Introduction: The Paper Pen

Picture of The Paper Pen

I thought you might like to see this little pen made today for my wife to be (its only 3 weeks until we do the I do's). Its made from paper and resin.

I have been told the technique I have used to make the blank is known as Micarta by knife makers.

Pen making is fairly common among wood turners with kits and specialist tools becoming readily available at a relatively low starting price. (Pen making tools such as a pen makers mandrel can be used for other things very easily and vastly adds to your possibilities as a maker). With this tutorial I am using a slimline pen kit.

Rachel has problems with her joints and finds an ergonomic pen shape helps a lot in preventing pain which is why I incorporated a large bulb towards the tip.

If you are inspired to take up turning or to make a pen for yourself or a loved one because of this instructable or you have an idea of alternative uses for the manufactured paper wood I would love to see what you get up to.

Step 1: Cutting the Paper for the Pen Blank

Picture of Cutting the Paper for the Pen Blank

I found some large sheets of paper in different but complementing colors (cream and dark green) and folded these sheets of paper together before Cutting them on the band saw I ended up with a large selection of 1 in.² pieces of paper.

As always its important to be safe whilst working. I found the safest way to cut this paper included using some sacrificial strips of wood to help hold the paper in place.

You could use scissors or a knife to cut out your paper. What ever you use please be safe.

Step 2: Makeing the Pen Blank Jig

Picture of Makeing the Pen Blank Jig

I created a small jig which would help guide the 1 inch square paper squares into alignment whilst being glued.

This jig is 3 pieces of wood to form an L shape on a board glued and tacked into place.

Step 3: Gluing the Pen Blank

Picture of Gluing the Pen Blank

Heads up this is the part of the process which took a long time.

I used West System 105 with 205 epoxy resin to glue each individual sheet.
The surface tension of the paper and the resin kept the paper from slumping during the glue up.

My main worry was the resin curing before I could finish the process of gluing up. Luckily the open time varies somewhat and the resin stays open for longer when it is in small quantities so I got away with it.

I think experimentation with different glues and resins would result in faster easier glue ups than I experienced.

Step 4: Cut Your Brand New Blank

Picture of Cut Your Brand New Blank

This is where the fun time starts.

Once you have separated your pen blank from the jig (I used the saw to get mine out) Its time to work out where to cut.

I have in the past used a long drill bit on the lathe to cut through the entire blank which is useful if you have beautiful wood gran and you want it to line up perfectly. But for most occasions its far easier to use the drill press.

I used the brass tubes to inform where to cut before using the band saw.

Step 5: Drill That Beautiful Blank

Picture of Drill That Beautiful Blank

I held the blanks in a vertical position before drilling a hole through the center.
For my kit I used a 7mm drill bit but your kit might require a different size.

Step 6: Glue It Like Its Hot

Picture of Glue It Like Its Hot

I like to sand the brass tubes to increase the surface area the glue can stick to and to remove dirt and oil which could stop the glue from being as effective as it could be.

I used a medium thickness CA/ superglue in the blanks drill hole as well as on the brass tubes which came with the kit.

The trick to inserting the brass into the hole is not to stop. When the brass is moving there is lubrication but when it stops the glue is likely to set fast. Ideally you will end up with the brass tube completely inserted into the blank.

You might want to use a pencil or something to help push the tube into place.

Top tip from the comments.

@Scanner2 says:
After you've glued the brass tubes into the blank, you might have some glue inside the tube. I use a1/4 inch drill bit, turning in reverse, to ream the inside of the tube. Running the bit in reverse prevents it from catching the brass and ripping through the tube.

(This is a great tip - I would add depending on the kit you have and the method you use to flush the blanks to the brass tubes it might be worth running a hard peace pf metal around the sharp edge of the brass tubes which will reduce any possible burr and result in the pens fitting together easier when it comes to that stage)

Step 7: Face It Off

Picture of Face It Off

My pen making kit came with a facing tool.

I hold this tool in my pin jaws on the lathe and allow the locating pin to enter the brass tube before the blades can remove the parts of the blank which are not surrounding the brass. This results in a completely flat surface for the bushings to rest against later.

If you do not have a tool like this you could sand or carve the surface flush with the brass tube.

Step 8: Install and Start to Turn

Picture of Install and Start to Turn

Put your prepared pen blanks onto the pen makers mandrel with appropriately sized bushings between the pieces.

For me the appropriate bushings are slimline bushings though there are many styles to chose from.

I started to shape and refine the shape using different tools.
If you would like to know more about the wood turning tools I used I produced a quick guide for Make Magazine a little while ago talking about the tools and what they tend to be used for.

Step 9: Refine the Shape and Then Start to Finnish

Picture of Refine the Shape and Then Start to Finnish

I like to make sure the shape is as perfect as I can get it before applying any finish.

Once I was happy and had sanded to 1000 grit I applied a layer of thin CA/ Super glue spreading it to ensure an even coat with my finger.. The key to doing this is use plenty, not enough and the glue will not lubricate as you spread it.

