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Roddickton-Bide Arm man hoping to spin hobby into opportunity


A piece of padauk is sitting on a lathe as Robin Gosse eyes the small block of wood in front of him. He’s sees something in it that most can’t — a pen.

He flips a switch to engage the machine and starts peeling back the layers of wood until he finds what he’s looking for.

 

To see him work so comfortably in his handcrafted workshop, one might not realize the Roddickton-Bide Arm resident has only been making pens for the last four months.

 

Originally from an outport community, south of Stephenville, he moved to the area a couple of years back with his wife, an English teacher in Roddickton.

 

At the time he was working his way towards a PhD thesis in agricultural science, and found area employment in the field of study was limited.

 

“So I was thinking about trying something that allowed me to move on my own steam,” he said.

 

Having a keen interest in wood working since he was old enough to hold a hammer, he started researching ideas and what product had the greatest business potential.

 

“I found out that wood turning is relatively exotic and that pens have the highest profit margins, because you can get such a nice finish, they are collectors items and it’s something people use every day,” he said.

 

So he decided to give it a try.

 

He purchased a kit and spent two hours assembling it. But it wasn’t the outcome he expected.

“It was terrible,” recalled Gosse with a laugh. “But it was fun enough that I wanted to give it another shot.”

 

He’s been doing it ever since, learning to hone the craft with each new creation he produces.

 

Gosse is to a point where he can produce a simple pen from start to finished in under half-an-hour.

 

So far he has completed upwards of 70 pens in different styles and materials, including antler.

 

For the most part his pens have been used as gifts and samples. But he sees potential in his work and hopes to spin a hobby into opportunity someday.

 

“I’ve never come across another serious hobbyist or low end commercial turner on the island,” said Gosse. “I’m told they exist but I haven’t found one yet.

 

“I’m hoping it can become a hobby that can pay for itself one day, but in the mean time I’ll keep making them and giving them out as gifts and samples.

 

The process

 

The hardware kits – which include the tip, clip, transmission (which allows the pen tip to open and close) and ink well – have to be purchased. But the woodwork required is where Gosse shines.

 

After a piece of wood, or blank, has been selected, he measures to allow for placement of a tube, in which the hardware will be stored.

 

After he makes his cuts, Gosse will place the wood on a lathe to bore the heart of the wood.

 

Following this he’ll carefully glue the brass tube into bored space.

 

When dry, the blank’s ends must sanded flush with the tube. The glued blank is remounted to the lathe and at about 4,000 rpms it gets turned to shape.

 

From there he’ll start a dry sanding at approximately 1,200 rpms, followed by a wet sanding process at over 4,000 rpm; all of which starts at 60 grit and goes up to 12,000.

 

From there he’ll add a friction finish polish of walnut oil and clear shellac.

 

“Opposed to stain which just dyes the wood, or a poly coat, it produces a pleasant-feeling, durable finish,” he said.

 

When dried, the pen tip, top and transmission is then pressed together with a handmade press that Gosse built from plans he found online.

 

“You can get some really nice, professional looking presses online, but why buy what you can make yourself,” Gosse said. “I’m a Newfoundlander, after all.”

He’ll add the cartridge and slide the top and bottom of the pen together to complete it.

 

adam.randell@tc.tc

Editor’s note:

For a how it’s made version of Gosse’s process check out the videos section of www.northernpen.ca

 

He flips a switch to engage the machine and starts peeling back the layers of wood until he finds what he’s looking for.

 

To see him work so comfortably in his handcrafted workshop, one might not realize the Roddickton-Bide Arm resident has only been making pens for the last four months.

 

Originally from an outport community, south of Stephenville, he moved to the area a couple of years back with his wife, an English teacher in Roddickton.

 

At the time he was working his way towards a PhD thesis in agricultural science, and found area employment in the field of study was limited.

 

“So I was thinking about trying something that allowed me to move on my own steam,” he said.

 

Having a keen interest in wood working since he was old enough to hold a hammer, he started researching ideas and what product had the greatest business potential.

 

“I found out that wood turning is relatively exotic and that pens have the highest profit margins, because you can get such a nice finish, they are collectors items and it’s something people use every day,” he said.

 

So he decided to give it a try.

 

He purchased a kit and spent two hours assembling it. But it wasn’t the outcome he expected.

“It was terrible,” recalled Gosse with a laugh. “But it was fun enough that I wanted to give it another shot.”

 

He’s been doing it ever since, learning to hone the craft with each new creation he produces.

 

Gosse is to a point where he can produce a simple pen from start to finished in under half-an-hour.

 

So far he has completed upwards of 70 pens in different styles and materials, including antler.

 

For the most part his pens have been used as gifts and samples. But he sees potential in his work and hopes to spin a hobby into opportunity someday.

 

“I’ve never come across another serious hobbyist or low end commercial turner on the island,” said Gosse. “I’m told they exist but I haven’t found one yet.

 

“I’m hoping it can become a hobby that can pay for itself one day, but in the mean time I’ll keep making them and giving them out as gifts and samples.

 

The process

 

The hardware kits – which include the tip, clip, transmission (which allows the pen tip to open and close) and ink well – have to be purchased. But the woodwork required is where Gosse shines.

 

After a piece of wood, or blank, has been selected, he measures to allow for placement of a tube, in which the hardware will be stored.

 

After he makes his cuts, Gosse will place the wood on a lathe to bore the heart of the wood.

 

Following this he’ll carefully glue the brass tube into bored space.

 

When dry, the blank’s ends must sanded flush with the tube. The glued blank is remounted to the lathe and at about 4,000 rpms it gets turned to shape.

 

From there he’ll start a dry sanding at approximately 1,200 rpms, followed by a wet sanding process at over 4,000 rpm; all of which starts at 60 grit and goes up to 12,000.

 

From there he’ll add a friction finish polish of walnut oil and clear shellac.

 

“Opposed to stain which just dyes the wood, or a poly coat, it produces a pleasant-feeling, durable finish,” he said.

 

When dried, the pen tip, top and transmission is then pressed together with a handmade press that Gosse built from plans he found online.

 

“You can get some really nice, professional looking presses online, but why buy what you can make yourself,” Gosse said. “I’m a Newfoundlander, after all.”

He’ll add the cartridge and slide the top and bottom of the pen together to complete it.

 

adam.randell@tc.tc

Editor’s note:

For a how it’s made version of Gosse’s process check out the videos section of www.northernpen.ca

 

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