So you have been to a show or two and met the turning guy, Now you want to turn them. Well, great news if you’re already a turner you can buy the equipment for less than the price of a gouge, the biggest expense is the cost of a lathe.
The list of tools to make a pen. The biggest outlay the cost of a lathe and associated equipment. If you haven’t tried woodturning, it’s a marvelous idea to try a turning club to see if suitable. People already doing woodwork won’t require all the specialist gear, I use basic tools
Choose A Kit
To start you will need a kit and directions. Slim line and Gatsby or its clones don’t come with plans but you can download them as these Streamline instructions. With high quality pen kits as from Penn-State or Bear Tooth Woods the directions in with the kit.
What Is A Pen Blank
A blank the raw basic material to turn the body. With wood online a vast choice for any you can think of. You can use exotic timber from anywhere. Penturning a great way to try new wood for little outlay you can use in other areas.
How Long Are Pen Blanks?
150 mm and 20 – 22 mm square, fine for most designs. Watch dimensions if making one of the bigger ones. It can work out cheaper to buy bowl or spindle sections if you make a lot of one type.
Different Mandrel Types
A choice of different types available with different price points, Rotur universal priced at £25, Axminster evolution £40.
In, the photo both bottom two adjustable with the ability to replace the rod. With the last two you can either correct for length or use spacers.
Small cylindrical metal pieces that go on a rod either end of the brass tubes. Bushes are specific to each kit with exceptions detailed here.
Metal bush allows you to turn to dimension. Slimline bushings are all the same size. For others we must read instructions to see location and size of each. If you get hooked with this hobby, it will want a method to keep bushings separate and organized
How To Drill Blanks
A method required to make holes either a drill press or cordless. You can get a dedicated vice, though I use a regular machinist vice. Measure the brass with dial calipers and select a suitable brad point bit. Square each and work from middle of each part.
We can do blanks on the lathe itself if you have suitable chuck jaws.
Pen mills come in different sizes with shaft and head interchangeable between them for different size tubes. Not every size covered, this will need ingenuity on your part.
Bottom one pictured is great for the entry level Streamline and Designer kits suitable for 7mm.
For, wood different grits from 120 through to 600. A box of grits available for pen turners or my personal favourite Mirka abranet. Regular paper needed to prepare for the finish followed by Micro-mesh for final polishing.
How To Turn A Pen
You need wood and a kit, place the brass tube on blank and mark centre. Over to the bandsaw and cut it, mark each part for centre alignment. Two lines across the middle for later alignment.
You can use a sledge or freehand, it will need squaring up. The cheap plastic centre finders are only two pounds and good for normal, round stock.
You can use an ordinary vice to clamp it. Make sure the bit is upright in both plains and wood square in vice. Wood on the bottom to stop’s blow out, don’t force the bit through in one go. Work from middle, and peck at it taking your time to avoid blowout.
Key the brass before they get inserted into the wood blank. I use epoxy for acrylic blanks and polyurethane on wood. I don’t use CA glue unless I have to cause it can fail. Rough up each tube and insert from middle. Twist it as you push in and leave to dry overnight.
Once dried use a barrel trimmer to square up each end, just till it touches brass. Over enthusiasm will cause a tube to be short on sierra types. You can do it on a disc sander, but it wants a Jig to hold the tube. An ordinary fence isn’t good enough, it will square the blank to disc not the tube.
Once trimmed place on a mandrel with bushings and centre marks alined. You can adjust for length or use spacers, don’t over tighten. Push up tailstock and ease in the quill with lathe on slow so it centralize then tighten. Just tighten up don’t bend the rod.
Preference for tools 19 mm Continental Gouge and 12 mm skew. With speed on a slow turn from middle out to prevent splintering. Once corners knocked off increase speed and shape using a skew chisel for finishing cuts. The wood should finish shy of bushings for sanding.
Sand to 600 grit then with a kitchen towel apply two thin coats of CA. Allow a few minutes to dry between coats, build up with 6 coats of medium.
When you finish with the CA, polish with micro-mesh. There’s 9 different grades up to 12,000 grit. They’re colour-coded just dip it in water, keep it wet. The wood needs cleaning between each different grade, so you don’t contaminate them.
Now it needs assembly you can use a press or bench vice. Insert nib end first, I use a piece of Corian to save my bench. Make sure it’s square and straight if not it will break.
There should be a smooth transition between metal and wood. Twist mechanism next, make sure the action work’s before you press home. I go in past the brass and check the fit before I press anymore. Now check fit and adjust as required. When bottom assembled push centre ring on, it’s tight till past ridges.
Do the top in the same way and push top barrel onto bottom, line grain up for effect. If you need further help, I have a video on YouTube.
Wood turning no problem what sets a writing instrument apart and stand out above others is fine details. Figured wood, finish and grain running through both sections, just small details. If you have any tips or advice maybe I forgot something? Please leave your comments.
If you look around for help and advice, lots of forums with IAP the biggest. For more advanced pen turning you might find articles below interesting.