Own a piece of history

As you all (the 6 or 7 of you who still read me, that is) know, I’ve gotten into woodworking recently. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do and now that I have a house with an actual workshop in the back, I’ve been able to fulfill that dream.

Now that I have a lathe, I can turn objects and some of those happen to be pens. My girls & I made a few pens over the past few days and of course I showed them off on Twitter and Facebook.

Then the orders started coming in.

I wasn’t expecting that, but I enjoy making them and so I’m going to open up the offer here as well as I’d like to get as many orders in place as I can before I start buying more materials. Bulk is costly up front, but cheaper in the long run. Unless you don’t use it all, then… well… My plan is to put up the basic price sheet here and hopefully generate a few more orders before I start.

So, take a look at the pens here. All these pens were slimline style,  black ink, twist-operation with gunmetal hardware. The ink is standard cartridges like you find here. I can, of course, get any other colors of hardware like brass, silver, titanium, etc. (some at an extra cost. Rhodium for example!)

I use only gluten free inks

From left to right

The first pen was mostly turned by my eldest daughter. We picked a random blank of wood and it turned out amazing. It’s the most basic pen and it runs $25.

The second pen is purpleheart with a maple/wenge laminate stripe. I can do laminate stripes of all sorts of woods & colors. Multiple bands can be added to a pen – $30

The third one is an exotic. This one happens to be snakewood and is one of the more expensive woods you will find. These would run $35-$40 (starting) depending on the wood. I can do amazing burl wood pens, but sometimes those blanks, like Amboyna Burl, can  run $80. They’re drop-dead sexy though.

Finally, I have a serpentine pen. Serpentines are created by cutting up a blank, adding in thin veneers, then gluing them back together. They start like this


And end up like the pen you see on the right. You’re never really 100% sure what you’re going to get when the pen is turn, but it comes out as awesome swirls. I’m going to attempt different angles and thicknesses too. These requires a lot of work as it’s a minimum of 4 cut & glue-ups as well as cutting the veneers from the stock I have. These are $50, but are unique as all get out.

I’m also thinking about doing a limited edition (aka too much work to do all the time) Pen, Pencil, and 1911 Grip set, all from the same billet of wood, which would make a really, really nifty set. I’ve not thought of a price on that yet but if there’s interest, I can put that in the hopper.

If you’re interested in any of these pens or have questions, please email me at robb at robballen.com.

posted by Robb Allen @ 1/9/2017 11:00:00 AM | Feedback (8)
You know all that free time I used to have?

Yeah, that’s gone. Because this puppy followed me home last night

Fear and Lathing in Las Vegas

That’s a Nova Comet II Midi Lathe. 12” swing, 16” bed extendable to 42” which means I can make everything from pens to baseball bats. A mid sized lathe in a mini sized footprint. Sucker is heavy at ~80# and absolutely the quietest power tool in the shop. Variable speed via a dial, plus 3 pulley combinations for extra speed / torque.

I got it from Bowls for Good, a fantastic organization in St. Petersburg that gets returned & broken lathes from Nova, refurbishes them, then uses the proceeds from their sales to help feed people in St. Pete as well as providing lessons for disadvantaged youths so that they have a chance at having a skill in life.

The one I got was practically flawless straight out of the box. It was a return, but there was nothing wrong with it at all. $200 for a $500 lathe and all of that goes towards a fantastic cause.

posted by Robb Allen @ 12/21/2016 11:26:59 AM | Feedback (8)
Saw Rogue One

Loved it.

The entire Star Wars universe is now ready to be turned into billions of dollars worth of merchandising.

And I’m totes OK with that.

posted by Robb Allen @ 12/19/2016 12:31:09 PM | Feedback (2)
The best part about running at night

Is how you discover you have the ability to leap over a car hood even though you’re physically tired.

At this point, I’m still not convinced the SOB wasn’t actively trying to run me down. I was at an intersection, trying to cross. Idiot Driver was turning right, but stopped for long enough that I assumed he was letting me cross. As soon as I got in front of where he’d be turning, he took off.

I managed to leap up, putting my hand on his hood to vault over and landed on my feet.

Idiot Driver never stopped.

I’m fine. Didn’t hurt me in the slightest. I didn’t even twist my shoulder or hurt my wrist. But I’m buying an LED running vest because that was scary as hell.

posted by Robb Allen @ 12/9/2016 8:21:40 AM | Feedback (10)
Technical difficulties

Friday night I got home and noticed some slow down of the interweb tubing. It wasn’t terrible, but definitely wasn’t what I was paying for. Often this is just network congestion so I gave it some time. Went to dinner & came back.

