So you have been to a woodworking show or two and met the turning guy, Now you want to know about making wooden pens. Well, fantastic news if you’re already a turner you can buy the equipment for less than the price of a gouge. This guide should give some help with the steps involved and hardware.
Table of Contents
Tools To Make One
- Suitable Bits
- Pen Mill
- Safety Gear
- Finishing Wax
- Assembly Press
The list of kit for making wooden pens. The biggest outlay the cost of a machinery and associated tools. If you haven’t tried woodturning, it’s a marvelous idea to try a turning club to learn and see if suitable. People already doing woodworking won’t require all the specialist gear, I use basic stuff.
Choose Your Hardware
To start you will require parts and directions for making. Slim line and Gatsby or its clones do not come with plans but you can download them as these Streamline pen kit instructions. With, high quality hardware from Penn-State or Rockler the directions are supplied.
What Is A Pen Blank
Pen blanks are the raw basic material used for turning the ballpoint or fountain pen body. With wood pen blanks online a vast choice for any you can think of. You can use exotic timber from anywhere. Pen making a great way to try new wood for little outlay you can use in other areas.
How Long Are they? 150 mm and 20–22 mm square, fine for most designs. Watch dimensions if making one of the bigger custom wooden pens. It can work out cheaper to buy bowl or spindle blanks if you’re turning a lot of one type.
Pen Mandrel Types
A choice of different types purchasable from rockler with a selection of 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 add spacers.
Small cylindrical pieces that go on a rod either side of the tubes. Bushes are specific to each kit with exceptions detailed here.
A bush allows you to turn to dimension. Slimline bushings are all the same size. For others we must read instructions to see location and dimensions of each. If you get hooked on this hobby, it will want a method to keep bushings separate and organized.
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A method to drill holes either a drill press or cordless. You can get a dedicated vice for pen making, though I use a regular machinist vice. Measure the brass with dial calipers and select a sharp brad point. Square each and work from the middle of each part.
We can drill the holes on the lathe itself if you have suitable chuck jaws.
Pen mills come in a variety of sizes with shaft and head interchangeable between them for most pens. Not everyone covered, this will require ingenuity on your part making jigs.
Bottom one pictured is great for the entry level Streamline and European pens suitable for 7mm.
For, wood 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 the blanks followed by Micro-mesh for final polishing.
You can watch this video with each step covered in detail.
How To Make A Pen
You need wood and a pen kit, place the tube on the wood 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 free hand, it will want squaring up later. 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 wood is upright in both plains and square in vice. Wood on the bottom stops blow out, do not force the drill bit through in one go. Work from middle, and peck at it taking your time to avoid blowout.
Key hardware before inserting them into the wood. I use epoxy for acrylic and polyurethane on wood. I don’t use CA 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 blanks to be short on wooden sierra pens. 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 wood to disc not the tube.
Once trimmed place on a pen 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 19 mm Continental Gouges and 12 mm skew for turning pens. With lathe speed on slow start from middle out to prevent splintering. Once corners knocked off increase lathe speed and shape using a skew chisel for final cuts. The wood should be just shy of bushings for the next step, sanding.
Sand to 600 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 on pens made of wood.
When you’re finished with the CA, polish with micro-mesh. There’s 9 grades up to 12,000 grit. They’re colour-coded just dip it in water, keep it wet. The wood needs cleaning between each grade, so you don’t contaminate them.
Now it needs assembly you can use a press or bench vice. Insert nib 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 hardware and the handmade wood pen’s body. Twist mechanism next, making sure the action work before you press home. I go in past the yellow metal 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
Wood turning no problem what sets a good writing pen apart and stand out above others is fine details. Figured or exotic wood, finish and grain running through both sections, just little details when you make a wooden pen. 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. Don’t forget videos on YouTube as a resource.