I coated the pen with around 4 layers of super glue before sanding to 1500 grit and using burnishing cream to bring out a mirror like shine. Cabinet makers call this process rubbing out and it results in a flawless finish for those happy to put in the extra work to achieve it.

Step 10: Putting the Parts Together

Picture of Putting the Parts Together

The components to a kit like mine are friction fit but could easily go wrong if you are not paying attention.

I find it is best to set out the project in a dry state to see where things should go and work out an order.
Here if the tip of the pen is not fitted before the mechanism problems could occur. I used a vice to apply pressure to the parts and ensuring a good fit.

I would advise the addition of getting high quality inks for your pens as the standards tend to be just OK rather than the best ever. And all Cross style pens essentially use the same mechanism so you might as well use the same ink as the people who spent a lot more than you on their pens and have the added cool points of having yours as a one of a kind pen you made yourself.


spylock (author)2015-10-27

I love ink pens,I collect medium priced to high end Cross pens,this is great.Where would I get the brass tubes,and other hardware? I would try one of paper,but Ive really wanted to do one of white tail antler.Nice job.

Hello, I bought my first few kits from e bay, though depending on where you are you might find a greater range, higher quality and lower prices from independent retailers. I have often seen kits available in stores where lathes are sold along with other kits including bottle stoppers and spinning tops. (lots of christmas present possabilities are to be found)

I will check E Bay out also,thanks,and again nice job.

Im sure you will find lots of great kits.. in case you have any trouble here are two retailers in the UK who have supplied me with good quality kits.
Even if you don't live in the UK they might give you a better idea of serch terms for google to find places closer to home.

gmnorris (author)spylock2016-02-25

you can find kits here.

spylock (author)gmnorris2016-02-25

Thank you.

taria (author)2015-12-23

I'm so impressed with what people make and then the disappointment comes when I see them using things I don't own, like a garage and the space and the tools. So even though I LOVE this instructable, I could never make this item. :( But I love this and I love pens. I mean, I love pens that are different and not ordinary. and this is different and amazing.

world of woodcraft (author)taria2015-12-23

Hi. Don't worry about getting the full set up straight away. If your interested in turning then try to join a local club if there is one near to you. chances are there will be a hands on evening where you can try your hand and get into the flow. Other than that I think the best thing to do if you have a goal like making an awesome pen is to work out what you have access to which you could safely make one with. Need is the mother of invention and chances are you will create something super interesting which I will want to make. I hope you have fun and get to play with a lathe. I am glad I got mine but for the longest time I wasn't sure i needed one.. I'm still not sure I need one , but it is my favorite tool.

taria (author)world of woodcraft2015-12-23

very true and thank you for the words of encouragement. I will see what I can find around here, but I won't hold my breath. :) but thank you again for the reply.

world of woodcraft (author)taria2015-12-25

It has just dawned on me there might be a pro turner who if you contact could give you some lessons an see if its something you would like to eventually invest more into.

MahboobHussain (author)2015-11-16

Unique, highly impressive, wonderful, attractive, & much more......!!!!!

(Blush) thank you

Tochi (author)2015-10-25

Muy lindo, felicitaciones!

world of woodcraft (author)Tochi2015-10-25

Gracias. Me encanta que ahora estoy recibiendo comentarios en diferentes idiomas. Mis disculpas si esta respuesta no ha leído correctamente.

miked2001 (author)2015-10-25

I've made a few hundred pens and pencils but never thought of this. I have used what they call diamond wood, it is layered like this and looks awesome too.

I was thinking you could layer sheets together instead of the small squares. then you can band saw it to shape, maybe even cut it so the layers are angled down from side to side on the pen blank.

When I get my lathe set up again I will have to try this. Thanks for the idea.

Lol you are very much correct. If I had been thinking a little harder I would have done it this way.

Fezder (author)2015-10-25

Nice! i like that pattern, i suppose it was easy, i mean ''soft'' to lathe?

It was fairly consistent to cut. The resin had penetrated throughout so I would compare it to the plastic pen blanks. The only problem I found was the ribbons of waste material didn't brake as easily as wood does so I had to stop the lathe to get rid of the waste from time to time. But this wasn't a problem.

dulciquilt (author)2015-10-25

instead of always making a pen, consider making it a mechanical pencil. I have one that I love because it is well balanced and nice to hold when drawing.

world of woodcraft made it! (author)dulciquilt2015-10-25

The slimline pencil kits are pretty dam awesome. Last year I was given some ebony piano keys which had been salvaged from an old piano dumped on the side of the road.. (it seems like a huge shame when things like this happen) I made my pencil of choice from two of the keys.

thebeatonpath (author)2015-10-15

This is absolutely beautiful! And what an amazing and thoughtful gift for your fiancée! I hope she loves it. I would!

She says she likes it a lot. Apparently when she uses it at work it gets lots of admiring looks.

No doubt!

