It’s dull, really, this piece of walnut wood—a cuboid no longer than an index finger and roughly the width of a shower rod, its color a washed-out purple, like a fading bruise. Its inside is lined with a brass tube that Ty Beringer super-glued into the hole he drilled through the center. And it seems like it could be anything, but today it’ll be a pen—a smooth, curvy pen, accented with a gold cap.
There’s a lathe sitting in Ty’s parents’ garage, where he does his work—a space littered with slabs of wood, jutting out like teeth along the walls, and peculiar, beastlike woodworking machines. Ty slips the wood onto a metal bar, sandwiching it between a couple of bushings (metal rings) on either side. He holds a gouge (a type of chisel with a curved, concave edge) with both hands, his right on the handle, his left wrapped tightly around its neck for precision. The machine groans to life, rotating the wood so fast it’s a blur. He runs the gouge along the wood, each touch leaving a depressed ring that he evens and rounds out.
“I like to stop a lot and make sure it didn’t crack or anything,” he says, sounding much like a YouTube tutorial, which is not surprising given that’s how he learned the craft. Even as he says this, his face is fixed on the ribbed piece of wood flinging sawdust into the air, the shavings hopping like bugs from his knuckles and nestling in the crook of his arm. “Now it’s close to the thickness that I want, so now I’m going to turn down the ends to [the thickness of] these bushings.” He continues to shape the wood with a skew (a type of chisel with a slanted edge), demonstrating the simple and eloquent thing that is hand-eye coordination. “You have to stay super focused, especially turning pens, because it’s such a small piece of wood it can just explode.”
The next step is to sand the wood, and Ty goes through about a dozen papers, each varying in grit. He turns the wood on the lathe. Sands. Stops. Turns again. When he’s done, his fingers seek out flaws, those minuscule grains that escaped conformity. Half an hour after starting, he runs a blue paper towel dabbed with boiled linseed oil along the spinning wood and just like that, almost magically, it transforms—changes color, shines, turns into something different altogether. “This is my favorite part,” he says, his mouth twisting into a satisfied grin.
The hands behind Beringer Wood
Name: Ty Beringer
Woodworking since: “Junior high shop class. But I didn’t consistently do it until my sophomore year of college, three and a half years ago. I needed a job, so I thought I might as well give this thing a go.”
Biggest challenge: “The only challenging thing is when you try to learn a completely new, foreign skill. Turning pens is quite a bit different than carving, for example. There’s always a learning curve.”
How often he “messes up”: “More often than I’d like to say. A lot of people say that woodworking is the art of building something rough and then hiding your mistakes.”
Types of wood he uses: “Wood that grows domestically. I really like to work with people who mill their own wood instead of going to commercial places. For pens, I’ll [sometimes] use some exotic woods that I’ll buy online, like this yellowheart, which grows in Africa. I never use stain or paint—I think using a stain is almost dishonest.”
First investment: “My first big investment was that red machine, the lathe. That, with some of the tools that came with it, the chisels and stuff, was about $500. I was, I think, 19 when I bought it.”
Even though he doesn’t have an official website up and running, Ty Beringer takes orders through his Facebook page (facebook.com/BeringerWood). You can also find his products at various craft shows.