Pen making

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Blog entry by conwaydog posted 02-13-2008 04:38 AM 1078 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

While making my first pen for my wife for Valantines day, the items needed ran me about 100 bucks. I turned the first section of wood, and the motor goes. Few days later and 50 bucks later, back in business. I finished the first section and started on the next block and the first one split from the end bushings. No problem, glued and secured in a socket that worked as a nice clamp. A day later the glue dried nice and continued with turning the second section and the first and finished section split half way down from the bushing on the other end. Needles to say now I am in the market for some new pen stock and pen turning shaft due to the impulsive pounding from a turning knife (yea it was worth it!) I’m not looking for sholder to cry on but a supportive laugh and advice on pens. Hind sight says to turn both sections equal and to be more careful near the end. Someone tell me if I’m on the right track here because could have bought alot of roses for what I’m going to have in this pen.

8 comments so far

View Grumpy's profile


23997 posts in 3873 days

#1 posted 02-13-2008 07:29 AM

Getting glue all along the inside of the wood is critical Conway because you end up turning a piece that is very thin. What glue are you using?.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3897 days

#2 posted 02-13-2008 12:03 PM

Ya, but you can’t make the roses for her.

View Huckleberry's profile


218 posts in 3875 days

#3 posted 02-13-2008 12:50 PM

Sand your tubes really well before you put the CA glue. I would use the Super T it is a good gap filler. I also recommend some type of debonder for when you could become really attached to the project. I don’t know what adhesive you were using but using this CA there is not a lot of time to mess around. Get a hefty amout of glue on there and then get the tube into the blank entirely on the first shot.

-- I cut it twice and the damn thing is still too short!@#$%

View toyguy's profile


1654 posts in 3860 days

#4 posted 02-14-2008 03:02 AM

Just a thought..Did you look at the video that Tom Mot did here at the LJ’s…... was very good I thought. Check it out.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4423 days

#5 posted 02-14-2008 03:12 AM

I use 5 minute epoxy glue to put the tubes in the blanks. And I’ve can only remember one blowout. maybe the block was wetter than normal and it shrunk and split.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View conwaydog's profile


42 posts in 3792 days

#6 posted 02-14-2008 07:09 PM

Nobody laugh. I was turning the wood w/out the inserts. I thought you turn the wood then glue the inserts. The video was great, thanks toyguy. I’m trying round 2 tonight.

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 4349 days

#7 posted 02-16-2008 07:42 AM

you’ve got a nice first pen there. most of us learn from our mistakes, I know I do (hopefully anyway!).
I don’t know about you, but I’m an instructions guy. I also don’t know where you buy your pen kits, but if you look at, they typically have instructions available for each pen kit. here’s the link to their slimline instructions:

slimlines can be tricky as they are very thin when turned. if you can turn a slimline, you can turn anything.

grab another kit and another blank and make yourself a pen to match your wife’s.

View bloggstein's profile


11 posts in 3777 days

#8 posted 02-16-2008 08:47 AM

Was the wood possibly still a bit wet? Other than snakewood and some of the ebony family, I don’t normally see much issue with wood actually splitting as long as they’re dry. Some woods can be a bit sensitive to heat from sanding and will develop cracks from it that sometimes don’t show up immediately. I have had a few blanks that were a bit on a the damp side split in two before as the wood dried out.

As for being careful at the ends, a light touch and a sharp skew chisel are your best bets there. I turn pens almost exclusively with a skew, and have a piece of MDF coated with tormek diamond paste sitting next to the lathe to touch up the edge with as needed. A fine stone, or even a piece of 1000 grit wet/dry paper stuck to something flat would do just as well.

Experience also plays a big part in the whole process. You’ll ruin a few blanks here and there as you get started. My suggestion would be to get a dozen or two of the very cheapest pen kits (You should be able to find 7mm slimline kits for under $2 a kit online pretty easily) you can find, and just start blowing through them with a cheap wood. Heck, you can even just take an offcut of red oak and cut it into blanks, and get to working on shaping, sanding, and finishing. By the time you get to about the 10th one, you’ll probably be seeing some pretty marked improvements. On second thought, the red oak would be particularly good for practicing finishing. The open grain is a good challenge in learning to get a smooth, glossy finish.

The pen in your blog looks great, by the way! If you need some practice blanks, give me a yell. I could send you out a whole box of some native species and a few fun ones for later, too.

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