First official reveal

It’s finally time! I can finally tell you more about the KickStarter project I hinted to in a previous post. And if you’ve been following along on Instagram or Facebook you probably saw some sneak peeks at materials that will be used, too. But you’re about to learn more about the new pen series than I’ve shared anywhere else…

It started out while designing a new fountain pen. I still can’t get into all of the specifics (well I could, but we need to keep a little mystery in our relationship here- for now), but I LOVED how the piece was going to look with the material I originally had in mind (more on that in future posts, I promise!). And I started to wonder what other materials could I use?

Ultimately I decided to create 6 different pens, each one featuring a different gemstone. I had been following the work of a talented local jeweler, aym collections, and had seen a piece of her work that triggered this initial idea. So after a meeting at my shop to explain what I had in mind she agreed to work with me (Yay!!!) on this project. She is sourcing and working the gemstones before giving them to me for the pens I’m making.

Like I said, there were 6 pens I planned to make. But the gems take 6 weeks (that is not a typo) to arrive at her studio. In the meantime I really wanted to be able to make a prototype pen and be able to test out this idea. Not that I think it won’t work, but more to see if there are any design changes that need to be made. But the only stone she had on-hand that matched the specs of the stones we would be using was Garnet.

She prepared the stone and I found some beautiful red material to pair it with. Honestly…as soon as I saw the material I chose alongside the Garnet I knew this had to be added to the GemPen collection! And so, now there will be seven pens 🙂

The Garnet pen is waiting on 1 more part to arrive before I begin construction. Meanwhile, the gemstones for the other 6 pens are being procured and I will reveal another gemstone being used each Sunday. As you’ve probably guessed, today’s reveal was Garnet. So without further ado here are pictures of the 7 material options along with a shot of the Garnet.

As always thanks for reading another entry from the GW Pens back room!

The waiting is the hardest part

Tom Petty said it best, sometimes waiting is the hardest part. Though I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about making prototypes!

The most commonly asked question I get is what’s my favorite part about making pens. And while it’s easy to say my Least favorite (paperwork!), my most favorite is a lot harder to say. I love the design phase where I’m sketching it all out and see what’s aesthetically pleasing. I love the nitty gritty, defining the actual specs of each piece and getting those to fit the design. And I REALLY love seeing it all come to fruition, especially when it turns out as good as I had hoped.

But in designing pens there is the inevitable part of needing to order supplies. Some are less of a priority than others. But the raw material is pretty much a key component. So when I’m anxious to move forward on a new Kickstarter (Oops!) pen design, seeing this is the hardest part.


As always, thanks again for reading another entry from the GW Pens back room!

Suck it up!

That’s right, it’s time to talk briefly about dust collection! Wait, you didn’t think…ah nevermind.

So! The business space I lease for GW Pens has a shared HVAC system. And although I like to keep things as dust-free as possible anyway, it’s particularly important that I’m not clogging up the heating and air conditioning. I’ve put quite a bit of time (not to mention a dollar or two) into multiple dust collection systems that run concurrent…but how will I tackle this with the new metal lathe?

I’ve been thinking this through since I bought the lathe. It has a backsplash, which is where I had the dust collector port on my wood lathe. So for this I was going to need something a little different. Maybe a port that hovers ABOVE the lathe! Yes! But…how??

Enter the $20 desk lamp! I’m really not sure many people would still recognize it as that, considering I took it off the base…and took off the light cone…and ripped out all of the electrical components. But nevertheless it at least started as a desk lamp. The first thing I did was install a piece of angle aluminum to the back of my backsplash. It has holes drilled every 6″.


Next was to take the (now stripped bare) extendable arm and attach a pipe clamp to the bracket that previously held the light cone.



Finally, I attached some flexi-pipe to the pipe clamp and Voila! Between the reach of the extendable arm and the different positions in the aluminum running the length of the lathe, I can easily vacuum up dust and debris anywhere along the bed of the lathe! And since today was teacher in service day I even had the kids along to help me out (though really they mostly just played games).


That’s about it for now, thanks for reading another entry from the GW Pens back room 🙂

The Break In

Although that sounds like it could be a hit novel from John Grisham, filled with mystery and a “Who dunnit?” sort of tale, it’s really the much less interesting description of what’s going on in the back room today. With the metal lathe now fully set up, leveled, and bolted down, it’s finally time to go through the break in process.

I had really hoped to already have this done by now. But the machine requires going through the different belt changes for a set length of time (10 minutes each) and then changing the gearbox oil. I don’t know about you, but I really have no idea how much time I should leave to that last part. Will the oil gush out? Maybe at first, but I’m really expecting more of a slooooooow steady thin stream. So I’ve wanted to make sure I had the time to sit here with it after the roughly 90 minute break in process.

Once the oil is changed I should be good to go! I’m excited to get to start working with this…meanwhile I need to figure out what exactly I’ll be doing for dust collection.

