Workshop #2

I’ve started being more vigilant about recording my time in the workshop, not just for the purpose of blogging.

The way we learn in the workshop is to watch demonstrations. We all stand around watching and listening and then it’s our turn to copy the task. When the demonstrations become really complicated and run for 90 minutes, it becomes impossible to retain all the information you’re given, especially if you’re not getting to that step for another 3 weeks.

I started recording videos of the demonstrations so I could remind myself of how to use the equipment without having to wait for assistance. I wrote feedback of this nature, so hopefully they start doing their own recordings and uploading them for students to review in their own time.

Milling a pen holder
The milling machine is amazing. It’s a 1940’s beast that’s been frankensteined together with digital readouts. You can precisely drill with specified X,Y and Z dimensions.

The pen holder was made from 2 different materials; American oak and corian. Corian is a type of plastic often used in kitchen countertops. It’s shiny and smooth, but soft to work with.

Working with the soft corian was easy. When I used the same process to carve out the American oak, it gnarled at the hard wood and left it really rough. It took a lot of sanding to fix and if I were to do it again, I’d add 2 or 3 more passes before reaching the full depth.

Lathing a pen

I think this may have been the first time I’ve ever used a lathe. I only did one term worth of tech studies in high school and while I liked using the machinery, I didn’t like spending time with the people who saw it as a bludge topic. I have to say, I love to lathe.

We started with a solid piece of aluminium rod, cut and measured it, drilled out the inside, shaped the outside and finished by cutting a thread with a thread-cutting tap. You literally just put the thread cutter on/in and start winding it like you’re turning on a tap.

Finally, I polished it using sandpaper and steel wool. It fits a Parker pen cartridge inside and sits snuggly in its case.


The small holes in the ends of the case were fitted with magnets to keep it closed.

Soldering a torch

The soldering was super easy, fitting it into the torch case was dumb and difficult.

I don’t have a photo of it, but the design of the torch case is hard plastic, with a hard perspex gasket.

  1. 1.
    a shaped piece or ring of rubber or other material sealing the junction between two surfaces in an engine or other device.

A gasket is meant to help seal the join between two edges. Being a hard piece of perspex, it just served to highlight any imperfections between the join. I spent way too long trying to get this join perfect and eventually conceded defeat. Definitely a lesson in the benefits of rubber.

Painting a mouse

You’ve seen my mouse before, look:

After a bunch of layers of primer and a whole lotta sanding, I was pretty pleased with the surface and painted it using enamel auto spray paint:

Building a handle

I finished the contents of my box about two weeks early, which I was keen to do so I could have some extra-curricular play time.

I needed to put a handle on my box, but why buy one when I’ve just learnt a bunch of skills to make one and saved some leftover materials to do it with?IMG_1739

I started by proposing my design to one of the techs. My idea was to cut threads on the top of the aluminium rods so that they could screw into the wooden handle. Then regular machine screws would fasten the bottom of the aluminium rods to the box.

I was worried that the depth I could get the rod into the wood wouldn’t be enough for it to be secure.

The tech suggested a different solution that was simpler while still being elegant. It just required nice screws that were worth showing off.

IMG_1397I started by selecting a beautiful pair of screws, then finding drill bits that would fit them. I made holes in the wood and the aluminium. I also went to a lot of trouble to make chamfers that would allow both the aluminium and the screws to sit just inside the wood.

Unfortunately after cutting the aluminium, I realised it was a bit too long. The second time I cut it, I left some scratches in it and it was already too short to polish further. I used the bead-blasting machine we’d been showed for potential use on our pens. This helped conceal some of the scratches and will give it a long scratch-free life.

I’m really pleased with how the wooden handle turned out. I spend a long time filing and sanding it, with the goal to make it as ergonomic as possible. I think it’s pretty beautiful too. I didn’t polish the wood this time as I like how the lightness helps to match it with the plywood that the box is made from. You might notice that the same wood used to make the pen holder looks much darker because it’s been polished.

I also cut a little finger dent into the opening of the box. The magnet that holds the box closed is way too strong and it’s really difficult to get open. I could have created a more refined solution, but this was good enough for a box that I’ll probably never use.


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