Pen turning is a popular hobby. Typically, one uses a small lathe to turn pens (fountain, rollerball, or click or twist ballpoint) out of exotic hardwood, or, in some cases, acrylic. In addition to pens, other items of similar construction can be turned, such as mechanical pencils, seam rippers, crochet hooks, and keychains. Manufacturers supply kit parts containing the hardware. In most cases, these are constructed by gluing a metal tube into the wood and turning this on a mandrel. PS:One has a small Wen lathe that can do this well, and a collection of tools specific to pen turning.
Kits for pen turning can be acquired from many suppliers:
- Penn State Industries - Has a very large selection of pen kits and other items and tooling
The "standard" for pen turning is a 7mm mandrel. One will need to purchase bushings specific to the type of pen, which adapt it so that the pen blank can fit on the 7mm mandrel and also provide a reference for the size one will need to turn the pen blank so it is flush with the metal pen hardware. Bushings can be damaged by turning, sanding, and finishing. As such, these are considered user-supplied consumables. One should watch the diameter of the bushing and try not to damage them when turning.
Kits frequently are classified by tube size. We currently have hardware to make pens with the following tube sizes:
- 7 mm
- 8 mm
- 3/8 inch
- 10 mm
Larger sizes are common for some larger fountain pens, and other less common sizes exist as well. Over time, we anticipate PS:One's tooling inventory for pen turning to grow.
Pen blanks typically come in sizes of around 3/4" x 3/4" x 5-6" which is suitable for most small pens. Larger fountain pens may need 1" x 1" blanks. Exotic hardwoods are popular, as are various engineered acrylics with color patterns.
Trimming, Drilling, and Squaring the Blank
Most pens are made in two pieces, in which case the kit comes with two tubes. The pen blank needs to be cut to length, slightly larger than the length of the tube. Marks should be placed on the blank before cutting so orientation can be established later, which is an important consideration in making sure the grain matches.