Make a $5.00 "Space Pen" for Your Wallet

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Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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,...)

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

...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

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)