Shed Archaeology

I couldn’t progress the pen making very far without the pen mill, and my scrounging didn’t turn it up anywhere.  Probably easier just to get another, and at the same time get one that actually works well.  The designs typically sold I find to be pretty ordinary – they are either blunt and cut so painfully slowly you are tempted to use extra pressure (which can result in chipping and/or burning), flop around inside the brass tube (despite apparently being designed for that pen type), and I can’t think of what other combinations of issues I have dealt with over the years.  Has anyone found a good one?

Heard of sandpaper versions, but not sure where they are sourced from (and what issues they have).  Think there is a definite market for a better way to square off the ends of a pen blank in line with the brass insert.

Standing at the lathe a bit later, in contemplation mode, and heard a familiar tick, tock.  The shed clock.  It was in another stack of crates nearby that I hadn’t looked through, so did the balancing act with them and went for a bit of a look.  Didn’t find the mill (but wasn’t really looking for it) – was hoping to find the tailstock of the Comet II (but it wasn’t there), but did find the other thing I was hoping to uncover: the Nova Titan II Chuck.

I previously thought I had found it, but that turned out to be a SuperNova2 chuck – fooled by the size for a second.  Once I saw the Titan, there was no possible mistake – it is bloody massive!  Will have a look around to find a suitable blank to mount up.


Can’t wait for the day when I can start unpacking these boxes and crates properly, and rediscovering things.

While looking for a better mill, I did find this mandrel saver at Carroll’s Woodcraft.

planetmandrelsaverIt is specifically for pen turning, and doesn’t push on the end of the pen mandrel (which can cause it to bend slightly if too tight, causing an off-centre oscillation).  Instead, the mandrel feeds through the mandrel saver, which instead pushes directly on the bushings.  This means there is no need for the knurled knob either, and therefore no slippage caused by it being slightly loose, and no distortion of the mandrel.  Very interesting.  If the ends of the blank were milled correctly, getting the mandrel saver a bit tight shouldn’t be an issue, as the load passes through the first bush, through the brass centre, through the second bush and into the headstock.

There is a MT1 and MT2 version (both pictured).  Again, if anyone has used this and has an opinion, I’d be interested to hear.  I’m quite tempted to try it out myself in any case.  To now I have used a live centre with a very blunt point with which to engage the hollow end of the mandrel (a sharp point tends to wander, causing a similar issue as if the live centre was pushing too hard).

Wonder what other developments are out there?

6 Responses

  1. Hey Stu, you need to relearn the terminology of the lathe parts, do a search on tailstocks, live centres and mandrel savers.

    • Ah, yeah – not that I don’t know what each of them are, but I had a different thought in my head while I was writing (where the Comet tailstock is), and so each time I wrote about anything at that end of the lathe, the same term jumped into my fingers!

      Hopefully, I have corrected all the errors!!! Thanks for the pickup!

  2. Stu, I have used the normal adjustable pen mandrel and the mandrel saver you saw at Carrolls. Frankly with the quality of the normal bushes the mandrel saver still allows for flex and movement. The bushes are rarely concentric with the bore and the bore is rarely tight on the mandrel. By far the best option I have found is to turn between centres. This means spending $15 on the bushes for each pen barrel. Fred out near Ballarat makes them out of Stainless steel and they are very precise and give a super smooth vibration free turn. You need a 60 deg dead centre for the head stock and the 60deg live centre for the tailstock.

    • Interesting observation – was thinking of the basic bushes, but of course, those that both provide the dimensions of the ends and support the brass tube where it is larger than the mandrel would definitely be affected by poor machining.

      Perhaps Fred’s idea should be pursued further – aka, make your own!

  3. Hi Stu,

    I haven’t had any problems with the pen mill Carbatec sell (mounted on homemade handle and rotated by hand) myself.

    However I found this plan for an alternative which might interest you –

    Cheers, Matt

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