has been my experience that when such wood presents itself, buy it.
The chance will not be there later.
Keep your eyes out for the Seller's section at the bottom of this forum.
From time to time, our generous membership will usually offer rare & exotic woods for sale for pen blanks.

As others have mentioned, I'd put off buying expensive stuff until you have built up your skill set to the level where you can choose a proper pen kit to match the wood or acrylic you have on hand.
It has taken me years to learn that part of pen turning and I have rarely seen it mentioned anywhere. I had to learn it on my own.

It takes a lot of thought, consideration, and a "experienced eye" to determine what kit goes best with which blank.
That is the true mastery of pen turning.

Any fool can turn a pen. It takes an experienced master to see that chunk of wood as a certain pen kit that shows off the true beauty of nature's handiwork.

Remember this, if nothing else. You only get one chance with that certain piece of wood. Try to do it justice.
 

RockandCole

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Joined
Jan 2, 2017
Messages
34
Location
Footville, WI
It has been my experience that when such wood presents itself, buy it.
The chance will not be there later.
Keep your eyes out for the Seller's section at the bottom of this forum.
From time to time, our generous membership will usually offer rare & exotic woods for sale for pen blanks.

As others have mentioned, I'd put off buying expensive stuff until you have built up your skill set to the level where you can choose a proper pen kit to match the wood or acrylic you have on hand.
It has taken me years to learn that part of pen turning and I have rarely seen it mentioned anywhere. I had to learn it on my own.

It takes a lot of thought, consideration, and a "experienced eye" to determine what kit goes best with which blank.
That is the true mastery of pen turning.

Any fool can turn a pen. It takes an experienced master to see that chunk of wood as a certain pen kit that shows off the true beauty of nature's handiwork.

Remember this, if nothing else. You only get one chance with that certain piece of wood. Try to do it justice.

Great and unique advice, thanks so much
 

stonepecker

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Oct 29, 2012
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central Minnesota
ALSO, if you go to the cabinet shop or anywhere else......don't go empty handed.

Give the person you talk to a pen. Slimline, cigar, etc... That way they see what you are making. Very easily the cut off bin could become yours for free. Remember them at holidays and remember the shop forman.

I get more free wood just by handing out a few pens every now and then.
 

robutacion

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Aug 6, 2009
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6,493
Location
Australia - SA Adelaide Hills
So and about, looking for what you have around you and look at the local dump for the logs other throw away almost daily.

Talk to tree surgeons businesses, they cut tree every day, they are generous guys that always like a few beers..!:biggrin:

Most people simply haven't realised or even look at what they have around them as trees, native, introduced, etc., people's yards grow good trees that sometimes have to come down, great opportunities there.

A good piece of advice to you is, get a small chainsaw and keep it in your vehicle of all times, if you don't have a small trailer, find someone that will allow you to use when needed and secondly, if you even hear the sound of a chainsaw working, stop everything and run, go and find from where the sound comes from, the chances are, you come home with a few logs...!

Best of luck

Cheers
George
 

Catski1

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Joined
Nov 29, 2013
Messages
24
Location
Oceanside
I'm lucky to have a friend who owns Tropical and Exotic Hardwoods here in Carlsbad California. I have my eye on some Gabon ebony and Holly that I'd eventually try and make butterfly or custom points like a pool cue, only for a fountain pen. Good luck in your search. I'd try and find a local, but shops like my friends also do orders online and over the phone. Hopefully you can support local but if not there's always shops willing to ship. Good luck.


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@Catski1
 

Skie_M

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Aug 7, 2015
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Lawton, Ok
Even if people aren't bringing whole trees down, limbs break and fall off or need to be trimmed or pruned away all over the place ...


Check local lawn care businesses, tree trimming services, and believe it or not, your local power company. It's typically a matter of law that the local power company sends teams out to check for and trim off branches that overhang their power lines ... if those branches break and fall during a storm, they could cut power to entire neighborhoods, so taking them down is like "preventive maintenance" ... They typically DO NOT clean up after themselves.

All you have to do is ask them when and where they're going to be trimming branches, and head over there (usually after they're done they are still on the ground for up to a week or so till someone picks them up for firewood).

You'll get random local species along with the occasional ornamental and non-native species that were planted for decoration.

Another great source, if you have them in the area, is any kind of orchard. They MUST prune their trees for proper fruit growth every single year ... if they don't, their fruits and nuts typically end up small and/or unpalatable. They'll usually save their wood for firewood or a woodworker in the family, but offering them a turned pen may bring you some really nice windfalls.

I've heard that Bradford Pear wood turns like butter and can be quite beautiful ... much like olivewood in those regards.
 
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