Introduction: Make a $5.00 "Space Pen" for Your Wallet

Picture of  Make a $5.00 "Space Pen" for Your Wallet

Having a writing implement handy when you need it is a good idea, but keeping a bulky pen in your shirt or your pants pocket can be a drag, especially when conventional pens leak. Your wallet is a natural place to keep a pen but just about anything available commercially is too big. So, make a Space Pen for your wallet. It's small, writes every time you need it, upside-down, and probably under water, too, although you'll have to test that yourself.

The "NASA Space Pen by Fisher" is a cool pen that retails in stores like Staples and Office Depot for about $22 in its basic, chrome-plated version, up to near $50 for the special, "signature" version. It is the famous pen the astronauts supposedly used in the space program. The pen uses a sealed, gas-pressurized ink cartridge, which delivers the ink at a perfect flow without clogging--important for a pocket pen. The problem is the NASA Space Pen body is very thick. It feels like a carrying around a big, chrome-plated bullet in your pocket.

It's way too thick to slip in your wallet, too. Overall not a good traveling pen, even at that price point. But, interestingly, the same outfits that sell the pens also sell the refills and they are a fraction of the cost: about $5.00. The one to look for is labeled, "Fisher Pressurized Space Pen Refill - SPR-F". As near as I can tell all the pens use the same, $5.00 refill.

(link: example of refill at online store)

With a bit of heat-shrinkable tubing, a pocket clip taken from a discarded mechanical pencil you can have a cool pen that keeps in your wallet nicely. And since it uses the pressurized, Fisher Space Pen refill, it isn't likely to leak in your pocket.

And, it writes upside down. So, let's get to work. This one will take about five minutes.

Step 1: Adding the Heat-shrinkable Tubing

Picture of Adding the Heat-shrinkable Tubing

The tubing makes the pen cartridge a bit more holdable then just the bare metal. I used black tubing for mine, but it can be obtained in various colors. Radio Shack sells a very reasonably-priced assortment in various colors. The black tubing used in this project was ordered in bulk from Mouser Electronics. For this, use 3/8 inch tubing. Cut the tubing with an X-ACTO knife, leaving about 1/4" past the first ridge in the point, or about 3/4" from the tip.

Step 2: Top View

Picture of Top View

For a really finished look on the top, leave a millimeter or two of excess before shrinking it. It will wrap over the top, giving it a sealed, "factory" look.

Notice the clip, here, is already in place.

Step 3: Shrinking the Tubing Using a Small Pocket Heatgun

Picture of Shrinking the Tubing Using a Small Pocket Heatgun

I used a small pocket heat-gun to shrink the tubing. A butane lighter can also be used. When using either, be sure to keep the flame moving across the surface, never stopping at any given point. This ensures that the tubing won't burn and that the ink cartridge does not get too hot.

Step 4: The Pocket Clip

Picture of The Pocket Clip

I used a pocket clip from a discarded mechanical pencil. Slip it off and, using a pair of needle-nose pliers, crimp the band of the clip slightly to hold it snugly against the body of the pen.

Check your pencil-cups around the house for pens or pencils with clips to scavenge. It's amazing how many things have pocket clips.

Step 5: The Clip Should Fit Snugly But Not Bind

Picture of The Clip Should Fit Snugly But Not Bind

You may require a bit of adjustment with the pliers to get a good, snug, but not binding fit.

Step 6: Keeping It in Your Wallet

Picture of  Keeping It in Your Wallet

Since the pen is small in diameter and length, it is easy to slip it into your wallet, where it is handy for taking notes in the field or signing a check at the store.

Either way for about $5.00 you can have a Space Pen in your wallet.


c6h12o6 (author)2008-05-29

I heard that NASA spent a large budget on this years ago and that the russians just developed the dispensing pencil, in half the time and at a fraction of the cost. Hmmm might just be one of those urban legends tho. V cool idea for instructable though, handy.

