Pencil or scribe, what's your preference?

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Blog entry by JoeinGa posted 12-10-2012 09:04 PM 4590 reads 6 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I generally use pencils, but last year a co-worker came to me and said “I know you like to build things in your wood shop, but have you ever done any working with metal?” He then showed me a scribe someone had given him to use in HIS shop (he’s an amateur blacksmith). I was interested in trying these and so I put my creative side to pondering…. And within about two weeks I had made about 20 of them. I gave him 10 to share with his blacksmithing buddies and have given several others away to folks I’ve met at my store. I dont know who came up with the original idea so I dont know if I’m supposed to give credit to anyone, but here’s my take on making scribes ( and they work as good on wood as metal)

I start with an assortment of “stuff” that I think might make good handles and adornments, Some are cabinet knobs and some is just stuff I find in my hardware, plumbing, and electrical parts. The shafts are made of simple bar stock.

Depending on what kind of handle I’m gonna use, I might have to grind the stock to make it “rounder” so I can cut threads on the end. I also usually have to drill and thread any cabinet knobs I use

Then it’s on to the griinder to start shaping the pointy end.

I use a buffing wheel to start cleaning up the bar. I own a motorcycle, and any of you that also have one know that I have 2 full shelves of polishes, rubbing compounds and cleaning agents. So there’s plenty of polishing stuff to chose from LOL

I use a “hot wrench” (that’s a propane torch for you non-mechanics out there) to heat the shaft getting ready to twist it. You can use a pencil torch to generate heat at different areas of the shaft to get more than one spirial shape if you like)

When it’s glowing red-hot I use a large adjustable wrench to make the twists. I tried vice grips but they bite into the hot metal and leave some pretty deep gashes that takes too much grinding away to remove. The more you twist, the tighter that spirial gets.

I chuck the shaft in my drill press and using several grits of sandpaper I start finishing the point.

Now it’s back to the buffing wheel to do the final polishing. I made thie one yesterday and it took me about two hours total. You can see the cabinet knob and brass ferrel I chose in the first pic above.

Oops, I forgot to add. I heat treat just the tips by heating them to VERY red-hot, then SLOWLY lowering them into a can of common motor oil. I forgot to take a pic of that. Then I re-polish out the dark burn marks again.

And here’s some of the ones I made last year when he first told me about these. As you can see, you can use your imagination on how much or how little to polish, and on what kind of spirials you want. Also think outside the box when looking at things to use for knobs and adornments. I have some pieces of plumbing fittings, lamp parts, copper tubing, brass ferrells, and even a wrist pin from a car engine in that top picture.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

23 comments so far

View chrisstef's profile


17385 posts in 3004 days

#1 posted 12-10-2012 09:27 PM

I gotta say those are really cool. I go back and forth between pencils, crayons, soap stone, marking knife and a SW awl for marking. Depending on which one i find first. Darn shop gnomes be stealin my stuff all the time. They always put it back in the weirdest places.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Grumpymike's profile


2238 posts in 2313 days

#2 posted 12-10-2012 09:59 PM

I admire thoes who make their own tools … and use them.
Shop Gnomes moved into my place too, I had to buy a box full of 5mm pentels and 6 more tapes … I even sprayed for ‘em but they are still there.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View BusterB's profile


1961 posts in 2006 days

#3 posted 12-10-2012 11:37 PM

Dang Joe, those are pretty sweet….fine work sir

-- Buster, Ocoee TN (Critics are men who watch a battle from a high place then come down and shoot the survivors - Hemingway)

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2052 days

#4 posted 12-11-2012 12:02 AM

awesome, i might have to build some

-- Joel

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#5 posted 12-30-2012 04:47 PM

This is a super blog Joe and most unique and beautiful designs and a interesting build. I’m so pleased to own one the scribes you picture here as a real work of art and as a random act of kindness from you. Thank you for this wonderful gift and kind act.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Dale J Struhar Sr's profile

Dale J Struhar Sr

493 posts in 3128 days

#6 posted 12-30-2012 08:09 PM

Very cool. Nice work.

-- Dale, Ohio

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14172 posts in 3981 days

#7 posted 12-30-2012 08:24 PM

well done … great posting

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Nollie's profile


146 posts in 2784 days

#8 posted 12-31-2012 03:56 PM

Very nice !!

-- Leon .

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3083 days

#9 posted 01-01-2013 05:46 AM

Beautiful scribes, I use scribes when I need to mark metal, but tend to stay with mechanical pencils, from 5mm
to 9 mm for marking wood, but these look too cool, so I am going to have to make a few and see how they
work with wood. Thank you for providing us with the inspiration.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View 76winger's profile


151 posts in 3115 days

#10 posted 01-04-2013 01:26 AM

Really nice looking scribes and some very unique handles as well!

-- Dave, See some of my creations at:

View FeralVermonter's profile


100 posts in 1969 days

#11 posted 01-06-2013 02:55 AM

Inspired. Making one now.

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2005 days

#12 posted 01-06-2013 01:59 PM

Thanks for the comments guys. I think the first one I made had the brass lampshade topper and then I started looking thru my “junk drawers” for anything that might look cool. Since a scribe is not something you’d typically beat on, I figured as long as the pointy end was good to go, the rest is just cosmetics.

@FV,,, show us yours when it’s done. I like to see someone else’s take on it.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3426 days

#13 posted 01-06-2013 02:15 PM

Really nice scribes. Great job on all of them.
My eyes require that the line be a bit darker, though. So I end up using a pencil anyway.
But, those scribes are very cool.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Woodknack's profile


11626 posts in 2378 days

#14 posted 01-07-2013 11:05 PM

Thanks Joe for handsome scribe. These are fantastic and you have a talent.

-- Rick M,

View OnlyJustME's profile


1562 posts in 2375 days

#15 posted 01-07-2013 11:16 PM

Really cool idea and a good way to use up some of the old junk parts that accumulate. I’ll have to try making some. Have you tried using cut nails for it?

-- In the end, when your life flashes before your eyes, will you like what you see?

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