A list of information for pens made from wood that having used over time while making these pens or other wood crafts and gifts. I have tried to describe some of them and their properties and include a link to a better technical description and all so to an actual pen. More pictures of figured wooden pens in this article on British pens. or look out for the tags figured, burl.
Just an opinion on using them and things learned while using these woods over the past fifteen years. The list is a work in progress so please be patient.
Ash Olive, there seems a difference of opinion on this depending on where you read but it definitely figured. Just as easy to work with as normal Ash. This Olive Ash pen a great example of lots of character.
Beech Spalted sought after by woodworkers for the figured wood. Sometimes black lines to varying degrees are present. The more lines the more desirable. The wood can cause problems if not caught at the right time as the fungi eat the wood and make it too weak and punky. This Beech pen a good example showing lots of unique character.
Bubinga a dense reddish African hardwood (not as red as Padauk) that has tight grain. Perfect for boxes, turning, and pens or accent pieces in any of these.
Buckeye Burl, I have not linked to a technical description as I cannot find one that does it justice. To be usable this wood needs impregnating with resin in a vacuum chamber and has one or two dyes added for effect. This is a stunning wooden rollerball pen.
Burl, Burr, a growth on the side of the tree caused either by insects, disease, or fungi. The burl is one of nature’s Beauty’s they can produce the stunning figure and grain. Also, the most difficult to work with because of the conflicting grain directions. I have some stunning examples such the Buckeye above or this Burl Oak Rollerball Pen.
Cherry easy to work with and turns a golden colour as it ages. Used a lot in furniture, I use it with other woods for pen turning with little figure to show on something as small as a pen.
Coolabah Australian woods are hard and this one is no exception although this one is not as dusty as some. The wood has beautiful colours and figure, also expensive and not available in large quantities. This fountain Pen is Stunning.
Cocobolo is a hard, dense oily wood from the rosewood family. Sharp tools are a must then no problem working with it. A favourite wood of mine as with many woodworkers for the colours and density it makes stunning pens and other wood turning.
Curly Maple Not a species but a description of the grain of the wood. Just look at the beautiful figure on the two pictured. Figured and a beautiful wood. Having hand turned a few ball point pens from the wood it’s a pleasure to turn and polish.
Elm an open-pored hardwood darker than oak but not as dark as walnut. The pores will need filling if used for fine furniture. The Elm was once a part of the English countryside but now long gone, what we use now comes from America. This is a luxury pen set made with Elm.
Holly scarce to find that has been conditioned well. If not conditioned well, the wood will appear a dirty grey colour. Difficult to get in any quantity because it grows so slowly. Dense and white they use this for turning or inlay banding with the American federal period a good example.
Iroko a coarse-grained wood suitable for external use. The Iroko pens a golden brown colour.
Kingwood Originally called Princes Wood, they used it in the 17th century on the furniture for French Kings. A beautiful wood with a nice figure.
Kingwood Mexican as above.
Lacewood when English woodworkers talk of this wood they are meaning quarter sawn London plane. Those from America may know other types of wood as lacewood. Two examples of these pens are in the blog post – on pens and variety.
Lignum Vitae the hardest commercially available wood (Bull oak from Australia is harder but not commercially available). Lignum vitae is also oily, so oily they used it as self-lubricating bearings on propeller shafts. Care needed when glueing for a good joint. This wood is also green so aside from pens it has its uses in wooden intarsia and other crafts.
Lime a soft pale white/cream wood used by woodcarvers. Who would have thought it would make such a striking design? Lime being pale in colour makes it also good for intarsia.
Mahogany African a close relation to Cuban mahogany and one of the three true mahoganies. The mahogany is not hard nor dense and is easy to work with sharp tools and takes a nice finish.
Masur Birch not a species, this wood is beautiful and one of my all-time favourites with the grain, the eyes of the pinholes and chatoyance there are lots going on with this wood. The Fountain Pen is stunning.
Oak used throughout England for hundreds of years both on land and sea. Lots of the wall panelling in the grand old English houses was Oak, parts of the English Battleships that Lord Nelson commanded where English Oak. Lots of furniture both inside and out has been made with it over the years and still used today. This was also one of the woods favoured by the old craftsmen, although hard it is easy to work with and makes a great pen.
Padauk a beautiful dark red, used by cabinetmakers for furniture accents and liked by woodturners. It is easy to work with but the open pores can make it hard work for pen turning. This Padauk pen a nice example.
Pau Rosa part of the rosewood family it is colourful and takes a nice finish. It is expensive and hard to get in any quantity. The Pau Rosa fountain Pen made with it is eye-catching and Unique.
Purpleheart a hardwood and hard on the cutting edge of tools this wood can be difficult to work. There are many trees in the species group with not all able to hold the deep purple colour. Yes, the wood is a natural purple. I like this wood and have made lots of different style pens with it. I will link to a favourite but maybe you should try searching for “purple” to see what is current.
Thuya Burr one of my favourite woods for pen turning with so much figure and character in the grain. The colours and figure on these Thuya Pens just stunning. A dense wood so sharp tools and some skill required.
Walnut a dark brown wood, nice to work with used for lots of crafts by English craftsmen, I prefer to use this on intarsia or as accent pieces unless figured.
Walnut American Black, a dark-coloured hardwood with a nice figure, also easy to work with and finishes well. Here an American Black Walnut design.
Wenge an African wood chocolate and dark brown used in high-class furniture and as a veneer. The wood sometimes difficult to work because it likes to splinter. Care and thought needed for pens depending on the grain orientation and the finish. Some finishes may turn out jet black on the pen. If the grain is running in the wrong direction, there is a solution in the blog post-treating the wood.
Zebrano or zebra wood gets the name from its resemblance to zebra stripes. Attention to grain direction needed for pens showing figure.