Shakoor (author)c6h12o62016-01-07

i heard the same thing and i looked it up to see if it was true .
the graphite from the pencils end up getting into the equipment on the space shuttles and has a possibility causing problems that can even lead to deaths. i guess bc graphite can conduct electricity? and small amounts get sucked into vents too. going to who knows where lol.
anyways the russians started using the american kind of space pens soon after america started using them.

Shakoor (author)c6h12o62016-01-07

i heard the same thing and i looked it up to see if it was true .
the graphite from the pencils end up getting into the equipment on the space shuttles and has a possibility causing problems that can even lead to deaths. i guess bc graphite can conduct electricity? and small amounts get sucked into vents too. going to who knows where lol.
anyways the russians started using the american kind of space pens soon after america started using them.

adamthiede (author)c6h12o62008-05-30

USA: Let's develop a secret agent underwater-upside-down-write in space pen! Yeah! Russia: That's great... let's use a pencil!

keastes (author)adamthiede2008-09-18

we're Americans we over-engineer everything, oh and wtf is K.I.S.S. supposed to mean anywho

oniman7 (author)keastes2009-02-10

Keep it simple, stupid. Or something like that. Personally, I think a pencil would have worked just as well.

rule001 (author)c6h12o62008-05-29

Jup, it actually is thrue! NASA spent milions of dollars on research developing this pen...and the russians solved the problem by just taking a pencil with them. This pen is one of NASA's greatest embaressements. (..but it does write pretty good, even thrue oil spils, grease,...)

kaens (author)rule0012008-05-29

It's actually not true, see here, although astronauts did use pencils for a while.

rule001 (author)kaens2008-05-30

...and how much did NASA pay Fisher to claim this? ;) (It wouldn't be the first dumbass american gouvernement expence that needs to be covered up,...and probably not the last ;) ) ps:...ok, ok, ..i might be a conspiracy theory nut :D

Foxtrot70 (author)rule0012008-09-05

rule001 - Oh, surely NOT! After all we didn't land on the moon...the flag waved in the wrong direction! How's that for wasted millions or billions. A Million Dollars here, a Million Dollars there...after a while you're talking REAL money! - Former Ill. Senator Everet Dirksen (deceased)

Oompa-Loompa (author)Foxtrot702008-09-14

And how can you prove we've never landed on the moon again?

Foxtrot70 (author)Oompa-Loompa2008-09-14

It is a matter of my skeptical being. Of Big Government and Big Business i.e., I applied for SSI,I am 57 keep in mind I have paid into SS system for the last 41 years and the time I need assistance..."Oh! We just can't help you." When I go to retire which will probably be forced, rather than volentary, by who ever happens to be employing me. The way things are going SS will most likely be bankrupt by the time I reach 65 or some weisenheimer in congress will reset retirement age to 72. This is in hopes that the applicant will die before any benefits are required to be paid. So, yeah I have doubts we ever went to the moon. One way to prove it beyond any doubt would be to turn the Hubble Telescope on the moon. I grew up in Missouri where the State Motto is: "Show Me"... if there is nothing to hide "Show Me!" Show Me - The Moon Rover; Show Me - The Tranquility Base; Show Me - The Flag; It surely can not cost all that much to enter a few data commands to swing the Hubble around and put everything to rest. If the moon is too close for the focal length of the Hubble there are any one of dozens of scopes on earth that could do the job! SHOW ME!

Oompa-Loompa (author)Foxtrot702008-09-14

They did moon landing on mythbusters. There were a few ways they proved it. 1. pictures of footprints on the moon were shot down by saying that they wouldn't form in a vacuum. After testing, footprints could be made in a vacuum. 2.The flag can't wave in a vacuum as it did on the actual footage. They proved that a flag's momentum is enough to keep it waving in a vacuum after being jostled around by the astronauts. 3. They proved that the way the astronauts bounced around could not be perfectly replicated on earth, and had a specialized jet thing let them experience low gravity, where they could perfectly replicate the bouncing. 4. The astronauts were said to have placed reflective equipment on the moon's surface. After sending laser signals out to the moon and receiving them back, they proved this was true.

