Making a wood turned pen

Now that I’ve had the wood lathe for a few months and have made an unusually large number of pens during that time, I thought I’d breakdown how I make my pens.  It may not be the right way, it may not be the best way, it may not be your way, but it’s my way right now and that could change tomorrow if I find a better way.

We’ll start off with a video of the process.  Start here:

So, first things first.  You need wood.  You can buy a blank or do like I do and scrounge for it.  That scrounging comes in the form of firewood, logs, or cutting down that dead cherry tree in my back yard.  If you’re cutting your own wood you’ll need to let it dry too.

Next, take that blank and cut it to size.  That size depends on the pen kit you’re using.  What you cut the blank on depends on your equipment.  I cut my blanks on the table saw, but you can use a hand saw, band saw or a sharp rock if you’d like.  Just leave each piece a bit longer than the tubes.

After the blank is cut to size you need to drill the hole for the tube.  The hole is also dependent on the pen kit and size of the tube.  Take your time to make sure you drill this hole square down the center of the blank.  I’ve ruined a few blanks rushing through this step.

Now that you have a blank with holes in it, it’s time to glue the tubes in.  Start by scuffing the tubes with sandpaper and then glue them in using epoxy or CA glue.

With your tubes glued into your blank, you can now use a pen mill to trim and square the ends of your blanks to the tubes.  The wood should be flush with the tubes.

This is where the fun starts!  Chuck your blank onto the pen mandrel and start turning your pen.  Take your time here since it’s super hard to add wood back after you take it off.  When I turn the pen I’m shooting to have the ends flush with the pen hardware.  Once I have the shape I want I sand through 220, 320, and 400 grits before I apply a finish.

It’s time to make it shine!  I use a CA finish on my pens.  There are other options out there, but this is the only one I’ve tried so far.  I swap out my bushings for non-stick bushings, set the speed as low as I can on the lathe and apply 7 coats of CA.  My first coat is thin and the rest are medium.  I also use CA accelerator to speed up the curing time between coats.

We now have a good layer of CA on the pen that we can now polish up.  I use Micro Mesh polishing pads for this and go from their 600-12000 grit pads.  After I work through all of the grits I use Meguiars PlastX polish to buff the pen out.

With that shiny pen blank in hand, the last step is to assemble the pen.  For this follow the directions from your pen kit.  I use an arbor press for this step since we don’t have a pen press.  Be careful not to use too much force when pressing in the parts as you can easily crack the finish or separate it from the wood.