Loose Pen Tubes

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Forum topic by Steve Cherry posted 12-17-2013 09:28 PM 3575 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Steve Cherry

170 posts in 1852 days

12-17-2013 09:28 PM

Topic tags/keywords: pen pens tubes loose tubes pen glue 5 minute epoxy super glue gluing pen tubes turning question

I’ve made three of PSI’s bullet pens and they turned out pretty good. When I went to glue the tubes in the blanks, the tubes fit perfectly – nice and snug. I since gotten a couple of other types of pens and the tubes fit pretty loose. In fact they’ll slide right out; is this normal? I’m using the thick super glue and one tube actually came out when I was squaring the blank – not enough glue maybe? Since I’m new to pen turning I’m not sure what to expect. I was looking at some posts of LJ about glue and I might switch to the 5 minute epoxy. Any help tips and insights would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

-- Steve - Front Royal, VA

27 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile


2322 posts in 2156 days

#1 posted 12-17-2013 10:04 PM

If have a digital caliper would measure tubes & drill bit. If forcing too much glue out when installing tubes need a bigger hole. Not applying enough glue same as applying too much. Glue remaining on the tube will indicate your problem.

You do not want too snug a fit. Normally if rough sand tubes, apply glue installing should be smooth. Too loose and not enough glue or hole too big could be the problem.

If thick super glue not filling gaps or holding, how old is it!

I switched to epoxy and never looked back. Forget five minutes if read instructions will tell you epoxy does not reach full strength for 24 hours. Not sure if ever waited full 24 hours. Normally waited until next day.

-- Bill

View Steve Cherry's profile

Steve Cherry

170 posts in 1852 days

#2 posted 12-17-2013 10:33 PM

Thanks for the info Bill; I don’t have a digital caliper. Glue shouldn’t be old – just purchased it recently. I think I’ll be switching to epoxy – it sounds like epoxy is more reliable.

-- Steve - Front Royal, VA

View coachmancuso's profile


259 posts in 1953 days

#3 posted 12-17-2013 11:41 PM

This might be a stupid question but do you have the proper drill bit for each type of pen. They all take a different size. If you order from craft supply they tell you what size drill bit you need for each style of pen. Are you using the same drill bit for each pen style? If so that I your problem.

-- Coach Mancuso

View WibblyPig's profile


172 posts in 3296 days

#4 posted 12-17-2013 11:54 PM

Epoxy is the only way to go. A little Playdough in each end of the tube, smear it in the epoxy and twist it into the blank.

-- Steve, Webster Groves, MO "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."

View PaulDoug's profile


1549 posts in 1725 days

#5 posted 12-18-2013 12:06 AM

I agree on epoxy. It’s the only thing I use now after trying several types of glue. I use the 15 minute epoxy because it gives me plenty of time to make adjustment, no rush. Many prefer 5 minute. I use dental wax to plug the tubes, never could get Playdough to stay in, but it works for many. Make sure to rough up the tubes with something like 80 grit sand paper. If the tubes are going in any type if blank other than wood, be sure to paint the tube and inside the hole you drilled.

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View rickf16's profile


392 posts in 3602 days

#6 posted 12-18-2013 12:28 AM

I make pens too and what I found is if I drill the holes in stages, I get a better fit. For a hole of 3/8th’s or more, I will generally do this in 3 steps. I then rough the tube and paint it. Painting the tube helps when you have a blank that may be translucent. I also use the same bit for the final size every time.

Just my two

-- Rick

View Steve Cherry's profile

Steve Cherry

170 posts in 1852 days

#7 posted 12-18-2013 03:14 AM

Coachmancuso – yes I am using the correct drill size, I’m sure of that much. PaulDoug, I don’t understand what you mean by plugging the tubes with dental wax (or playdough); what is the purpose of that?

-- Steve - Front Royal, VA

View gtbuzz's profile


427 posts in 2463 days

#8 posted 12-18-2013 04:15 AM

How loose are we talking about? You don’t really want a super snug fit since there will be no room for the glue. In mine, there’s a good number of them that will fall out without any glue / epoxy, but there’s still a pretty minimal gap. When I do get the glue in there, it’s definitely a tight fit. The holes I drill probably could be a little tighter, but I think I’d have to get a much nicer DP with less runout.