…and just in case you’re wondering what it looks like to go through the break in process, I get to stare at the guts of the machine a lot. Please try not to be too jealous. It’s a glamorous job, I know lol!


New Toy!

I’ll preface this entry by saying it’s long, picture heavy, and more technical than most of my entries will be. Most of my posts will be about making pens specifically, but sometimes it will be about the tools used to make them, too. Today the latter is the case.

Until now I’ve been making pens by hand on my wood lathe. There are a few special pieces I’ve been wanting to try, but they require a metal lathe. So when it was time to replace my wood lathe I decided to go ahead and upgrade. In addition to the metal lathe, I thought it would be great to add a DRO (digital readout) for a level of precision I haven’t had since, well, since the last time I used a metal lathe. The readout will measure down to 1/10,000th of a millimeter! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, it needs to be installed.

Me at metal lathe

First step of course was to get the machine. There it is! A Grizzly G0602. And there I am. Look at me. So happy, so proud. Completely unaware of the headache I’m about to take on. “How hard could it be?” I thought to myself. It’s just a few bolts, right? Well technically Yes. But. And you knew there was a But coming…

I’ll start with the simpler aspects. Take off the steady rest, follow, and backsplash. Don’t bother leveling and bolting the machine down yet because you’ll need to get to the backside. As far as which DRO set I bought, I got the ‘slim’ scale set from

ML DRO Instructions

Here are the included manuals. Don’t bother looking through for detailed installation instructions. You’ll find some bare bones info but that’s about all. Ditron, the scale manufacturer, does have a YouTube video (found here) to give you an idea of what needs to be done. The hardest part for me was translating that set up to my smaller lathe. Knowing the cross slide scale would be the hardest I decided to start there (Eat the frog! as my kid’s MMA coach would say). So…do I install to the left or right?

ML Left Saddle arrow

Aside from the fact that installing this to the left side of my cross slide would cover my ball oiler (red arrow), there’s another potential problem. If the work piece falls, it risks falling onto, and damaging, the scale. So the right side it is!

ML Cross Slide Arrow

So here we are looking at the right side of the cross slide (tailstock is beneath the picture, headstock above). The long scale needs to be mounted to a fixed surface and the reader head to the movable cross slide. But! (Yes, there will be a few more Buts in here) The cross slide has gib adjustment screws. Three to be precise, indicated with the red arrows. Now if you have a mill (I don’t) you may be able to come up with better placement. I was brainstorming this with a friend who has installed a couple of these on other machines and this seemed to be the best spot given the tools I have available.

In order to attach the reader head to the cross slide, I had to build out a few pieces of aluminum with a hole drilled through to seat around the middle gib adjustment screw. Steel plate was attached to the saddle and left hanging off the back (be careful, you only have a little more than 5″ of clearance in the back before you hit the backsplash). Then I used a piece of angled aluminum to attach to the cross slide and the reader head.

ML Right Saddle Arrow

One thing to realize if you attach your hardware here is the amount of clearance you’ll have. Because of the bolt heads sticking up, my reader head risks running into them if I move my cross slide back too far. I recognize this essentially means I have reduced the amount of swing on my machine, but as a pen maker I will still have Plenty of room. But! (See? There’s another) I did take precautions to make sure I don’t ruin the reader head.

ML Cross Slide Stop Arrow

I measured, cut, and installed a little piece of aluminum that stops my cross slide from retracting too far. OK, I painted it, too, because I thought it might just be a little more aesthetically pleasing than the raw aluminum. It doesn’t have to be all about function, right? So that’s it for the cross slide (I kept the cover off to let you see what was going on a little better). Onto the back!

ML Back Arrow

The back was really much easier. I installed it with the reader head beneath the scale bar so nothing can fall inside of the scale. To attach the reader head, rather than drilling even more holes in my new toy, I decided to replace 2 of the screws holding the saddle to the ways with longer ones and attached a bracket directly to that.

The final step was attaching the DRO display. I decided to attach it to the electric box cover plate on the back (the only other choice was immediately behind the headstock and that just screamed No Way to me).

ML DRO Installed

There it is! All installed and now even the backsplash has a coat of paint on it. Because the scale hangs off to the right of the saddle I did need to order an MT3 extender for my tailstock but otherwise everything is great! Thanks for reading along, I hope some of you find it helpful.

Opening the door

With my site so filled with pictures of finished products, I thought it might be nice to peek through the blinds (or open the door, as the case may be) and show a little bit behind the scenes.

If you’ve stopped by my pen studio, you know “the back room” is where all of the machines are kept and all of the actual manufacturing takes place. It’s where I first quietly celebrate my successes, and sometimes less quietly mourn my failures. This blog will chronicle some of the behind the scenes work that takes place in the back room. Some of it may be of more interest to other makers than the end user of my pens, and maybe some of it will only be interesting to me lol!

In the end, wherever you fall on the interest-spectrum, please feel free to comment, ask questions, or share with your friends. Thanks for reading!Backroom fisheye