Foxtrot70 (author)Oompa-Loompa2008-09-14

Another way to verify is since we have satelites orbiting the moon for surface mapping. Why not have one of them focus on the Lunar lander and provide pictures of our space junk. After all we paid millions for it. SHOW ME!!

Oompa-Loompa (author)Foxtrot702008-09-14

Um, IDK, but we did land on tha moon.

Foxtrot70 (author)Oompa-Loompa2008-09-14

Oompa I went to the YouTube site and viewed the MythBuster episodes. I do concur with you we did land on the moon. It would seem to add to the confirmation if a satelite pic weather from Hubble, Moon orbit mapping satelite, or Earth based were available.

Oompa-Loompa (author)Foxtrot702008-09-14

True, but I don't think if we ask they'll just give us a picture of the moon, so for now, we'll just make due.

gitemstevedave (author)rule0012008-05-30

In the link above, they explain that Nasa paid/pays retail for them. Fischer owns the patent, so there's nothing to "claim".

kaens (author)rule0012008-05-30

Ha. Probably a lot.

JoelDude (author)c6h12o62008-06-01

actually NASA spent like 100k+ to invent a preasure ink pen so the ink would come out, the rusians finally talked about the problem with nasa, they discovered that the rusians used regular disposable pencils

despoteuodia (author)c6h12o62008-05-30

Its only a myth. Graphite (pencil lead) is conductive and would cause shorts in the electronics. also, regular ball point (cheapo Bic or papermate etc) will work in space. The ink is water based, so its adheasive and cohesive. upside down they dont work because gravity would work against the pen, but with no gravity, cohesion and adhesion provides enough force to move the ink. Nasa did spend a large budget on office supplies, but thats because they buy everything in bulk.

hithisishal (author)c6h12o62008-05-30

I think that pencils were deemed unfit for the space program. The small conductive graphite shavings would float everywhere.

isameed (author)2015-03-23

Why not just take the slim tube with the point out of a 50 cent ball pen and keep it in your wallet? Cheap and slim.

davemill (author)isameed2015-10-27

A normal cartridge will clog if not protected from pocket dust. It may also bend or possibly break, spilling ink. The Fisher refill is not susceptible to either.

Personally I prefer a Fisher wallet with the full bullet pen. It fits in my pocket just fine.

takchess (author)2011-08-07

I have the expensive habit of losing space pens. This is a great alternative. thanks! Now you need to work on the treker replacement which is a space pen keychain version. 8)

Valeil (author)2011-01-22

This is an amazing instructable, but I have one question.

Couldn't you put the clip on before the tubing, so that it would be a safer hold? Just curious(:

Valeil (author)Valeil2011-03-13

Tried this, it sort of works. I used a bobby pin for the clip, and had to make sure the tubing REALLY shrank between the pin and the pen(heh, wordplay.) Overall though, great instructable :D

salemalastor7 (author)2010-04-23

 do u mind telling me where you got that mechanical pencil? it looks really nice and i want to get one,. (pen is also a great idea, i made one xD) thanks !

doctor_wu (author)salemalastor72010-04-26

Hello, Salemalastor7--

That is a Koh-I-Noor Rapidomatic .5mm, model 5635.  I believe I got my last few good ones at Sterling Art Supply, in Irvine, California.  They were  made in Japan and very nice.  I ordered some online a few years ago from some outlet and they were much lower in quality.  The metal was thinner and cheaper; everything was lower quality.


salemalastor7 (author)doctor_wu2010-05-03

 thank you kindly Doctor_wu. ill bet they are made in china now or something, but either way i appreciate the information xD

Kryptonite (author)2009-11-16

I made one of these out of a conventional refill before I saw this and I must say, yours is much better!

Also, something that I once heard before about these pens, NASA spent $100,000 on working on these for astronauts. Russians used pencils.

memyselfand1 (author)2009-06-19

Can you get these in Australia? I've never seen them.