Scanner2 (author)2015-10-17

Very interesting! I like your idea for building a blank. May I add one hint? After you've glued the brass tubes into the blank, you might have some glue inside the tube. I use a1/4 inch drill bit, turning in reverse, to ream the inside of the tube. Running the bit in reverse prevents it from catching the brass and ripping through the tube.

Thanks again for the feedback and the top tip. I have just added it to the instructable and creddited you as the originator of the top tip :D

Hi thanks this is a really good point. I will add it when i have a chance. I didnt need to do it with this one but its a good call to give people a heads up that things can happen

theturn (author)2015-10-16

Fantastic! Just when I was scratching my head thinking what to get / make my missus this year for Christmas. She loves 'different' pens and this is an ideal method to make something both different and special.

I'm glad I could help. I would love to see what you make.

rayleb (author)2015-10-15

nice, I think I can apply some of this to knife handles

I'm sure you could.. I would love to see when you have made something.

Bettybstt (author)2015-10-15

This looks like fun! I've been making pens for a while but never thought of making a blank out of paper. How clever!

Thank you.. I saw your book mark makes an think they would make incredible pen blanks. Ill be sure to keep an eye out for your work in the future.

itsmescotty (author)2015-10-15

interesting use of ca 'glue'. Company I worked for in the 70's used the stuff only there was NO touching it as it bonded instantly with anything organic. I didn't know I had spilled a bottle. When I put my hand on the wood table top to lever myself away it went into the puddle. My hand bonded to the table before I could remove it. I had to use a razor blade to shave the wood and epidermal layer of skin. Took a long time.

Beautiful pen!

I have heard that it worked differently at one point. I think the CA I have been using is a bit less hard core. I would love to play with some of the original recipe glue as it sounds ace for some jobs.

Today I had a little experiment stabeliseing some really punky and slightly rotten wood in a burll. The CA fizzed, bubbled and smoked as it seeped in. I think its always best to experiment in a well ventilated location but I have high hopes it will work wonders in making an un usable but beautiful chunk of wood into a usable chunk.

rbicher (author)2015-10-15

A great idea! Respect!

Thank you, I like it

ladybgood (author)2015-10-15

great project and upcycle. My only complaint is about the orientation of some of the images. well done!

Thank you, I will try to change the way the images appear.

tommy tinker (author)2015-10-15

I made a paper block many years ago when I first started experimenting with CA/Super glue. I completely saturated the paper with CA and it resulted in a super light block that would actually float, hard as a rock too. I never used coloured paper just old sheets of printed paper that made a nice finished product when sanded and polished. Just an idea if someone wants to try it. If I still had it I'd upload a pic.

Diggerjack (author)tommy tinker2015-10-15

Hello Tommy

I'm really interested with your picture

Jedi_zombie85 (author)2015-10-13

Awesome mate looks great, a fountain pen in this style would look epic

I'm on it. just buying a fountain pen kit now. I have to confess never mastering the use of a fountain pen at school without ending up with the full hand and face ink look. Perhaps now i'm a little older things will work out a little better for me.

Nice, cant wait to see how it turns out.

FourOaksCrafts (author)2015-10-13

Very creative and beautiful pen! I was just curious what type of paper works best? Is this card stock paper?

Hi , To be fair I normally work to the advice given to my by a turner called Tracy Owen who said " The best tool to use is the one in your hand" I would start off with something you have access to , anything should work a treat. Though if you are buying paper with the aim of following this guide and making something with a little more design I can offer the following advice. 1 not all papers will last time without discolouring, some papers will have UV protection or will be made from cotton rather than ligneum and their fore will stay the colour you want for longer. 2 the thickness of the paper will have a few effects on your working, If its very thin paper you might need a lot more layers to build up the same depth of pen blank, if its to thick like mounting board you might end up with the resen not penetrating fully.. I used some craft paper I had left over from another project.. the type they sell at art shops in stacks .. i forget what the gram of the paper is but it seemed fairly thick stuff .. The resen didnt have any problems with it.

mxx (author)2015-10-13

Interesting instructable, and I also found your makezine guide very informative!

world of woodcraft (author)mxx2015-10-14

Thank you.

nell137 (author)2015-10-12

Omg, I was just thinking about a similar project! I'm a fan of the work of kludge77 on here, his work inspired the idea. Instead of squares of paper, though, tightly rolled magazine pages, rolled around each other & secured with epoxy to form a round blank. Then turned into a candle stick, or whatever. I don't have the tools or skill to do any of that, tho! Glad to see it can be done, great project :)

lol He is a hero of mine.. One of 4 people I follow for being consistently awesome.. Jimmy Diresta, Frank Howarth, Carl Jacobson and Peter Brown. There all doing really interesting things that I feel inspired by. I am glad that I can inspire you in a similar way.

plasticpopcorn4 (author)2015-10-12

dang this looks sweet

About This Instructable




Bio: I work for a charity most of the time but when i,m not i am a wood tuner, former teacher, artist and prop maker ... More »
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