As others have said, go slow when you drill, make sure to evacuate the chips too. If you do it in a single pass and don’t back off the bit, all that extra wood down there is gonna do bad things. Also, make sure you scuff up those tube pretty good. If you’re not doing that, there’s a good chance the glue bond will fail. I’ve made quite a few pens and I’ve only had once fail due to the tube coming out, however that was because I was trying to remove the mechanism with a punch transfer, not the tube failing in service.

View moke's profile


1179 posts in 2798 days

#9 posted 12-18-2013 06:12 PM

Dental wax/playdough is to keep the tube from being infiltrated with glue. If you do not use use something to “block off the inside of the tube” you can certainly use a rat-tail file to take and excess out, except that will eventually take some brass off and could make the pen kit fit loose when you push it the parts. I have been using plumbers putty…it is really cheap and available at any home Improvement store.

Epoxy is IMHO the only way to go. Many people use their DP then go right over to insert the tube while the inside of the tube is still warm. Heat is a CA accelorant…..the tube will sometimes only go in half way and stick there. Epoxy is not easily “accelorateable”—it also has almost a lubricant quality to it. Tubes slide in easy. For PR blanks that are transparent, you can add a couple of drops of “testors” paint to color it to the blank…( I would recommend painting inside the blank too) it is very verstile.

If you have particular problem with a loose tube/blank, you can use gorilla glue too. It expands and will be very strong besides. It is sort of a crap shoot if the tube is centered if it is too loose….don’t ask me how I know this….

-- Mike

View PaulDoug's profile


1549 posts in 1725 days

#10 posted 12-18-2013 06:20 PM

If you have a chuck for your lathe, you can drill some nicer holes, in my opinion. I only drill pen blanks on the lathe. Mike answered the question on why you want to plug the tubes before gluing them in.

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3607 days

#11 posted 12-18-2013 06:32 PM

Being in the dental profession for over 30 years I have a large amount of dental wax left over I use this with five minute epoxy it works superbly .The dental wax comes in sheets and is easily deposited by pressing down with the tube onto the sheets and it leaves a 2 mm plug which is easily removed afterwards.Have fun penmaking is good fun. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Steve Cherry's profile

Steve Cherry

170 posts in 1852 days

#12 posted 12-18-2013 09:08 PM

Thank you Moke, PaulDoug, and Scotsman, I think I have a better understanding of whats going on now with the fit of the pen tubes and also why you plug the ends of the tube – had not heard of that tip before. I thought cleaning out the inside of the tube was part of the purpose of the barrel trimmer. Plugging the tube sounds like a better idea though. Thanks for your help.

-- Steve - Front Royal, VA

View Steve Cherry's profile

Steve Cherry

170 posts in 1852 days

#13 posted 12-19-2013 01:13 PM

One final question; is there a particular brand of epoxy that is preferable for pens? I have a type of epoxy where each part is in a kind of syringe where you squeeze out the epoxy and mix it together. Or are you talking about fiberglass epoxy like the West System stuff? Thanks.

-- Steve - Front Royal, VA

View Marcus's profile


1163 posts in 2041 days

#14 posted 12-19-2013 01:23 PM

You’re thinking the right stuff Steve, but it’s easier if you track down the stuff in separate bottles so you can just use a little at a time (either that or glue a ton of blanks up at once and use the syringe). I picked up the two bottles of epoxy at lowes for $15 and have enough epoxy to last a lifetime.

View Steve Cherry's profile

Steve Cherry

170 posts in 1852 days

#15 posted 12-19-2013 01:54 PM

Thanks, Marcus. Got to do something! just checked the pen I was working on last night and the tubes are loose. Its only my fourth pen, so I guess I should expect there to be a bit of a learning curve. I also lost the little bitty spring that goes in the click end of the pen, so the kit is junk too, grrrr.

-- Steve - Front Royal, VA

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