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Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Piece of Royal Navy History

HMS Boscawen was ordered by The Royal Navy on 11th May 1817, with the hull of the ship being laid down at the Woolwich Dockyard in England in January 1826.

The fully rigged, 70 gun sail ship was constructed in English Oak and finally launched on 3rd April 1844 and named after a Royal Navy Admiral Edward  Boscawen.

With a gun deck of 187 ft 4½ in (57.1 m) in length and weighing in at 2212 tons, the ship served in the Baltic during The Russian War under Captain William Fanshawe Glanville and in the late 1850’s was on the West African Coast and acted flag ship under the Captaincy of Richard Ashmore Powell, in The British attempt at disrupted the slave trade, primarily being engaged in by The French who used the term of “emigration cruises” to attract would be native emigrants to their colonies, and The Americas.

During that time, The Royal Navy calculated that if traders prepared 12 slave ships and that 10 were taken by British Cruisers, a significant profit was still to be made with slaves being purchased for as little as £4 each and sold for as much as £200 each.

Wellesley's Band & Ships Company
HMS Boscawen remained in the anti slavery role until returning back to English waters in the 1860’s, when on the 5th March 1862 she became a training ship in Southampton England.

In 1874 HMS Boscawen was renamed The Training Ship 'Wellesley' and was stationed on the Tyne at North Shields in North East England and provided accommodation for 300 boys under Naval training.

Training Ship 'Wellesley' also had an auxiliary shore establishment, known as Green's House, in Mile End Road, South Shields, which could  accommodate up to 60 boys.

Back in those times the boys were received for on shore training as early as 7 years of age, and then transferred to the ship on reaching the age of 12.

The Wellesley Training Ship Institution had been established in 1868 by a group of philanthropic Tyneside businessmen, led by James Hall, to provide shelter for Tyneside waifs and to train young men for service in both The Royal and Merchant Navies.

The ex-frigate HMS Cornwall was originally used as their training ship; however it was in 1874 that the institution took over the then aging wooden battleship HMS 'Boscawen' which was then renamed 'Wellesley'.

Unfortunately The 'Wellesley' training ship was destroyed by fire on 11 March 1914 at North Shields England and the school moved ashore becoming the Wellesley Nautical School.

Following some of the Oak timber being salvaged from the wreck of Royal Navy Training Ship Wellesley; a beautiful Oak Desk blotter was hand made in or about 1914.

The handle was turned and carved in the shape of one of the ships Capstans, and a wooden thread turned enabling the desk blotter to be easily dismantled into three parts to allow replacement of the blotting paper.

A small engraved cartouche which appears to be made in copper, was attached to one of the sides of the desk blotter with the following inscription:

“Made from Timber taken from HMS Wellesley, Training Ship on the Tyne, Destroyed by Fire 11th MAR 1914”

The Desk Blotter Measures  approximately 5 inch (127mm) long by 3 inch (76mm) wide by 4.5 inch (115mm) high, and is a beautiful accessory with a Royal Navy History.


Many thanks for visiting us and I hope you have enjoyed reading this brief history of HMS Boscawen which later became HMS Wellesley.
Please feel free to Follow our blog and return to visit us again soon.

Ken McLeod © 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Keep it Turning

I find making one of my handmade pens a rewarding challenge that takes comparative patience and can be quite time consuming; however results in a unique one off writing instrument that is as unique as it’s owner.

The pens that I am currently making involve the use of wood and various resins or plastics.

Whatever you choose to make the body of the pen has to be capable of being turned on a lathe and it is in general the preparation of the material you decide to use that takes the majority of time involved.

In this blog, I am going to run briefly through the stages of making one of my Aspley Pens.

The process is generally the same for either a fountain pen or rollerball, with just the components used being variant.

The choice of design and material is a personal thing which in itself makes the pen so unique.

In this case I have chosen components that create The Aspley Classic Rollerball Pen, which offer an appointment finish in Rhodium, a bright and very durable white metal plating which is part of the Platinum family of precious metals.

Plated rhodium is very hard and has a high reflectance, which makes it great for optical instruments, jewellery and accessories such as pens.

I have also chosen a seasoned piece of African Blackwood for the main body of the pen.

Firstly the quality of the materials must be of the highest standard available, and I endeavour to use the same suppliers who have proved consistent in quality supply previously.

It is important that the wood is seasoned well and treated with a wax seal at end grain to prevent moisture fluctuation within the piece prior to turning which could result in the sample splitting or cracking.

Most of the pen components are visible in the finished article except the brass tube centre of the pen which is inserted within the wooden body, and is the main skeleton into which the pen components are pressed after turning.

The length of the pen is determined by these tubes, and in this case there are two tubes involved; one for the main body of the pen and the other for the cap.

The wooden sample is firstly cut into two lengths, one for each tube and is left slightly longer than the brass tube to allow for trimming and squaring off accurately.

A centralised hole is then drilled through the length of each piece of wood, ensuring square drilling throughout for an accurate fit of the brass tubes which are then secured in place with a strong adhesive.

