The art of pen making
A few simple tools can get you started on the art of making pensThe art of pen making is a woodcraft that even the beginner can master with a few tools and a bit of practice. Beautiful handcrafted pens can be made from a wide variety of woods, allowing you to custom design the right pen for everyone.
The first step is to acquire the right tools. Many of these items, such as the wood lathes, are available used if you want to try your hand at pen making before you invest. But even new, the prices of lathes and other essential pen making tools are quite affordable. Here are the basics.
A multi-speed lathe
A good wood lathe is the first piece of equipment you need to get started in pen making. Choose a heavy-weight cast iron lathe for stability and control.
A mandrel designed specifically for pen making
The mandrel works with the lathe to create the correct size and shape for a pen. A proper pen mandrel will be listed as having a 7 mm shaft, which is a standard pen size for most beginners and many experienced pen makers.
A set of pen-turning chisels
A set of steel chisels is an essential part of your pen making tool collection. Avoid carbon steel chisels, as these tend to lose their edge far too quickly and will require lots of sharpening.
A sharpening stone
Don't forget a good sharpening stone to keep your chisels in top form. Dull edges not only ruin your work, they can be a safety hazard.
A drill press and machinist's vise
Choose a drill press that can drill down at least a 2-1/2" so that it can go through the entire length of your pen blanks. A firm machinist's vise will hold your pen blanks perpendicular for drilling.
A barrel trimming set or a disc sander
One or the other needs to be used for trimming pen blanks to their proper lengths, while giving you a square end. A barrel trimmer will run about $30, but it is not ideal for all woods. If you have a belt or disc sander already, you might want to start with that.
Pen blanks or other materials for making the body of your pen
You can use a variety of woods, composites, plastics and laminates. Wooden pen blanks can run as little as a dollar or two, with more exotic woods available for about $6 and up. Or you can choose to cut your own blanks from any piece of wood or other material you select.
Adhesive, polish, sandpaper and whichever finish you select
Most of these materials are available at any home repair or woodcraft supply store.
Pen fittings and instructions for making your pen
The metal trim and ink cartridge are available as part of a pen kit, which will typically include pen making instructions. Some pen making kits also include the pen blank.
What ever materials you select, spend some time getting to know your equipment before jumping into pen making, particularly if you are not an experienced woodworker. Use scrap pieces of various woods to see how they react to your lathe and other materials. Try out your finishes on wood samples before applying them to your finished pen.
Excellent, easy to follow instructions for pen making are available in books and online.