Suddenly, the tubing was clogged completely.

I couldn’t pull up any websites. It wasn’t 100% down, more like 99.43% and here and there something would trickle across. I had to tether my iPad to my cell phone so I could hop on chat with a tech. Weirdest things – pings had 0% loss. ICMP worked just peachy. Regular TCP or anything else didn’t.

The switch part of the router was working fine. Every computer / printer / device inside could see the others with no issue, even HTTP.

By the way, when you talk to internet support and tell them you’re running Wireshark & seeing TCP packets get dropped after multiple Keep Alive requests, they automatically send you to someone who knows what they’re doing.

The tech couldn’t figure anything out. Said he’d send someone out on Monday.


I was 90% sure the router was going bad. I was having a hard time connecting to it to change the settings, so on Saturday morning, I went to the WalMart of computer stores – Best Buy – and picked up a new router.

Got home, plugged in the new router, and using my iPad I went online to see how the setup was supposed to work since it didn’t have a manual. 5 minutes of reading I suddenly realized I hadn’t turned on tethering. iPad was using the house wireless to browse the web.

Everything was working.


No idea what happened or why. I took the other router back, got a full refund, and now everything is fine. I don’t like not knowing what happened because now I don’t know if my router is wonky or if it was just something on Fios’ end.

I hate computers sometime.

posted by Robb Allen @ 11/21/2016 7:59:08 AM | Feedback (8)
Well, this sucks

I’m #NeverTrump. I didn’t vote for him and I don’t think he’s the savior we’re all looking for. There are many people I respect who looked at Trump as a pragmatic decision, and I can respect that. Those who saw him as the Second Coming, scare me. And I’m truly afraid someone is going to see a Trump win as an excuse for a little Kristallnacht action.

Don’t get me wrong, Hillary Clinton is a corrupt, evil woman who could have weaponized the government even more than it already has been and we would have been in a bad position. Gun rights would have been under a constant attack (although we’ve done well against Obama & the Democrats), taxes would have increased, and Obamacare would just be repackaged into Hillarycare but with stiffer penalties.

Trump, on the other hand, scares me in different ways. His love of Putin, his lack of any sort of foundation to base decisions on, etc. I readily admit, with Trump, there’s a chance of things not collapsing, but I find it slim.

The worst part of all this is the focus on the King Elect. Everyone seems to think a single person can solve all their problems and when things continue to suck (because most of your problems actually are your fault) they’ll push harder & harder for someone to make things great again.

It’s how we got here.

Not gonna lie, I’m keeping an Epi Pen nearby in case I have an allergic reaction to all the schadenfreude that I’ll be consuming from leftists, who after years & years of granting their god-king all this power suddenly realize the benefit of limited government. However, it’ll be short lived because I doubt they will learn from this. Instead, they’ll grant more power to the right people rather than just pull the plug on all the power they’ve given over the years.

Still, our country is great not because of a spray tanned con man in a trucker hat, but because of you & me. We have our differences, and if we can work them out without slashing each other’s throats, then we’re succeeding. Unfortunately, I don’t see this rift healing any time soon, I only see it getting worse, and having yet another buffoon parading around like he owns the place isn’t going to help.

Oh well. At least for now I’m not as worried about my taxes going up a billion percent and my guns are probably safe-ish from the federal level for a while. Still have lots of work to do locally, in our own communities, building the world we want our kids to inherit. America isn’t her president, senators, or congressmen, she’s us.

posted by Robb Allen @ 11/9/2016 9:04:08 AM | Feedback (39)
Crying at work is embarrassing.

What prompted my father to get his back checked out was some intense pain. That’s how they found the tumor in his kidney.

Today he had tests done to determine the scale of the problem.

It would appear they caught it as early as possible. It hasn’t spread, not even to the local area. In fact, the tumor is so small that they’re going to be able to freeze it & kill it off.

Survivability is “yes”.

Still no idea why his back hurt.

posted by Robb Allen @ 10/25/2016 3:44:04 PM | Feedback (12)
My dad just called.

It’s cancer. In both kidneys.

Fuck cancer.

Especially fuck this part where all you know it “It’s Cancer” and nothing else. No stage, no prognosis, just “It’s Cancer”.

Again, with emphasis – Fuck cancer.

posted by Robb Allen @ 10/21/2016 9:22:16 AM | Feedback (14)