A special pen for an anonymous benefactor and a little life lesson to for my son

Our oldest son Ryan has been given the opportunity to travel with the 8th grade band down to Orlando Florida to play his saxophone at Universal Studios this coming spring. Unfortunately there was a rather high price tag associated with the trip and Ryan had to come up with the money to go. So when the fundraiser packet came home to sell cookies, kitchen gadgets and the like, I did what most father’s do. I reached out to people I knew to try and earn him his (average) $5 per item sold.

My reaching out included fellow pen artists across the country world.  We’re a close knit group who help others when we can. Shortly after my post to solicit catalog purchases, checks started rolling in made out directly to his band account from some very generous angels.  Most people realized that Ryan receives so little of those fund raiser sales and much of what was being sold was just not really desirable. What came next was beyond our wildest hopes and expectations and ended up completing the funding of the entire trip.

We’ll call him Mr. Anonymous or Mr. A for short. Mr. A contacted me and asked if Ryan made pens with us. Long story short, the kids are the reason we started making pens and Ryan definitely knew how. Mr. A asked to commission a pen from Ryan in exchange for funding a significant portion of the entire trip. He gave me some general ideas on what he liked and I worked with Ryan to pick the right piece of wood and got him ready to go. The pictures below were taken during the process from the start of turning through completion.

The pen is created from a piece of Amboyna burl wood. Amboyna is a highly treasured wood for it’s distinctive strong grain patterns and density which makes it a perfect choice for a pen. It polishes up beautifully with simple and natural friction based finishes which makes it a great choice for those who don’t like chemical based finishes such as acrylic, lacquer or polyurethane. The finish chosen was a simple mix of walnut oil, shellac and a microcrystal wax.

In the middle of the process, the opportunity for a little life lesson presented itself. As happens from time to time, a small catch turned into an explosion of the blank. Ryan was so upset with himself and was so afraid of disappointing Mr. A that he was ready to go in and bury his head in the sand so to speak. He couldn’t understand why I had a big smile on my face watching all of this.

My grin got bigger and I told him “Don’t worry, we’ve got this”. I sent him on a hunt for the exploded pieces which is always an interesting adventure among the saw dust and wood shavings all around. We were able to find 2 large pieces that accounted for about 90% of what went flying. He still didn’t understand and was still upset. I showed him how to fit and repair the two large pieces and then how to deal with the remaining voids using the shavings that were turned off the pen and some thin CA glue. After a few rounds of packing and flooding with CA, the voids were filled and ready to turn again. He was still concerned but proceeded anyway at my encouragement.

After turning it to the final dimensions, on close inspection you really can’t tell that anything ever happened. If it wasn’t for the pictures, you would’t believe me if I told you that it had happened. The break points and fill blend in with the grain patterns like they belong. I told him this is a great life lesson. Don’t immediately and negatively react to a situation until you’ve been able to asses the entire picture. Most problems can be overcome with a little patience and guidance from someone who’s been in your shoes. Now he has a new skill and mind set that can hopefully be applied to other aspects of his life.

However he’s still trying to wrap his head around how someone can be so generous to give him that much money for a pen. But he’ll come to terms with that one on his own and hopefully pay it forward when his opportunity presents itself.

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