Monday 9 July 2018
'Cornhusker' Pen Test
Cornhusker pen blanks are the result of unharvested sweetcorn that the mice, squirrels and other animals have left behind. They are dyed and resin stabilised, offering interesting geometric patterns. These blanks turn and finish like stabilised wood and require a light touch, but even with this light touch, you will still get voids in the pattern; these are easily filled with Cyanoacrylate adhesive but try to avoid mixing this with dust from your sanding as this can cause an unsightly mess. It is also easy to plane too close to the centre of the husk, losing some or part of the pattern. They will make pens up to 15mm (5/8in) diameter x 125mm (5in) long.
For this pen, you can either use the Junior Gentleman II (with optional threaded base), or Junior Statesman II bushes with two metric drill bits of 10.5mm (3/8in) and 12.5mm (1/2in).
With care, these blanks can be turned to create very unusual writing instruments. They are easier to make than some of the more intricate kits available, and are also good value for money.
'Jigsaw' pen test
This pen is a strong favourite despite my difficulty in assembling it. The finished product is without doubt, spectacular. Both top and bottom sections are packed separately (thankfully) and in total consist of 36 pieces of different eye-catching exotic woods. As there may be slight gaps between the pieces in this kit, it is advisable to paint the brass tubes black before assembly. You may think that the numbering of the pieces helps but the problem is that some pieces are laid down onto the brass tube and others are pushed up from the inside, which means that the brass tube has to be retracted to allow access. You can also end up with one piece that either doesn't fit or is too small, or so I thought. If you find this to be the case dismantle the rows of pieces down to that smaller piece and then start again using that piece as number one for that row. They should then fit, although replacement pieces can be obtained from the manufacturer without the need to buy a completely new kit.
This certainly is a special pen but despite needing patience, it is worth persevering. I would note the quality as being five out of five, even though I found it difficult to assemble.
'Grand Piano' Pen Test
When laser engraved with the owner's name, this pen blank kit really does look amazing. The lower pen blank is African blackwood and the upper section consists of a blackwood casing, into which simply fits a keyboard section of white holly. There is one major problem, which can be overcome with care: the blackwood is dusty and the holly absorbs the dust into its pores, so sanding of this section needs to be minimal. It is therefore important to get a good clean finish straight from the skew. Recommendations from the manufacturer advise the keyboard section should not be sanded and the remainder of that blank sanded by hand. You can sand on the lathe, but need to spray a light coat of sanding sealer between each grit to prevent the holly becoming contaminated: too thick a coat will cause the contamination you are trying to prevent. This way, however, allows you to get a 'grand piano' finish, whereas the hand sanding seems to lack that gloss. For me, this can be the most impressive pen of all, providing there is no contamination.
I would definitely rate the quality of this kit and give it full marks. Although sanding can be difficult and time consuming, the end result is excellent.
'Stars and Stripes' Pen Test
This is another kit which can suffer from contamination and again, the application of spray sanding sealer is advised. The red box elder section is dyed and this can, unfortunately, run into the white maple. Perhaps the easiest way is to sand by hand. The kit comes in two halves: the bottom half involves laying the red stripes into the pre-made recesses, whereas the upper half is almost complete ï¿½ you just have to insert the 50 tiny stars provided.
Again, I would rate the quality of this kit very highly, although, as before, it can be quite exasperating to put together. But as is often the case, the finished result is fantastic and well worth the time and effort required.