Despite the fact I have been turning for a number of years, turning a pen is something I have never done before. A quick weekend project was just what I needed so this cool little slimline cocobolo pen fitted the brief just right.
Turning a Wooden Pen
The things you will need:
- A Pen Kit
- A Pen Blank
- A Finish
The first step is to cut the pen blank to size, using the two brass tubes for reference roughly mark the blank to length. This can be slightly oversize but should not be marked undersized.
It may also help to mark a line through the one already marked so the grain can be aligned later on.
Next cut the blank to length, I used a bandsaw but a handsaw would work fine.
The next step is to drill through the cut pen blanks, in this case the hole was 7mm, this may be different depending on the pen kit you are using, 8mm is also very common. There are a number of ways to drill through the pen blanks, one common way is to hold the work in a vice at the drill press. As you can see I improvised using a couple of lengths of wood which I cut V-shaped notches into, that way I could use my regular drill press vice. You can also purchase pen blank vices, but they seemed a little expensive.
If you do not have a drill press you can always use your lathe instead. Simply hold the blanks in the chuck and drill through the blanks using a drill bit held in a Jacobs chuck fitted to the tailstock. This is in fact a very accurate way of performing this procedure, although it certainly does not need to be perfect!
Scuff the outside of the brass tubes in preparation for gluing.
Then using a suitable adhesive, glue the tubes into both pen blanks.
I used 5 minute epoxy although cyanoacrylate (CA) glue is also a very popular choice for pen making, polyurethane glues will also work.
Once the glue is dry the pen blanks need to be trimmed so that they are flush to the ends of the brass tubes. This procedure ensures the end of the pen blanks are perpendicular to the inside of the tubes, which is important in ensuring a professional fit of the finished pen.
This procedure is usually performed using a barrel trimmer (seen above to the right). Used with a cordless drill the protruding rod sits inside the brass tubes and the cutter-head trims the ends of the blanks square. I didn’t have one of these at the time so I rigged up a crude way to use an old forstner bit at the drill press.
Here the finished trimming can be seen, the method I used just about worked but if you can find a barrel trimmer it would make life quite a bit easier on yourself.
The next stage is actually turning the pen, I used a pen mandrel to mount the pen blanks on the lathe. I used slimline bushings to fill the space on the pen mandrel (the little black spacers). The tailstock is also brought up to support the end of the pen mandrel.
Using the bushings turning is made very easy, simply turn the blanks to the same diameter as the bushings.
I like the look of a simple straight pen so I did not turn a curve into this particular pen.
With the turning complete I could sand the pen smooth (up to 600 grit) and apply a finish. Most “film” finishes will be fine, I used lacquer although again, CA glue is a popular choice for finishing pens.
Once dried I polished the finish using steel wool and fine grit sandpaper (up to 10,000 grit). I also used a little paste wax to help get a nice shine on the pen. You will likely hear of “Renaissance wax” more than once if you begin pen turning, Renaissance wax is simply a popular brand of Microcrystalline paste wax which pen turners often use, favored for its fine finish and reasonable durability.
Now the pen is ready for assembly, this is simply a case of pressing the parts into the brass tubes. First is the pen tip, I used a quick action clamp for this, but again, a commercially available jig can also be purchased to do this.
Next the twist mechanism is pressed in, this took more force to do than the tip so I used the bench vice instead.
The twist mechanism needs to be pressed in by the correct depth so when the ballpoint is protruding it does so by the right amount.
Finally the clip and cap of the pen are pressed into the top blank and the pen is ready to put together.
The video bellow demonstrates how this pen was made. If you enjoy the video be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to watch more woodworking videos.
Here is a closer look at the finished pen!