Turning pens is growing in popularity because it’s fun, easy and can be done on any size lathe. It’s also a great way to produce handcrafted unique gifts for your friends and family or even for merchandise to sell. Handcrafted pens typically sell for $25.00 and up.

If you’re thinking about turning some pens, you’ll find everything you need to get started right here…

This is an awesome kit to get you started… When Mike and I started turning pens, we had to purchase everything separately and it was a bit of a pain because we had to go to 3 different stores to get everything we needed to start out and it cost us twice as much. I wish we had come across something like this.

 

Starter Pen Turning Kit
This kit contains all the essential tooling you need to start turning custom pens. Includes 3 pen blanks (Bloodwood, Bubinga and Olivewood), 3 gold-plated hardware kits with twist mechanisms, 7mm mandrel with knurled nut, #2 Morse Taper, (4) 7mm bushings, a 7mm Brad Point Drill Bit, a 2 oz. bottle of CA Glue, a Pen Mill for truing up all mating surfaces and a storage case with 28 adjustable compartments.                       

Starter Pen Turning Kit

Starter Pen Turning Kit

If you already have a lathe, make sure and check the Morse Taper on your head stock before purchasing any pen turning kits that include a mandrel. If you’re not sure what the MT is for your lathe, send us a comment, we’ll do our best to help you figure it out.

Excelsior Mini Lathe
With solid cast-iron construction, a robust 1/2 hp motor and a precision- machined live center, this little workhorse rivals features found in much larger lathes. It can turn bowls of almost 10″ in diameter, and spindles up to 17-3/4″ in length, making it perfect for chair legs, small table legs and an endless array of decorative turnings. A convenient door provides easy access to the belt, along with 5 different speeds: 760, 1100, 1600, 2200 and 3200 RPM. Cast-iron body provides mass for minimal vibration, stable turning and maximum durability. To increase your spindle capacity to 38-1/2″, just use the optional Mini Lathe Bed Extension (32307).                  

Excelsior Mini Lathe

Excelsior Mini Lathe

 

Pen blanks available from Vedder Mountain Hardwoods

Assortment of Western Big Leaf Maple Burl, Spalted and Curly Maple
Assortment of Western Big Leaf Maple Burl, Spalted and Curly Maple
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Spalted Maple Burl Pen

 

Spalted Maple Burl Wood Pen Turning

 

This is my very first pen turning. The wood is Spalted Maple Burl …Big Leaf Maple 🙂 I used a black fancy slim line kit that we bought from woodturningz online. Sanded to 800 grit and finished with Crystal Coat friction polish. I love the contrast of the maple burl and the black kit.

This one is my favorite ….so far 🙂

Pen turning can be a very satisfying hobby, as well as a very rewarding way to earn some extra cash over the holidays. It takes very little time, once you know the basics.  They also make great gifts for anyone on your list… after all, do you know of anyone that doesn’t use a pen? 🙂
pensPens pictured are by Running Dog Woodworking

Haven’t turned a pen yet, but want to give it a try?  Here’s a list of the basic tools and supplies you’ll need for pen turning.

Pen Blanks – highly figured wood, birch burl and maple burl are my favorites, but you can also purchase acrylic ones that are quite nice. Highly figured maple and burl pen blanks are available at Vedder Mountain Hardwoods.  A pack of 20 western big leaf maple assorted figured, spalted and burl blanks sells for around $20 US.
figured maple pen blanks
Drill press and drill bit – the brad point bit or bullet drill bit will work well with most materials. You may want to make a jig to hold your pen blanks in place while drilling… this way you can drill several blanks at one time.  Mike will quite often have 10 blanks drilled and glued, so they’re ready to turn when he has a few spare minutes to play on the lathe. 

Pen Kits – there are several different styles available, but the most common and inexpensive kit is the slimline. A good place to purchase your kits online is at www.woodturningz.com

Bushings – you’ll need bushings to match the pen kit you choose – each kit requires different size bushings.

Mandrel -you’ll also need a mandrel – make sure to get the correct MT for your lathe.

Glue is required to glue in the tubes after you’ve drilled the pen blanks – cyanoacrylate, epoxy and polyurethane glue all work very well.

Wood turning tools – Very few tools are required for turning pens.  Each wood turner has his/her own preference.  For turning straight barrel pens, some turners use 1/2″ skew, while others prefer to remove the bulk of the wood with a small shallow gouge.  

Sand paper/abrasive – we use the foam backed paper for our pen and start with 80 grit and go up to 800 grit.  Other types are the micro mesh abrasives that range from 1800 grit to 12000 grit.

Finishes – we like the Crystal Coat friction polish…it shines to a high gloss and it’s easy to use.  Other finishes that are commonly used are french polish, stick wax, paste wax, plastic polish and Mylands friction polish.

A great reference book for turning pens and pencils is TURNING PENS AND PENCILS by Kip Christensen and Rex Burningham.

I hope you’ll find this post informative and useful.  If you see anything I may have missed or would like to add any other tips, your comments are appreciated.