Turning pens on a lathe is one of those addicting hobbies you come across in woodworking. They can be made from start to finish in about 30 minutes and can be very profitable at craft shows. There are a ton of gadgets available for pen turning which may be confusing. In the video above I simplify the process and break down what pen turning accessories you need and the ones you may not need. The following steps are the basics in getting started in pen turning. Once you have these down you can start to get into the more complicated pen kits and work with segmented pieces as well as acrylics and non traditional materials. I am by no means an expert turner so if you have any suggestions and pen turning tips, leave them in the comments below. As always, be safe, stay passionate and make something!
Pen Turning Supplies and Tools
- Pen Press/Drilling Jig
- Adjustable Pan Mandrel
- Slimline Bushings
- 7mm Drill Bit
- Pen Turning Tools
- Barrel Cleaner/Pen Mill Kit
- Live Mandrel Saver
- Slimline Pen Kit
- Pen Blanks
- Pen Turning Polish
Step 1: Pen Blank
You’ll need to start off with a 3/4″ square stock. If you don’t have the tools to cut your own blanks you can purchase them pre-cut.
Step 2: Cutting Pen Blank to Length
We’ll grab the brass tubes from the slimline pen kit and cut our blanks slightly longer than the tubes.
Step 3: Drilling Pen Barrel Holes
Now you’ll drill a perpendicular hole in each piece. This pen drilling jig from Rockler makes drilling these holes easier but you can also use a handscrew clamp. Mark your center line and drill all the way through. Do this with both pieces.
Step 4: Gluing in Pen Tube Barrel
Next you’ll glue the brass tubes into the blanks with CA glue, otherwise known as super glue or crazy glue. I’m roughing up the surface with sandpaper for a better hold. Just apply a bit of glue, twist it in and let it sit for a few minutes to dry.
Step 5: Barrel Cleaner / Pen Mill
Now you’ll use a barrel cleaner pen mill in the drill press. This will clean out any glue that got into the tube and at the same time square up and flush the ends with the brass tube. You’ll want to drill drown just until you see the brass tube. Repeat this on each end on both pieces.
Step 6: Pen Mandrel
Next you’ll mount the pen mandrel in the lathe. Place a slimline bushing on each and in between the blanks. Secure the tailstock and you’re ready to start turning.
Step 7: Turning the Pen
You can make the body any shape you want but I find a nice simple and slender look works best for the slimline pens. Be sure to turn each end of the blanks to the same diameter as the bushings.
Step 8: Pen Sanding
Once you get the shape you want you can begin sanding. Between each grit I like to stop the late and sand with the grain to remove any scratches.
Step 9: Pen Finishing
And just like any project there are a hundred ways to finish it. Choose one that works best for you. You could use a pen polish made just for wood turning. Other alternatives include using CA glue and buffing it out for a high gloss. I’ve also had success with spray lacquer or just using wax.
Step 10: Pressing the Upper Pen Tube
Once you’re done with the finishing process you can remove the pieces from the lathe and start assembling your pen.Start with the clip and the cap and press that onto the upper tube.
Step 11: Pressing the Lower Pen Tube
Then you’ll press the tip into the lower tube.
Step 12: Twist Mechanism
Now you’ll press the twist mechanism into the other end of the lower tube. You’ll need to be careful and not go past the indicator ring. If you go past this ring it’s nearly impossible to recover and you’ll need to start over with a new kit.
Step 13: Pen Assembly
Now you can slip on the center ring, thread the ink cartridge and push the two assemblies together.