Pen turning is many turners’ entry point into the woodturning world whether young or old. That doesn’t restrict woodturning to those new to the craft as you can make pen turning as creative and challenging as you wish.
Few tools and items are required for pen turning. A woodturners lathe, no matter of the size, is suitable for turning pens. Turning tools that handle spindle work will also help to get you started. You can also use the same tools to make other projects like letter openers, magnifying glasses, mechanical pencils and more.
Pen turning is probably the safest of all woodturning because of the size of the turning workpiece envelope and the mounting piece. Fractures can still occur and projectiles of material can still happen. The sanding dust and finishing chemicals offer the same concern as larger woodturning projects. Apply the same amount of protection as you would when turning including the protection of your eyes, face and lungs.
Below are our 10 tips for pen turning. They don’t cover everything so be sure to do more research especially if you’re just starting out.
Start with Quality Components
Like any project, the best way to end up with a quality result is to start with quality materials. Take time to research the best materials and tools, and look carefully at the quality of your items.
Use the Most Interesting Part of the Blank
There often is an interesting portion of the blank and part of lesser interest. Search for and use the most interesting part of the blank to help make your final result more appealing. The nib end of your pen will get the most visibility and you may put the less interesting portion under the clip since it gets much less attention.
Use Sharp Tools
Your tools will need to be sharp. Dull tools will force you to push on the material rather than letting the tool do the work.
Focus on the Fits
Pay attention to the detail of fits. There are many more fit interfaces on a pen than there are on most other turnings. The fit at the interface of the nib is the most important. Any flaws will reduce the satisfaction of your pen.
Make It Write Well
If you are making pens that are intended to be used then the quality of ink is central to the quality of the pens. Use a quality inkfill for pleasing and long lasting results.
Apply a Complete Finish
Of all items that you will likely to turn, a pen has the toughest life. Pens are often buried at the bottom of bags, dropped, used to make a hole or cut open tape amongst other things.
Any finish that goes on quickly and easily will often come off quickly and easily. A properly applied finish will keep the pen in good condition for years.
Quality over Quantity
Perfect your art of pen turning rather than focusing on making a large number of different pens. How well you do should depend on the quality of pens you make and how your finished products improve.
Lots of Practice
It is rare that woodturners, and particularly pen turners, ever practice their skill sets.
Necessary skills associated with pen turning from sharpening to finishing improve through practice. Practicing these skills will refine your techniques and overtime you can even become quicker at your work.
You will need to glue the brass pen tube into the blank. It should be no surprise in saying that quality glue should be used. Two of the most popular glues are thick CA (cyanoacrylate and two-party epoxy.
Expand Your Skills with Accessories
If you have grasped the art of pen making you may want to build on your skills by creating different accessories. These include boxes, display cases, centering vices or different nibs and refills. This will give you new challenges that will help you to keep refining and expanding your skills.