Pens...why is it so popular?

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Forum topic by steve6678 posted 11-10-2012 03:22 AM 1621 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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438 posts in 2053 days

11-10-2012 03:22 AM

All my magz. that come in the mail, all my emails…etc etc. are about pens.
It must be a Huge hobby, huh?
I have never met someone who made them, but I find it hard to see such a desire for these pens??
I want to be enlightened.
Show me this…Pen world.

-- Steve - Dust sucks!

27 replies so far

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2557 days

#1 posted 11-10-2012 03:58 AM

I was just talking to someone the other day about how neither of us can understand the popularity of pen turning because it was just so off either of our interest charts.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

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Jim Finn

2656 posts in 2915 days

#2 posted 11-11-2012 12:18 AM

I know four guys that make pens. Some folks are fascinated with lathe work and you can make a pen in 20 minutes. Pens are hard for them to sell because they want $25- $50 for them with an investment of $4 and 20 minutes time! If they sold them for a reasonable amount making and selling them might work.

-- Website is No PHD just a DD214 and a GED

View steve6678's profile


438 posts in 2053 days

#3 posted 11-11-2012 12:42 AM

I see…the catalogs I get have, sometimes 5 pages of Pen stuff, it must be a popular hobby.
I would have thought the pens were a little cheaper. Like 5-10 dollars, maybe…I mean it is such a small piece of stock…but maybe it takes a while or it’s tideous, dunno.
I don’t see myself ever making pens for a living…I do make a living with furniture, but that is by commission, and the customer knows what a piece will cost before I order anything.
I do have a guy that sells my furniture (pieces I either make a few of at a time, or out of re-claimed wood, or some kind of Art-based piece I make) He has a Used furniture store Downtown, and does well, he mentioned to me that the metal bed frames that a lot of people use instead of a frame/hdbrd/ftbrd type set up are getting expensive…I told him I may be able to come up with a Poplar based wooden frame for people, and make them reasonable.
This type of stuff is what I never stray away from.
It’s like the guy that did oil changes, then progressed into re-building engines…the guy never stopped doing oil changes, because it’s where his business came from in the begining, it’s bread-n-butter money.

-- Steve - Dust sucks!

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2047 days

#4 posted 11-11-2012 01:22 AM

it’s what you like,
just like some people can’t figure out why we do woodwork, same things. its your interests

-- Joel

View steve6678's profile


438 posts in 2053 days

#5 posted 11-11-2012 01:28 AM

Yes I do agree.
I was curious what was up, and why so many people made pens.
I bet they feel good in the hand though… Hmm
I’ll have to see some of these creations for myself.

-- Steve - Dust sucks!

View love2cad's profile


39 posts in 2050 days

#6 posted 11-11-2012 04:40 AM

My brother-in-law has been making pens for a while now. He too doesn’t spend a great deal of time or money doing it but he seems to be making some money selling them. He doesn’t have much wood working experience so turning pens gives him a little sense of what others do with bigger projects.

-- Bobby

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438 posts in 2053 days

#7 posted 11-11-2012 04:43 AM

I have NEVER turned anything. I have zero experience on a lathe.
I’ve watched others use one and could probably get into it, and I should…straight tapered legs are getting old, ha.

-- Steve - Dust sucks!

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2280 days

#8 posted 11-11-2012 04:48 AM

It must be a space thing, some guys just don’t have the room to make anything bigger than a pen.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View oldnovice's profile


6826 posts in 3361 days

#9 posted 11-11-2012 05:38 AM

I have to agree RussellAP! Room and/or time and/or money to spend on larger projects.

