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A turn for the better

After at least 15 years, an old “brand new” tool is finally ready to see some action.

I’ve talked before about buying a tool, putting it away, and completely forgetting about it. Actually, more than once. Well, I did it again. This time it’s a little Jet lathe designed specifically for pen turning, that I think came out sometime in the early/mid 2000s.

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It’s really tiny (capacity only 3-1/2” x 8”), but ideal for pens. Ultra portable, it could literally be stashed away in a small apartment, or even tucked into a suitcase while traveling. Hobbyists with no further woodworking goals other than pens loved it.

Jet discontinued it years ago, though I’m not sure why. It came out right about the same time manufacturers introduced the new class of “midi” lathes in the 12” x 16” or so range, and I’m guessing woodworkers looking to get started in turning – but wanted to do more than turn pens opted – for those instead. There are still some of these tiny pen-turning wonders on the market, including a really nice one from Penn State Industries.

I don’t remember when I bought it, but I’d gotten it for my wife. She’d expressed an interest in learning to make pens, so I bought it for her. Sally was teaching full-time, however, and never found the time to learn it.

She’s retired from teaching now and getting into serious crafting, mostly stained glass. But when I stumbled across this in my shop storeroom and showed it to her, she was ecstatic. With more time for crafting now – and still interested in pen making – she can’t wait to try it.

The size is perfect for her, and easy to keep in her glass studio. Small enough to use right where she cuts glass, she can stash it in the cabinet underneath between projects. Best of all, now that she has her own pen lathe, once she gets the hang of it, I’ll no longer be hounded every Christmas to start making pen gifts.

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