The Problem Pen - Finally Done

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Project by USCJeff posted 09-25-2012 12:21 AM 1049 views 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Ever have one of those “easy” projects that drives you nuts? This was it for me. After cranking out several dozen pens and such as gifts a few years back, I’d lost the desire to do them for a long time. My Dad was offered a job as a Publisher in Myrtle Beach with the company he’s worked for the last 31 years. Being that this is the end of the career path for him, it is a big deal for us and I wanted to do something special. He’s not the fountain pen type of guy, but it seems like an appropriate gift given the circumstance.

That was the easy part. I grabbed the Orion Kit from the local supplier and knowing myself, got 2 blanks as well. So I get home to get them mounted and realize I forgot the bushings. The store’s closed so my genius self decides to attempt to “turn” wooden bushings to the same dimensions. They looked very good until I tightened the mandrel and they split with the grain. Back to the store. I drilled both halves with the same bit by mistake. I attempted to enlarge the one that needed it, but that never works to where the tube will glue tightly. Second blank, perfect execution and all is well until I realize how terrible it looks without the tubes painted once I stop the lathe. The sanded tube with glue is very apparent and there’s no helping it. Back to the store again. I bought two more, only used one though (Yeah!). Painted tubes, proper drill bits, and not being lazy and keeping the lathe at one speed for everything.

I’m very happy with the result, but I again have lost the desire to turn pens for a bit. For the record, the pen writes very well. I don’t care for fountain pens, but was happy with how it worked. The fit and finish of the parts give it a distinguished look. I used an imitation buffalo horn blank. Would’ve had my Mom to answer to if I used the real thing.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

4 comments so far

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2203 days

#1 posted 09-25-2012 02:43 AM

Well, it turned out very nice in the end. Frustration is part of the process. Sometimes things go well, and sometimes things go bad.
Trouble with these spinning things, when it goes wrong it can go wrong badly.
As for the bushings, I make a lot of mine out of brass, aluminum and plastic. Wood works but it is fragile and tends to do the same thing dowel pins do and go out of round.

-- Website is finally up and

View sedcokid's profile


2713 posts in 3018 days

#2 posted 09-25-2012 03:01 AM

Jeff, what a Gorgous pen the finish looks flawless, Outstanding! And what a great story as well. Have you ever tried Corian for bushing material? I have used it and I like it.

Thanks for sharing

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View USCJeff's profile


1062 posts in 3487 days

#3 posted 09-25-2012 05:42 AM

I really haven’t experimented with shop made bushings. The hardwood set of 4 I made for this one wasn’t too bad. I actually glued a 7mm pen tube in them and that supplemented the strength. In the end, as I mentioned, they hit their limit and split.

Now that you mention plastics, it has me wondering about making them out of the various types of plastic blanks that are left over as cutoffs for the pens. They definitely aren’t as strong as a metal, but could work. I imagine you’d have to be much more careful when turning the blanks so as not to alter the bushing as well.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View Craig Havran's profile

Craig Havran

346 posts in 2031 days

#4 posted 09-25-2012 03:11 PM

Your feelings for pen turning is quite similar to my feelings for golf. very much a love / hate relationship. i’ll choose turning any day over golf now!!

as far as bushings go, if i’m only going to be making 1 of a style i don’t buy them. i use a digital micrometer and mic the parts that will butt up to the wood and turn it down slightly larger and get it down to final dimension with sanding. my first attempt at this resulted in frustration as i “mic’d” the wrong part :-)

great job!!

-- "There's plenty of time to read the instruction manual when you're laying in the hospital bed". - Dad

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