My favorite kind of bar

As you learn a little more about me you may have wondered what a pen maker’s favorite kind of bar is. And the answer is a draw bar, of course! What’s a draw bar? I’m glad you asked! (Wait, you didn’t really ask? Well I’ll tell you anyway)

On a lathe, there are 2 ways primary tools attach to the headstock (the side where the motor is): by either screwing onto the threads there, or by sliding into a tapered hole called a Morse Taper. One of the tool sets I use is a collet…a tool that grips cylindrical objects with equal pressure from all sides.

The collet holder I use slides into the Morse Taper and sort of self centers. It’s great, really. For custom pen making it’s one of the Must Have tools in the arsenal.


And although the piece you are working on is usually supported at the other end by the tailstock, sometimes it’s not practical to do so. What then? How does a tool that was slipped into a tapered hole stay in place while its spinning at deadly speeds? Enter: The Draw Bar.

The collet holder I have is threaded on the inside. So to keep everything where it should be at 2400rpm I screw a length of threaded rod into the the tool, running it through the spindle, and secure it on the other side. This picture might help you understand what I’m saying:

And now that I have my collet set ready to be used I even went ahead and got started on the first GW GemPen prototype! Here’s the pen body being crafted and then the finished piece.

And speaking of the GemPen, I’m happy to say things are moving forward faster than anticipated!! Keep an eye out as I announce not one but TWO additional gemstones that will be used in the KickStarter pen collection Saturday (tomorrow) night!

As always, thank you for reading another entry from the GW Pens back room!

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.