Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tools and Forum Pipes

Big news brewing here today. I've listed a particularly cool tool on my site that I call a "French Wheel Motor Arbor". I came up with a similar idea about a year ago and then continued to tweak and massage the design until I was completely happy with it. What I've got here is the final result.

Most pipe makers have some sort of wheel setup that they use to help shape their pipes. Me, not wanting to spend loads of money on a professional setup, decided there must be an easier alternative, so I set to work. Since I was already using a dual-action sander pad (DA pad) held in a Jacobs chuck, I figured that I could use it on a motor and simplify the entire ordeal. Then, instead of only having one pad, I could have several, each with different grits. Changing grits used to be an exercise in frustration, but since I've developed this tool, it only takes a matter of seconds. All I do is spin one DA pad off the arbor, and spin the next one on. I only have to change the abrasive once every dozen pipes (or more) and even then it only takes a moment to get everything lined up since I don't have to do it while the pad is mounted.

I'm offering them to pipe makers and other craftsmen on my site, check it out here. Soon I should have other strange and obscure tools available there as well, and I'll post announcements here when I do.

The other news this week is that I'm working on a huge order of forum pipes, so don't be dismayed if it takes me a day or two to get back to you. These are of the Zulu shape, but have a twist that I've developed instead of being a completely classical shape. I actually have a prototype ready, but am going to give the forum members first look. I'll post a photo here later on this week so everyone can see it. I'm in a Zulu frame of mind these days, so if you're looking for one, shoot me an email.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Kitless Fountain Pens

Biz news: There's a few new pipes here, here, and here.

No blog updates in over a month. What a busy time it's been! Here in New England, the weather is changing and by now the leaves are all past peak color and have gone straight into "November Brown". That means only one thing around here - fall cleanup. The leaves need raked, shredded, and composted. The garden has to be cleaned out and tilled up. Firewood needs split and stacked. And in my case, the furnace needed some major work to make it more efficient. Mixed in with all this I also have to find the time to make pipes to pay the bills. It's a busy time, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

During one of my fleeting moments of "down time" I made myself a pen, pictured above and also to the right. It's a proof of concept, an experiment in spare parts. For a long time I've been toying with the idea of using no "kit pen" parts in the construction of fountain pens, save for the nib, feed, and carrier - all of which are available on their own and separately from pen kits. If I can do away with all the other parts in a pen kit, I'll have the freedom to make whatever style and shape of fountain pen that I want.

This one actually contains a few more parts than the final version will, but as an exercise in minimalism, it's a grand success! I used the front section, cap threads and center band, and the body threads from a "Jr Gentleman" pen kit in this project, while dumping the clip, both end caps, the tubes, and a couple other small bits. The body is made of aluminum, and both ends are closed with no caps. Needless to say, I didn't machine this on a pen mandrel - all work was done on my metal lathe with final sanding done at my sanding station. I also left the aluminum with a satin finish rather than polishing to a high luster. I've never been one for mirror finish metals, and it seems that the instant you touched the pen, it would be loaded with fingerprints - and show every scratch and bump it ever receives. Since this pen is designed to be used, I figured it should have a "user" finish.

As a result of this experimentation, I've decided that I can get rid of everything but the nib, feed, and carrier, and make everything (including the front section) out of whatever I want. I'm very excited by this, and there should be some really cool stuff escaping from the workshop in the next few weeks prior to Christmas.