First Pen

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Project by Lakie posted 08-10-2012 02:24 PM 1137 views 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Decided I needed a new hobby, something that I can do at home, Ive always found the idea of working with timber appealing, then stumbled across pen turning and thought its a brilliant fit as I love a good pen.

Went out on a limb, this is literally first time using a lathe, drill press, bandsaw, chisels etc. Previous power tool experience amounts to a cordless drill for the odd jobs around the house and various sanders used for a quick “strip and shellac” restoration in the old family antique business.

Pen is Huon pine, and I didn’t expect to get anything out of it, was thinking it would be a bit of a scrap to learn the machines, so didn’t overly sand or finish it with oil or anything because, quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting to get something that works as a pen out of it. This is actually the second blank, the first one I turned too much and struck brass tube so was more cautious on this and left too much on.

I think I’m hooked….

5 comments so far

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2447 days

#1 posted 08-10-2012 02:55 PM

Same with me Lakie! I am totally hooked, and like you have never turned anything. I am finding the learning curve to not be that steep. Every pen I turn comes out at least twice as good as the last. Some tips that really helped me (a lot from here, some from my woodcraft guy who is an avid turner)

1 – use the largest roughing gouge you have. This works for me. I use a 1” roughing gouge. I got a big improvement in that from the 3/4” I was using

2 – Turn down the edges first. Once I get the blank round and down to size a bit, I turn the edges right down to the bushings. In doing it this way, I haven’t exposed any brass

3 – fabric backed sandpaper strips are awesome. I got a pack at harbor frieght for 10$. 150/220/340/400 grits.

4 – Micromesh!!! This starts about 800 grit I think and moves up to 12,000. It’s amazing the difference after each pad. When I am done with the 12,000, it almost looks like I have finish on it.

I am still really new and have only done 4 pens so far, so I’m sure others will help out also. These tips really worked well for me though.


View Ken90712's profile


17594 posts in 3388 days

#2 posted 08-10-2012 04:46 PM

Well done look fwd to seeing more.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Hix's profile


161 posts in 3477 days

#3 posted 08-11-2012 01:54 AM

Great pen! Pens are an entire whole turning world on their own. You ought to see my first one. You would have advised me to sell my lathe! Hang on to it and compare it to your 100th pen (next month) and see the difference. What finish did you put on it? Keep putting the photos up there so we can enjoy your progress.

There is no limit to the materials you can use. I just picked up some gator jawbone cast in red acrylic.

My favorite pen turning tool is a 1” skew. You can eliminate a lot of sanding!

-- ---call me---- Mark

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2447 days

#4 posted 08-11-2012 02:05 AM

You aren’t kidding about the 100 in a month. I took my lathe out of the box on Sunday and my wife is on her 32nd pen! I practiced with a 1” skew tonight. I have a tough time hogging off material, but once I am round and close to the bushings I can get consistent shavings – and you are right, it looked like I hit it with 340 grit when the lathe stopped


View Lakie's profile


3 posts in 2373 days

#5 posted 08-11-2012 05:54 AM

Yup, the wife already mentioned to me not to forget I have a paying job that needs some of my attention lol

Lumberjoe, thanks for the tips :-)
Hix, no finish on it yet, didn’t even sand it, went into that one just wanting to use the tools and get a feel for them, the fact it came out useable, if not a little bulky, was a bonus! Have to start looking at finishes now I reckon I know how my weekends will be taken up for a while :D

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