At the risk of enraging the powerful pen-turning cabal, I gotta say that I’ve never been enthralled by making pens or bottle stoppers on my lathe.
Life would be easier if I did embrace my mini-lathe, especially at Christmas. Instead I end up building furniture for the people I love. One year I made cutting boards with a Spirograph-like router design. Other years I’ve built Shaker boxes (too many to count).
This year I’m enlisting the whole family to make woodblock stamps and custom stationery. I think it’s a stroke of genius , sort of like the washcloth dispenser cabinet I invented. (I’m still waiting to make a million off that one.)
So this weekend, my daughter Katy and I headed down to the shop for a couple hours to putz around with my idea. I printed out a sample design on the laser writer , I chose dividers from Joseph Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises.” Then I stuck it down to the face grain of some scrap cherry and started carving away at the waste using my grandfather’s small-scale carving tools and a couple knives. Katy worked on one, too.
Within 20 minutes I had the stamp shown above. Then we went to Staples and bought 100 blank invitations for about $20 (look for these in the “Shotgun Wedding” department). And a pad of gel ink for $5 that was good for 100,000 impression (yeah, right).
After some experiments, we found we got the best results working with a piece of leather (we used a tool roll) underneath the paper. In about 10 minutes we stamped 20 cards and matching envelopes.
Here’s our plan: For each deserving person, I’m going to carve the initial of their last name into a 2″ x 2″ stamp. The kids will stamp their hearts out and we’ll all bundle up the stationery in a ribbon and put them in a box with their wooden stamp and a stamp pad.
Total cost per person: about $12 plus a couple hours of work.
That sounds a lot better than building a few bookcases, a gross of Shaker boxes or eleventy-billion pens.
– Christopher Schwarz