Selling pens

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Forum topic by Rolry posted 01-01-2015 11:51 PM 1014 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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64 posts in 1315 days

01-01-2015 11:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I would like to know how everybody sells the pens they make. I enjoy making them but with nowhere local to sell them I am looking for advice from others.

-- Rolry

9 replies so far

View watermark's profile


482 posts in 1366 days

#1 posted 01-02-2015 04:07 AM

I have no experience but maybe check out Etsy even if you don’t sell through them it’s a good place to check out the competition.

-- "He who has no dog, hunts with a cat" Portuguese proverb

View thor2015's profile


34 posts in 665 days

#2 posted 01-02-2015 04:14 AM

If you get an answer, I would love to know too. I’ve read a few blog posts that seem to indicate the online market is saturated with “handmade” pens that are being mass produced overseas, making it difficult to distinguish between the two. I’d also imagine that selling online may kill your profit margin shipping wise. But having no experience in selling pens I could be completely off base.

I am still waiting on my lathe to arrive, but I’ve been thinking my best approach may be to take some of the money I invest in tools and invest in customers. What I mean by that is to take a few bucks and rent a booth at an outdoor event or craft show close to home. Meet people face to face. Hand them contact/business cards. Talk to them about what you do and perhaps have some pens in the various phases of production to show that you aren’t simply reselling something you bought overseas. Let people know your product is truly unique and hand made. At first you may not make much money if any at all but keep trying. Networking is always a good selling strategy. Word of mouth is still very powerful.

View endgrainy's profile


234 posts in 1311 days

#3 posted 01-02-2015 04:31 AM

I just bought my first lathe and have made some pens of questionable quality, so I don’t have any advice as a seller of pens.

As a consumer, +1 to the craft show idea that Thor suggested. I’ve seen a few pen booths at arts festivals/craft shows. They had vey good crowd interest. Depending on the show, I think it’s a great item. Not too expensive, easy to display hundreds of examples, easy for customer to carry after purchase. Everybody uses pens.

-- Follow me on Instagram @endgrainy

View TheDane's profile


4939 posts in 3086 days

#4 posted 01-02-2015 04:40 AM

I have a friend who is a delivery truck driver, servicing mostly commercial accounts. He carries some pens with him in his truck along with some business cards, He gives them to his best customers, who have in turn placed orders with him to turn pens that he can give his customers as gifts. He is making a nice little side income. Fair to point out … this guy does excellent work and could sell snow to Eskimos.

I know another guy who talked the owner of a little deli/bakery shop into letting him put a small display case of pens for sale beside the cash register. The turner worked at a business across the street and most days had lunch in the deli. Worked like a charm. The deli owner sold the pens, and took a small commission on each sale.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Wildwood's profile


1854 posts in 1557 days

#5 posted 01-02-2015 12:21 PM

Start local and keep your selling expenses to a minimum. You will not get rich at these venues farmer markets, church events, local festivals and word of mouth. But should get enough to make your hobby pay for itself plus few dollars. You will find people selling pens everywhere.

Back when could buy cigar kits for $2.95 per kit sold to local tobacco/cigar shop for $15 to $18. He sold them for $35. I had to sell him on paying me first. What sold him were the two customers in the store hearing my pitch came over and asked me how much. Told them $45, store owner & customers decided $35 was a fair price. He was good for 100 pens a year. My total cost to make those cigar pens was between $5.50 for firewood and $7.50 for acrylic pens.

This local web site in my town runs hot and cold depending upon what you are selling. They have sites all over the country & overseas not all sites get a lot of action. Advantage local and does not cost much to sell there. There are other sites like this all around the country. Cannot count number of pen/woodturners on ESTY.

BooKoo Tacoma Washington

If join the IAP will see MARKETING & SHOWS thread lots of good information there. You do not have to join to see a lot of other info there.

Check with city/county for vendor license requirements and collecting & paying sales taxes.

Good luck!

-- Bill

View moke's profile


847 posts in 2199 days

#6 posted 01-02-2015 06:15 PM

I sold pens at a art gallery, that my friends owned. They did not sell a large amount but got an amazing price for them….I made some good money, that I intern bought more toys with. In order to do this though, you must have pens that are high end kits, and unique blanks, like segmented or worthless wood or a casting. A slim line with a plain Maple blank just “will not cut it”. Now keep in mind I was lucky enough to have this connection…something like this I think is hard to find. It truly fell into my lap
I was making jr gents and the like, and they were getting in the 100 to 150 range and I thought we were all fat and happy, then they told me those pens were just too fat….I’m not sure why, as they were selling, so I went to a ellegant or exuctive type pen and had to drop the prices…..then the new manager decided that “they were not an office supply store” and dropped my pens… Soon after my friends fired her but never brought it again that they wanted pens. Oh well, I got a ton of neat toys for pens while it lasted.

The one thing I might say is it really took the fun out of making pens for me…it became another job, and one where I had to keep making a better “mouse trap”. One of the last pens I made for them was a 48 segment triton….I really didn’t realize that I was pressuring myself so much…until after it was gone, I felt like I had a weight taken off my shoulders. I did not make a pen for about a year, but now with some of the neat kits, I am back and just making gifts for my friends.

View dlgWoodWork's profile


159 posts in 3177 days

#7 posted 01-02-2015 06:39 PM

Wildwood has really good advice. Start smaller and local. Also, IAP is a penturning forum. There is a lot of good advice there.

-- Check out my projects and videos

View KDO's profile


145 posts in 2192 days

#8 posted 01-02-2015 07:21 PM

Thanks for the question. I am curious to see what everyone says. The online market on eBay and Etsy has been ruined by the idiots who don’t understand business. There is a guy from Arizona that has flooded eBay with $9 pens that he makes, so it drives the Value of everyone else’s pens so low that people won’t pay what a pen is really worth. It is the same thing that Walmart has done to the retail market.
I have only been successful with word of mouth and occasionally a craft show. I have not tried the Art Gallery approach but I could see where it could work. I wouldn’t quit your day job… I just don’t see where 99% of us could make a living doing it.

-- Christian, Husband, Grandpa, Salesman, amateur Woodworker.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2390 posts in 2345 days

#9 posted 01-02-2015 09:44 PM

At craft fairs and festivals where I sell my woodworking projects I see others offering pens for sale at $20+. Very few if any sell. I have a friend that makes some and I made a small display for him that he put in a car dealership. He was successfully selling some there at $20 each.

-- "You may have your PHD but I have my GED and my DD 214"

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