Turning Pens

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Forum topic by highflyer posted 12-14-2009 05:50 PM 1391 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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35 posts in 3348 days

12-14-2009 05:50 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

To all you LJ’s familiar with turning, and exspecially turning pens. I recently recieved a lathe for christmas, early I know. So far have had great luck in turning a few things. Want to get in to turning pens. As far as the blanks go that no problem, but where do you find the pen tubes? Is that something you have to buy from a specialty place that sells other pen paraphenalia and if so which are the least expensive and/or have a variety, or can you pick that up say at the harware store? Any and all comments and advice are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

9 replies so far

View LesB's profile


1865 posts in 3645 days

#1 posted 12-14-2009 08:08 PM

The tubes are included the pen parts kit but most suppliers sell extras and if you do very many you will want extras because you will inevitably damage or not like the results of some turnings and need extra tubes. It is a good idea to get the proper drill bit for the blanks ($5) and a turning mandrel (about $20).
Woodcrafters, Craft Supplies, Penn State Ind, and numerous others are a good sources of supplies.
Google “pen turning” and you will find all sorts of info and videos on how to do it.

-- Les B, Oregon

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3472 days

#2 posted 12-14-2009 08:34 PM

Les is correct…..I just wanted to add…that if you settle on a kit you like to make….I have about 3 that I turn continuously (You don’t want to keep buying different kits as each one requires you to buy bushings and sometimes a different drill size) – You can reuse bushings… Then get several extra tubes….you can get from the kit supplier – this is fine for the occassional crafter…but for turning lots of pens…it is cheaper to mic the outer diameter of the pipe…and order in bulk from a plumbing supplier (you can use a metal hacksaw blade to cut them…or a tube cutter (a bit more expensive – I have a cutter but that was to cut copper pipe for construction)

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View 76winger's profile


151 posts in 3319 days

#3 posted 12-14-2009 09:21 PM

A couple I’m familiar with:
Penn State Industries:
Craft Supplies:

I’ve placed several orders with Penn State over the past year and always got quick shipments. And one problem order was quickly straightened out when I called their 800 number. Craft supplies looks to have a lot of good kits as well, but I haven’t branched out to try them yet.

Then Wood Crafters and Rockler have kits available both in their stores and on their web sites. I’ve seen other sources as well but haven’t ventured out to try any of them. Hopefully some others will chime in with their experiences.

-- Dave, See some of my creations at:

View WayneC's profile


13794 posts in 4300 days

#4 posted 12-14-2009 09:34 PM

Craft supplies is my favorite for high quality kits.

Along with the kits, I want to second Reggiek. You will need to ensure you have the proper drill bits to drill your blanks as well as bushings. They vary by kit.

Pen State has a free pen turning video. You should order it and check it out.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View 76winger's profile


151 posts in 3319 days

#5 posted 12-15-2009 01:06 AM

Penn State also has several starter specials right now. You can buy one of their high-end pen kits and get the drill bits, barrel trimming sleeves and busings for free. This would cut your extra purchases down to get started for SOME items. This would cut down needs to get started to one of those kids and just a mandrel, assuming you’ve got the lathe tools, sanding and finishing stuff on hand already.

Craft Supplies may have some similar specials, I’m not familiar enough with their site to know. I haven’t found their online catalog to be as clear on what drills and busings you need for any given kit either, but that may just be lack of familiarity of their site on my part.

-- Dave, See some of my creations at:

View SNSpencer's profile


133 posts in 3315 days

#6 posted 12-15-2009 01:16 AM

I just got started pen turning myself, just did my first few this last weekend with better than anticipated results. I will suggest starting with wood, I am finding the plastic a bit problematic. I still need to figure out how to keep the glue bubbles(along the tube) from being seen through some of the translutent plastic blanks…. I guess practice, practice, practice!!

I purchased the 30 slimline starter package from pennstate. Lots of supplies to get started and the cost per pen is pretty low with this assortment. So the few that I have screwed up…. oh well, they are inexpensive lessons.

I also got a word of advice from another pen turner. When you find a supplier that you like, purchase all of your supplies from them. Apparently there is a slight difference in bushings between suppliers. So, if you purchased the pen kit from Woodcraft, use the Woodcraft bushings.

-- Jef Spencer - Refined Pallet -

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 4006 days

#7 posted 12-15-2009 02:21 AM

I have turned a few pens over the years (quit counting at 25,000). Berea Hardwoods is one of the best suppliers of pen kits. Penn State has a ton of blanks. The majority of the kits are made by the same manufacturer and sourced out to the various suppliers. I keep every wood scrap and cut off that I use for other projects and have access to a guitar manufacturers scrap pile which is where I get a lot of the exotics that I use. Label all your bushings and keep a copy of each kits instructions. I keep all the kit parts in separate plastic bins that are clearly labeled. Purchase the best mandrel that you can afford and invest in a good blank vise to drill the blanks. I have found that it is just as easy to prepare 50 pens as it is to prepare one pen for turning. All the blanks are cut to size and numbered (I use white chalk pencil) and then rubber banded in pairs prior to drilling. The same pair of blanks stays together through the entire process. High quality drill bits made by Colt are worth the expense. One hint for turning plastic is to paint the brass tube prior to turning, colored tubes are also available, but more expensive. You also need to keep your tool sharpened while turning any plastic, acrylic or similar material. Good luck with your pen turning – it can become very addictive!

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

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3472 days

#8 posted 12-15-2009 06:23 PM

Folks have covered the best two pen kit suppliers. I also wanted to add a good wood blank supplier – I have bought several from Amazon Exotics when I ran out of my self made blanks….they have decent pricing and very nice woods. You can also find some good ones on Ebay….but watch the prices…sometimes folks get drawn into the competition and end up buying blanks for more than they are worth…..look up the prices that are charged by Rockler and Craftsupplies….make sure you don’t go over that…some of their woods are ok…but sometimes you can’t get some of the very nice ones.

On tool sharpness….I recommend using diamond hones….I have several of them by my lathe…along with a leather belt strop with diamond stropping compound (I make my own from cow hide leather belts I find at the thrift stores…..just make sure the leather is not dyed or treated (most of the belts are only dyed on one side….so you can strop on the other). For sharpening gouges and v tools….I like using a chefs knife sharpener…the round tapered diamond kind…it is quick and easy to get the rounded inside with one of these….and not as expensive as the specialty hones sold for this purpose….I’ve been thinking of doing a video specific to sharpening lathe tools…and may get to it as soon as time allows.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View RetiredCoastie's profile


999 posts in 3385 days

#9 posted 12-15-2009 09:17 PM

Another dependable supplier: Ive received excellent service from these folks for many years.

Penn State and Craft Supplies are good as well.

-- Proud Supporter of Homes For Our Troops

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