Richard Altenhofen creating custom pens. His career in quality management has carried the goal of customer delight into his pen business.
My love and appreciation for wood goes back to my roots growing up in Oregon. My father was a sheet metal worker, but he did a lot of woodworking around the house and I learned much from him.
In the 1990s I was reading an Arizona Highways catalog and noticed they were advertising pens made from mesquite. That launched me into buying my first lathe. It was a Sherline lathe, actually a small metalturning lathe. I modified it for pen making, and I was hooked
My full time woodturning career began when my corporate career ended in 2007. I began doing street fairs around Phoenix and the rest of Arizona. I learned a lot about pricing, marketing, product development, customer relations, and much more. During this period, I created a number of marketable objects for my company. My garlic keepers were especially successful.
In 2015 I stopped doing shows for health reasons. My back developed a bulging disc that prevented me from the physical labor involved in setting up and breaking down. At the same time I stopped doing large turned objects, again for health reasons. I am allergic to wood and turning large objects creates huge amounts of dust.
Now I have returned to my roots as a craftsman making pens. Historically I have created pens using purchased components, or “kit pens.” Now I have a number of designs in mind where only my handcrafted components are used.
In the years to come, I plan to explore those designs. And I hope you will come along on this journey with me..
About the Materials I Use
I am sensitive to origins of the materials I use. Most of the wood I use I collect myself. In the case of desert ironwood, I only take dead trees. Other woods I collect after winter storms. If not for me and other woodturners, this wood would end up in a landfill. The woods I purchase come from certified sources that are responsibly harvested. The materials from animal sources (skins, ivory, antlers) are by-products from humanely harvested animals. When I use ivory I ensure it is from legal sources. It may be mastodon ivory or reclaimed ivory from a piano keyboard.
A note about the ebony that I use. Gabon ebony is listed as endangered and is not harvested in a sustainable way. Now normally I would just walk away from ebony, but I was offered a large stack of ebony that had been outside and unprotected in the desert sun for years. It was in rough shape; much of it was nothing more than firewood. Can you imagine burning a piece of ebony? I took the stack so that I could save whatever was left. So when you see me using ebony, remember that I am honoring this noble wood by rescuing it from decay.