Closed End Pens

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Project by Nils posted 01-15-2009 06:44 PM 5517 views 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I mentioned in my last project that I was continuing to work on “getting outside the pen kit box.” These two pens are my latest in that trajectory. The parts are from a slimline kit, but I left off the center band and turned the top portion without a cap, using a shopmade mandrel. They’re made of cocobolo. I was pleased with how they came out, and the people I gave them to at Christmas we’re pretty happy, I think!

Here’s a picture of the mandrel I made – I just mounted a chunk of maple in my chuck and turned it down until the pen tube in the cap portion of the pen blank had a good tight slip fit. It wasn’t ideal, as there was a lot of slippage. I don’t think I could use this same mandrel again. I’m planning to buy a real mandrel (from Arizona Silhouette) so I don’t have to keep turning new ones.

Mandrel without pen blank
Mandrel without pen blank

Mandrel with completed pen blank mounted
Mandrel with pen blank mounted

-- Nils Davis, Menlo Park, CA

9 comments so far

View itsme_timd's profile


690 posts in 3852 days

#1 posted 01-15-2009 07:06 PM

Those are very nice! I’ve wanted to try my hands at the closed end pens but haven’t stepped up to that just yet. Very cool ‘invention’ on the mandrel.

-- Tim D. - Woodstock, GA

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

540 posts in 3503 days

#2 posted 01-15-2009 07:16 PM

That is really cool. Did you have a problem with the blank slipping on the mandrel?

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

View travist's profile


20 posts in 3567 days

#3 posted 01-15-2009 08:43 PM

Great looking pen Nils! I have thought about doing some closed end pens, but I’m not sure how to do a clip. Did you install a clip later, or is the pen clipless? I have read a few ways to do them, but not sure of my ability yet.

-- If you can draw it, it can be built. Travis

View MarkWilk's profile


229 posts in 3898 days

#4 posted 01-15-2009 10:40 PM

very slick. I’m going to have to get inventive with my tools. I wonder if I can pull something like this off without a chuck!

-- Mark, Florida,

View Nils's profile


141 posts in 3886 days

#5 posted 01-16-2009 12:25 AM

Thanks for the nice comments folks!

Chris – yes, the blank slipped on the mandrel some, which I why I just got a “real” mandrel. I used the tailstock to hold it for most of the turning, so the slipping wasn’t too big a problem in the end.

Travis – the pen is clipless. I want to figure out a good way to put a clip on these, but I realized that for many people (e.g., all women, pretty much) a clip isn’t that important anyway. I did see a very cool approach to clips in this article from Rich Kleinhenz on the Pen Makers Guild website. But it requires some tooling I don’t have – like a computer-controlled laser cutter.

Mark – I think you could do most of it without a chuck, but it would be painful. You’d have to first turn for the mandrel, then shape the pen top as a spindle fitted onto the mandrel. I think you could do most of the turning and finishing, then part off the final bit and finish the very tip end off the lathe.

-- Nils Davis, Menlo Park, CA

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3826 days

#6 posted 01-16-2009 01:43 AM

Great job with the pens. The mandrel is a good idea – if the pen blank slips wrap a piece of tape or handi-wrap around the mandrel and that will usually stop all the slipping. I label all my mandrels and keep them for the next time I make the same project. What finish did you use?

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View aldente's profile


175 posts in 3436 days

#7 posted 01-21-2009 12:38 AM

I really like the pens. Have you thought of using pin jaws on your chuck? Of course you’ll want to wrap the opened end with blue tape (cut down on maring). I make alot of pens and have recently made some using 270 rifle shells and deer antler. I’d like to try the closed end pens. Awsome job.

-- Rodd, Texas grandpa

View aldente's profile


175 posts in 3436 days

#8 posted 01-21-2009 03:50 AM

sorry you did!

-- Rodd, Texas grandpa

View Nils's profile


141 posts in 3886 days

#9 posted 01-21-2009 07:11 AM

The reason I didn’t use the pin jaws is that they wouldn’t have been small enough for an internal hold, and they wouldn’t have allowed me to turn the whole open end if I’d used them for an external hold.

But, given that I didn’t really like the way the wooden mandrel worked, I decided to go for a real closed end pen mandrel from Arizona Silhouette. Also needed to get a Jacobs chuck for the best usability, and since I did that I got a bottle stopper mandrel also. I’m getting in deeper and deeper!

-- Nils Davis, Menlo Park, CA

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