Oryctolagus habilis (author)2009-03-08

Great new use for heat-shrink tubing! However, Fisher now makes the "stowaway" model, for $12, which is basically a refill with an aluminum tube to reinforce it, and a cap. I like their $14 "military" model, which is just shy of a regular pen length, but narrower than the "bullet" model; and it's a click pen, so no cap to worry about at all.

CarStalkerZ (author)2008-10-07

does anybody know were i can get a pocket heatgun

ducktape1 (author)2008-08-31

This is an awesome idea... but after 2 weeks of having a pen always on hand the tip sheered off the pen leaking its contents all over my wallet =( BEWARE!!

R4Man18 (author)ducktape12008-09-06

I dont suggest keeping a pen in your back pocket, if you keep your wallet in your back pocket just keep the pen in a side pocket. been doing this ins for a while and had that problem once when I switched it around ive never had that problem again.

ducktape1 (author)R4Man182008-09-06

thanks for the solution i think ill stick with a golf pencil though (seems cleaner)

airsofter2 (author)2008-06-05

this is really cool, but is there any way that you could develop a cap for it, because I am more of a pocket pen person than a wallet

DamionLee (author)airsofter22008-09-05

I thought this was a great idea, and also wanted a cap so here's what I have done. With the Fisher refill there is (certainly in the UK) a small white piece of plastic. With a small screwdriver you can open up the end of it a little wider so that the nib of the refill fits through it. Then with a knife I trim the end of this down so that it is quite smooth. (This also makes the pen easier to write with). Now, I also liked the Mont Blanc in a Pilot G2 Instructable, so having done that, I have the black plastic cap from the Mont Blanc refill. This makes a perfect pen cap for the Fisher refill.

Goodhart (author)airsofter22008-09-03

I am wondering if a regular tapered BIC pen cap would work ?

coopgrl88 (author)airsofter22008-06-10

you could probably use the insulation to a wire that fits the gauge of the pen head. put a gob of glue on one end to seal it up so your pen won't dry up. or something along those lines...just brain storming.

InvertedDesign (author)2008-07-25

Nice Instructable. Instead of using a clip from an old pen you could use a bobby pin and put one end under the heat shrink tubing.

XTTX (author)2008-07-10

Great idea! Just made two of them.The only issue I'm having is getting the clip to fit. I have a similar clip to what you have; however, I can't get the fitment right, it just slides off. I'll play around with it. Thanks for the idea :)

Karel Jansens (author)2008-05-25

Not only does the Space Pen not leak and it writes in every position imaginable, it will keep doing this for an amazing period of time. I bought a Fisher Space Pen in 1979, lost it that same year and found it back three years ago. The thing still writes as new! That said, popular lore states that, while the USAnians invested gazillions of dollarski in "space pens", Russki cosmonauts used writing implements that functioned perfectly in zero gee, wrote in every position and never dried out. They called these contraptions "pencils". (Yes, I know about graphite dust in spaceships, but no Russian spceship ever came down because of "pencil") BTW, I would score some sort of cap for that pen. Fishers may be excellent, but dustproof they are not. Maybe the cap of a Parker ballpoint refill?

santy22 (author)Karel Jansens2008-05-25

"I bought a Fisher Space Pen in 1979, lost it that same year and found it back three years ago" and how do you know that it was yours and not from someone else?

Karel Jansens (author)santy222008-05-25

and how do you know that it was yours and not from someone else?

I found it under the floor behind my desk.

Of course, technically someone could have sneeked in and hid the pen there, but that might be considered a bit far-fetched.

And no, it could not have been from a previous owner or inhabitant, because there are none. It's been my room/office all my life and before it was my room, there were no Fisher Space Pens.

grammar check: "Sneeked" is not a word

Snuck is the correct word
"Of course, technically someone could have snuck in and hid the pen there, but that might be considered a bit far-fetched."

Swert (author)madhops06202008-05-25

Actually, "sneaked" is the correct term. But according to, they both could work, however the "sneaked" version is more widely accepted in the literary world.

Grey_Wolfe (author)Swert2008-05-25

Yeay, grammar Nazis. NO TEXT FOR YOU! COME BACK ONE YEAR!!! lol, Swerts right though.

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