Getting into Wood Turning can be quite exciting. One day you are making furniture, the next you are carving bowls and today we will be looking at how to make a wood pen out of lumber blank. Making a pen is quite a rewarding experience and is usually one of the first projects you can do on your lathe. It takes little previous knowledge, but teaches you to be meticulous with your tools and provides you with a very satisfying experience and reward at the enc. This article will walk you through everything you need to do in order to complete this exciting endeavor.
1. Acquiring the Wood Pen Blanks & Internal Mechanism
You will need two items for this project. Although it would be nice to make this happen with wood alone, you do need the internal pen mechanism to make the final product appealing. There are many options for both of those and we recommend that you shop around especially for the different types of wood. Here are some of our favorites:
- Pen Kit – Legacy Woodturning, Slimline Pen Kit
- Wood Pen Blanks – Pen Blank Variety Pack- Bloodwood, Cocobolo, Padauk, YellowHeart, Jatoba (10-Pack)
Many types of wood are used for pen making. It isn’t exactly critical to pick one over another and is typically a matter of preference. Some of the most sought after types of pens are made out of Cherry, Ebony, Maple and other types of rare woods. We recommend going based on your personal preference and getting inspired by searching for pictures online.
2. Other Wood Pen Turning Tools you Might Need
Pen Turning is not new. Therefore, multiple tools have been developed to make this task much easier for you. If you’re willing to invest yourself into this and build a few pens, we recommend getting the following tools: mandrel & pen press.
Woodturning Pen Mandrel
The mandrel is used to mount all of the components onto the lathe. It allows you to insert the blanks and properly machine them to your liking. Here’s our choice for this tool; we highly encourage you to get a mandrel.
- Wood Pen Mandrel – Legacy Woodturning, Pen Mandrel #2 Morse Taper
Wood Pen Press
The press allows you to properly insert the components of the pen into the blanks. Although it may seem simple, it is much easier to do with a tool due to alignment and pressure. A user can use the lever to force the components into the blank.
- Wood Pen Press – PEN PRESS BY PEACHTREE WOODWORKING
3. Preparing the Pen Blanks
Once you have received the blanks, you need to prepare them for your lathe and the central mechanism. The first step is to drill straight through the center of the blank. Begin by marking one center on one end of the blank. You can easily do this by drawing diagonal lines from one corner to the other. Use a drill to create a 7mm hole through the blank. It’s not crucial that you achieve perfection as you will be able to balance the wood once it’s turning. Complete this step by cutting the blank into two equal length pieces.
4. Installing the Brass Tubes
One of the components in your pen kit should be a set of two brass tubes. You will need to insert them into the blanks you’ve prepared in the previous step. Begin by sanding them with rough grit paper in order to help adhesion. Coat them in glue or epoxy. Insert each tube into each wooden piece you have. Make sure to push them all the way in.
Let the glue dry to ensure proper bonding between the brass and the wood. Once that’s done, shave off the excess wood on each end of the blanks. This will make sure that your blanks are properly sizes and caps are able to reach where they must during the assembly process.
5. Turning the Wooden Pen
We are almost ready to turn on our lathe. Assemble all of the components onto the mandrel we discussed above. You can use the diagram provided with the mandrel as a guide, but the order is as follows: bushing, blank, bushing, blank, bushing, tightening nut. Finish by securing the whole skewer onto the lathe. On a side note, in case you are wondering, bushings are used as a hard limit to indicate the minimal thickness you should have. As a rule of thumb, your wood should be thicker than the diameter of the bushings.
Using a narrow spindle gouge, start working on your pen.Your goal is to shape the wood into a desired shape. A typical pen form can be seen above, but we encourage you to be creative and go for a personal design.
6. Sanding & Polishing it Down
Remove the tool rest and use 180 grit sand paper on the wood. Proress toward a finer grit of 400 to give your pen that nice finish and feel.
Stop your lathe and apply wood polish with a cloth or rag. Turn the lathe back on and apply consecutive coats of polish. Make sure to let the wood rest between each coat. Applying several coats will give it a very nice finish. Finalize your creating by buffing it with wax.
7. Putting it All Together on a Press
Now that you have the design complete, it’s time to take your press out. Begin by inserting the writing tip into the barrel. Make sure that you’ve aligned your components correctly. Improper alignment may result in poor look and irreversible damage to the pen. Follow up by pressing the twist mechanism into the opposite end of the barrel. There is an indent on the transmission which you need to align with the barrel end. Install the pen refill mechanism and test the pen by pushing it in. Make sure that the tip comes out about 3mm. If that’s not the case, push the mechanism further in. Press the clip into the other blank you have on hand. Slide the center spacer onto the twist mechanism. Finalize the pen by putting both assemblies together by sliding the cap barrel over the exposed end of the twist mechanism.
You should now have a beautifully carved pen in your possession. A similar pen would cost up to hundreds of dollars online or in a store. Take your time to experiment with different designs, types of wood or even kits. You can purchase kits as the one we covered above, with a separate cap and several other varieties!