Back in 2011- 2012, I was making my tobacco pipes by hand. I had no lathe and the only power tool I had for making them was a drill press. All of my shaping was done with files and sand paper. After many cramped hands, I decided that I needed something to make my life easier. I searched the internet for a lathe that wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg but would be large enough to make pipes with. I decided on a Rockler Excelsior mini lathe.
Though it was a small lathe, and many of the pipe makers on forums said it wouldn't work, it did. The time to make a pipe was reduced dramatically. What used to take days, now took a couple of hours. The drill press was not the most reliable tool to drill the tobacco chamber and draft hole. Getting the two holes to line up dead center was not easy. With the lathe, shaping the stummel (the pipe bowl and shank) and drilling the holes for the tobacco chamber and draft hole became a breeze. I no longer had to buy pre-drilled Briar pipe kits like I did before I had a lathe. I could now buy Briar blocks (ebauchons) and plateaux blocks and drill my own saving more $.
As time went on I thought, "there has to be more I can use this lathe for than just pipes". I knew from searching around that some people made pens on their lathes. But as a friend of mine asked, I too said "Who makes pens?" Well, as it turned out, A LOT of people make pens. I discovered the IAP (International Association of Pen Turners) web site and subscribed to see what it was all about. After seeing some of the beautiful pens people were making I thought I'd give it a shot. I bought a pen mandrel, a couple pen kits, and some CA glue and gave it a try. Turned out I really liked making them! It was something to do when the weather was cold and I didn't want to spend hours upon hours in the cold garage working on pipes. After that, I dove head first into the pen making money pit and bought more tools and more lathe accessories needed for pen making. You can see many of the pens I made here. I also added my Facebook page (as it was called then) RJO Pipes and Pens.
After making a boat load of pens and several pipes, I went on and purchased some of the other project kits from the sites where I get pen kits. After all, why stop at pens and pipes? Let's give pepper mills a try! So I went ahead and bought some pepper mill kits (summer of 2013) and made a couple. Of course, I enjoyed making pepper mills now too. I bought a pile of pepper mill kits and went to work on what I thought would be great Christmas presents for the family and made these (13 in all if I remember correctly):
This really got the ball rolling for me. I moved on to making bottle stoppers, coffee scoops, key chains, and most recently wood bowls. I'm trying out anything that could be made on a lathe. and liking it all! I also started making my own polyester resin pen blanks too. Check out the galleries under the Wood Works tab to view them.