Sunday, 14 December 2014


Deb mentioned in the last blog that she had done a bit of hiking up to the post office in Hillmorton to post a pen off for me. To cut a long story short (well fairly short anyway) from early next year we will be trading from Lois Jane as 'The Pen Maker's Boat'.

I make and sell bespoke ballpoint, rollerball and fountain pens from our boat. Each pen has its own unique number and corresponding blog entry on my new blog site ~ The Pen Maker's Boat and Facebook page ~ The Pen Maker's Boat Facebook Page Of course as well as some detail about the pen that's available there will be a certain degree of my usual waffle.

Here's a sample of one of the entries, I hope you enjoy reading it and of course there are the usual buttons on the blog to follow or share.

I look forward to meeting loads of old friends and making new ones at a floating market near you in 2015!


'Birchills' Oak and Chrome Ballpoint Twist Pen

EUROPEAN OAK - Quercus robur

Usually straight-grained, the heartwood of European Oak varies in colour from light tan to brown. Quarter-sawn pieces show attractive flame figuring. The wood is fairly hard, heavy and dense, clean but with the occasional knot. European Oak is a beautiful timber and with an oil finish, the grain will turn a deep golden brown.

This particular piece of oak (probably English rather than European) is just a little bit special though. It comes from the rear cabin side gunwales of Narrowboat Birchills. I was given a few off cuts by the superb craftsmen who were carrying out a little light refurbishment to this historic boat, in fact the guys had cut the whole back cabin off!

Birchills is an historic, ‘Joey’ boat with a small day cabin, built in 1953 by Ken Keay of Walsall, ‘Birchills’ it is one of the last wooden day boats made and was used to carry coal to Wolverhampton Power Station. This boat is double-ended and the mast and rudder could be changed from one end to the other. This enabled its use in narrow canals or basins where there was no room to turn the boat around.


The rotten parts of these rebuilt boats are usually used to stoke the fires that steam the new planks for bending to the hulls shape so half a day later this flakey gunwale would have been burned. I wasn't sure how deep the rot would have gone and how deep I would have to delve into this piece to find stable wood. The pens I make from historic boat materials have been thoroughly tested by me to make sure that they will give pleasurable daily use.

Having cut the power umbilical cord at Lime Farm Marina we were once again off grid. Debbie had just left for a long weekend away with her mum and as the light was fading I decided to turn right out of the marina and head into Rugby for a few days. It was a cold and damp trip and I was quite glad that it wasn't too long.

Luckily some of the pen turning process can be done inside the boat, it's really only the very messy actual turning part that has to be done outside. Whilst Deb was away I set about sawing up, then trimming down, marking up and drilling the remainder of the gunwale part of NB Birchills. The only part I have left now is a small piece of heavily tarred side planking. With the restoration work well under way it may well be another seventy years before anymore Birchills timber is available.

With Deb back and a few hours working at the Institute for Chem Eng accounts department under her belt we decided to pull pins and head the few miles to a more rural Hillmorton mooring spot. With the weather for Saturday looking at least settled and very possibly fine, the plan was to leave Rugby by 08.00 and have the lathe set up by 10ish.

This particular pen was turned on Saturday 29th November 2014 a short distance below Hilmorton locks. The towpath was just about wide enough for me to set up and the shavings from turning kept the path relatively firm.

  1. Birchills Oak and Chrome Ballpoint Twist Pen
  2. That's what this pen was made from
  3. Work in progress on NB Birchills new back cabin
  4. On our way to Hillmorton for the weekend
  5. It soon brightened up to be a lovely day

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