Once this is achieved and the tubes are securely adhered into the wood, the ends of the wood are squared and trimmed to the length of the brass tubes which ensures a snug fit of the pen components upon assembly.

The two pieces that have now been marked to ensure the best grain match upon later assembly, are then fitted onto a spindle using bushes unique to the pen component design, which determines the limits to which you can turn down the wood.

The turning of the wood can now commence and the shape of the pen be determined.

Throughout the making of the pen, protective clothing and safety glasses are used as high powered machinery and very sharp tools are constantly in use.

As the wood is turned with the use of various chisels, it is initially turned into a round and then more delicately shaped into the desired shape of the pen.

I tend to shape into a barrel style which I find provides a well balanced pen resting comfortably between thumb and index finger.

Once the wood is turned into the desired shape, the samples are then sanded using up to fifteen grades of abrasives to provide a very smooth surface, then sealed and polished using approximately six layers of wax.

The turning and polishing now over, the pen is ready for assembly.

Ensuring that the grain is lined up to match on both the body and the cap of the new pen; the components are then carefully pressed into position using a special press that ensures parts are added squarely and accurately.

The result is a beautiful unique rollerball pen destined to become the trusty servant of it’s new owner for years to come.

I hope that you have enjoyed this brief insight into what goes into making one of my pens.

Visit my Handmade Abbey Pens Shop to find a pen of your choice, available for immediate delivery.

Ken McLeod © 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Quality Counts

Victorian travel involved meticulous preparation as journeys by ship and train could prove to be quite lengthy.
As the traveller in general required large quantities of personal property to be transported, well made luggage and trunks to survive the journey were required, and many British luggage makers were in existence at that time to oblige the need.
One such manufacturer was a Highly Reputable English Victorian and Edwardian Luggage maker known as W Insall and Sons.

W Insall and Sons was established in about 1829 and was a highly regarded West Country luggage maker situated at 19 and 20 St. Augustine’s Parade Bristol England.
The business was housed in a large double fronted premises with the name of the company and Luggage and Trunk Manufacturers in huge letters displayed on the upper stories of the building.
The most common material used by The Victorian and Edwardian luggage makers was leather, which was tanned to assist in preservation of the piece; however with the advent of air travel, the use of such substantial luggage declined, as with the quality of the leather and brass came weight, which was unsuitable for modern travel.

Today, Vintage luggage with a patina showing each small knock adds to it’s character and provenance and at my Etsy Shop you can find a very fine example of a W Insall and Sons Suitcase of excellent quality made of fine leather with a canvas lining which is in excellent condition with only the marks of time and careful use in evidence.


Measuring 24 x 15 x 8.5 imperial inches or 610mm x 381mm x 216mm, and weighing 13.98 imperial pounds or 6.34 Kg; this beautiful Piece of English Luggage would still serve as a fully Serviceable Travel Companion or as an Ideal Prop for Stage or Screen Today.

Quality certainly Counts, and they don’t make them like this anymore alas!
Ken McLeod © 2011

What Inspired The Aspley Fountain Pen Name?

When I began making handmade fountain and rollerball pens, I had to come up with individual names for the separate designs that I decided to make.
As I live in a rural area of Bedfordshire in England, I thought I would name the pens after Villages and Hamlets from around the County.
The Aspley was inspired by the Village of Aspley Guise in the Heart of Bedfordshire situated only a few miles from where I live.
Situated amongst sandy hills on the edge of the pinewoods of Aspley Heath, Aspley Guise has been lucky to have survived the ravage of time and has three historic houses still remaining that are worthy of note.
Aspley House surrounded by beautiful grounds was built in 1695 having been designed by Christopher Wren and was refitted again in about 1750.
Guise House and its grounds were home to The Aspley Classical Academy in the eighteenth century, which was a school said to rival Eton and Harrow in it’s day.
The Old House is a beautiful  timbered building and dates from 1575; however later succumbed to some Georgian alterations.
The village benefits from many charming examples of early Georgian architecture, and is proud of the 15th Century Parish Church named St Botolph which was largely rebuilt in early Victorian times; however retains a medieval screen and 15th Century brasses.
The Aspley Gentleman’s Fountain Pen has been designed especially to stand out amongst others just like the Village of Aspley Guise itself, and to Grace any Gentleman's desk top with its elegant design, but remains Robust with superb balance, and is coupled with all the tradition of fine desk pens, and is complimented using 22k Gold cobalt accents on a Rhodium finish.
The Aspley Fountain Pen features a Very High Quality German two tone nib with an iridium point affording dependable smooth writing and ink flow, and is delivered by either cartridge or an ink reservoir.
The Aspley Classic Fountain Pen is in support of The Aspley Gentleman’s Fountain Pen and uses the exact same materials with a slightly altered nib holder design in a slightly slimmer and shorter version, and is very versatile due to it’s more discrete size; but looses none of the punch of it’s bigger stable partner!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this short blog, and that you continue to follow us.
Kind regards,
Ken McLeod © 2011