As The Lathe Turns #28: Squaring Solution - Shop Made Pen Blank Squaring Tool

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Blog entry by William posted 04-07-2013 10:08 PM 6709 reads 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 27: One Step Forward...... Part 28 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 29: Sidetracked »

If you read the last blog installment, you know I was having a problem squaring the pen blanks to the tube inserts. I don’t like the barrel trimmers. The idea is a good one, but I just didn’t like the performance of the one I have. So I had an idea for a different approach.
I have seen some jigs to be used with disk sanders. I have a disk sander. However, I keep course paper on it for another purpose in my shop. The disk sander idea would involve either setting it up with finer paper, which would slow me down when I use it to hog off material on some other projects I use it one, or constantly changing paper all the time, which is a major hassle. So, going on that general sanding idea, I had an idea to go a different route.
I have learned that, when wanting to get things perfectly square and concentric at the same time, there is no better tool for the job than the lathe itself. So my idea involved sanding the blanks square on the lathe.

Here is the tool. To make it I took a length of quarter inch steel rod. I chucked it up into the morse taper end of the pen mandrel set and used sandpaper with the lathe running to get it sanded down just a hair, so the seven millimeter tubes would slip all the way across snugly, but easily at the same time. Next I drilled a quarter inch hole into a small square of wood and used epoxy to glue it onto the shaft. Once the epoxy set, I turned the block of wood down round, and perfectly straight with the shaft. Then I took two pieces of sandpaper, eight grit and two twenty grit, and sandwiched them between two pieces of wood so I could use the drill press to put clean holes though the center. I then epoxied a piece of the paper to each side of the wooden block. 
This completed the tool. I also coated the outer edge of the rounded wood with CA glue. This wasn’t absolutely necessary. I figured it would prevent some wood movement though. It couldn’t hurt.
Now for using it.

The tool simply slips into the morse taper end chuck part of the pen mandrel. For the purpose I’m using it for, I found that simply hand tightening the chuck holds the tool plenty tight enough for what I need to do. You can flip the tool either way depending on if you wish to use eighty grit or two twenty grit. I’ll usually use the finer grit. I figure if a blank is severely out of square, or extremely hard, I may have a need for the courser grit.

Then, with the lathe running at it’s slowest speed, so you don’t accidentally take off too much, slip the pen blank over the end of the shaft and touch it lightly to the paper. I suggest going slow and letting the abrasive do the work. This will assure a nicer finish on the end, extend the life of the paper, and taking your time allows you to keep a close eye on things and not sand too much away.
In the above photo, you see the back end of the pen I made yesterday with the gap in it. As a good test run, I decided to take a chance on the tool, since I was sure it would work, and fix the gap in this pen. I used a punch to knock the clip and cap off the end of it so I could give it a try. The worst that could happen would be for me to mess the pen up. If it did, it wouldn’t be the first time, and most probably won’t be the last.

Luckily, I did not have to scrap a pen today. IT WORKED!!!

If you like this pen blank squaring tool, you can build your own and send the money to….......
I’m just joking. I think this is a good idea and would be flattered if anyone likes it enough to copy it.


16 comments so far

View DIYaholic's profile


19624 posts in 2729 days

#1 posted 04-07-2013 10:17 PM

Yup, another William “run what ya brung” shop tool!!! Well done!!!

Disclaimer: No pen blanks were hurt in the…....

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View lew's profile


12153 posts in 3810 days

#2 posted 04-07-2013 10:18 PM

Cool Idea, William!!

As I was reading, I could see where you were headed. An idea jumped out at me and that was to use hook and loop. But that might be too “soft” to get a really flat blank end.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2897 days

#3 posted 04-07-2013 10:26 PM

Actually Lew, the paper I used is loop. I didn’t have the hook part to put on the wood though. I did not think about it until I was done, but when this paper inevitable wears out, I’m going to have to make another one of these. Since I used CA glue to put the paper on with, it isn’t going to come off cleanly enough to replace. On the next one, I may try to get some stick on loop to make the paper interchangable.


View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 2201 days

#4 posted 04-07-2013 11:03 PM

That’s a great idea, William. I totally agree that the lathe itself is the best place to keep things concentric. I have a need to drill the end of something 32 inches long. Think it’s time to build a steady rest.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2897 days

#5 posted 04-07-2013 11:38 PM

I’ve been looking at steady rests. I don’t need one yet, but I’ve been looking at different designs I could build because I know, with me, that it’s just a matter of time.


View clieb91's profile


3520 posts in 3989 days

#6 posted 04-08-2013 01:06 AM

William, Great solution. I am truly in need of something o work on squaring up my blanks better. I may give this idea some thought. Thanks for sharing.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View Doe's profile


1408 posts in 2884 days

#7 posted 04-08-2013 07:45 AM

Ingenious solution—simple and effective. Thanks for sharing it.

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3389 days

#8 posted 04-08-2013 08:01 AM

Great idea.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2897 days

#9 posted 04-08-2013 01:03 PM

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3358 days

#10 posted 04-08-2013 04:59 PM

really nice tool, what kind of wood is that ..its pretty wood for sure..maybe you should patent that…become a millionair, move to california… a swimming pool…......

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2897 days

#11 posted 04-08-2013 11:32 PM

Thanks Grizz.
The wood is sapelle. It was just a piece out of my loose scraps pile. I am a wood hoarder. I save scraps of all shapes and sizes. Never know when you may need something.


View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2858 days

#12 posted 04-10-2013 11:56 AM

A very kool idea William.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2897 days

#13 posted 04-10-2013 12:28 PM

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2894 days

#14 posted 04-10-2013 09:37 PM

Thats using the ole noodle for something besides a hat rack. Although I have never see you wear a hat.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2897 days

#15 posted 04-11-2013 12:02 AM

I don’t wear hats Dave.
I don’t like anything on my head, even hair.
I do own a couple though for when I’m doing something like fishing, so the top of my head doesn’t get sunburned.


showing 1 through 15 of 16 comments

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