My uncle in Germany, who passed away earlier this year, had a 4’x4’ shop and he only made birdhouses. He liked woodworking but space forced the issue!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View SugarbeatCo's profile


142 posts in 2261 days

#10 posted 11-11-2012 06:01 AM

Pen making is a marketing genius.. Plain and simple. There’s a little money to be made Im sure, but for the most part, guys making tons of money off of tiny blanks, hardware kits are moving off the shelves at light speed, thus taking up 5 pages of your woodcrapt catalog. Mini Lathes, mini chucks, pen mandrels, CA glue finishes, Pen assembly presses, disassemble presses, laser cut kits… Cha frickin Chang.. Fools be makin money off fools that be tryin to make money doing something they find fun. I’ve got more hours behind a lathe this year than probably most anyone on here, never turned a pen one, and dont see the fascination, but to each his own. Only thing I don’t like about it is what it has done to the cost and availability of bowl blanks and larger lumber finds that used to be more abundant. Knife making is the same thing to me, and knife scales. I hate that people buy wood like this, just dont do it, srsly it just drives the cost of larger lumber up. Why sell that 30” bowl blank for $40 when you can chop it into 30 pen blanks that will sell for 20 a bundle of ten. :rant off: Sorry, anyways, yeah I dont see the appeal.

-- Always one more tool away from being an excellent woodworker...

View Woodknack's profile


11601 posts in 2373 days

#11 posted 11-11-2012 08:06 PM

I’ve known a few people who made pens. Someone gave me one years ago and it looked nice but the guts were no better than any random pen. It’d be nice if you wanted to make them as gifts and could laser engrave or carve them.

-- Rick M,

View Wildwood's profile


2305 posts in 2128 days

#12 posted 11-11-2012 08:55 PM

I came to pen turning after many years turning other stuff. Pens for Servicemen got me started after couple hundred Slim Line pens tried other styles. Stopped turning pens for them in 2010 probably spent close to $1,000 on kits, shipping pen blanks over six years.

Can have a sizeable investment if do not have a lathe, tools, and supplies needed to turn pens. Many people take classes at wood Craft, make few pens and quit. Others quit when find no one wants to pay them for their time. A few people doing this full time do make $100k/year. Majority of pen turners make less than $1,000.

To make 5 of these pens would cost me $21.84 per pen, using nothing special wood or acrylic blanks. I would not select this kit or chrome or gun metal platings to make just an example of some but not all cost.

5 pen kits = $69.75
1 set bushings = $5.95
5 pen blanks = 25.00
Shipping = $8.50
Total =$109.23 / 5 = $21.84

Best could hope for here is $30 per pen or $8.16/hr. You need more than $8 per hour to keep up with consumables not listed to make a pen.

-- Bill

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2678 days

#13 posted 11-11-2012 09:17 PM

ever priced a Mont Blanc? I can guess they make nice personal gifts for those that already have everything and who knows what and piece of wood is going to look like when it’s done? I’ll pass though.

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2305 posts in 2128 days

#14 posted 11-12-2012 12:26 PM

At one time, few folks made lot of money selling simple 24 KT gold Slim Line wood pens with simple friction finish. Today cross refills cost more those inexpensive Slim Line kits. Not all Slim Line kits so inexpensive, 24 KT gold kits have history of plating wearing off. So if have customers or friends liking Slim Line pens have to opt for better plating. Not so cheap proposition.

Turning pens simple and easy if was not for Murphy’s Law. Just visit International Assoc of Pen Turners site (IAP) and will understand.

Knowing major vendors and resellers supplying craft important, shopping specials and sales saves money. Some vendors and resellers sell a cheap junk line, which end up biting you in the butt eventually whether selling or giving away your pens.

Couple vendors Berea Hardwoods & Craft supplies post a kit wear rating plating chart, that helps understanding plating durability.

If starting out recommend trying this style pen over basic SL kits. Every vender sells a version of Sierra style kit. Just check out instructions think will understand recommendation. If do not like Sierra’s, try different single barrel kit.

If want a motivation for turning pens do a search for most expensive pens. You will know have arrived when see prices listed in hundreds & thousands.

-- Bill

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2169 days

#15 posted 11-12-2012 01:51 PM

Maybe, pens catch their fancies :)
I enjoy looking at their pens.

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