Picture of Turn leather belts into a pen
I have been part of my university woodturning club and have specialized somewhat in penturning. I like to use exotic wood and some nontraditional media (like corn cobs, banksia pods, etc.) and figured I'd try to make a pen out of leather. In this Instructable, we'll (quite literally) be turning leather belts into a pen.

In all, the project took approximately 5 hours and cost about 10 bucks (considering the belts were free, so the only cost was the pen kit and adhesives).

Materials required:
Leather (from belts, shoes, or anything, really.
Contact cement
Cyanoacrylate - NOTE: Cyanoacrylate (CA) is dangerous not just because it bonds skin, but it also reacts violently with cotton (ie bursts into flames). Do not let it touch your skin, clothes, paper towels, etc.
Pen kit (available at specialty woodturning/woodworking stores and catalogs - I used a 7mm twist mechanism kit)
Linseed oil - resin finishing mixture

Scalpel or razor
Power drill/drill press with appropriate size bit and pen mill/reamer
Mandrel and bushings of appropriate size
Woodturning tools (I used a 1/2 inch spindle gouge and a 1 inch rounded skew)
Sandpaper (150-220) and nylon sanding pads
Mallet and spare bushings (potentially)
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3366carlos2 years ago
very nice.
jdelaney-13 years ago
i've turned acrylic before for a 7mm pen, and the hardest part by far is drilling , they seem alot more prone to cracking then any wood blanks
CrLz4 years ago
Nice pen, I can imagine it has a good, warm feel to the grip. Beautiful idea.
frazeeg4 years ago
I'm curious to see how this holds up in the long term. I've got a couple pens I turned from oak burl a few years ago that are starting to crack and chip - probably as a result of keeping them in my pants pocket all day.

Definitely an interesting reuse project. Some of the things I see turned into pens on Rockler and the like never cease to amaze me (antlers, snakeskin, etc.). I hope the leather lasts you a while.
my dad makes wood and antler pens. his antler ones he uses a rifle cartrige and a real copper bullet for the writing tip. he has some on a pen turners form. if you would like to see one i could send u a pic.
jk.hardy (author)  frazeeg4 years ago
I've never seen snakeskin used as a medium before - thanks for the heads up, I'll look into it.

As for the pens, I've had a couple for 3 years plus that barely have a scratch on them. How are you finishing yours? My finish is a combination of oil and resin, and the resin really helps protect the pens. Burls in general are more prone to cracks, but you might want to look into some stronger finishes if they're falling apart on you.
I use a friction polish that you apply with a rag while the pen is turning. It gives a nice shine but it seems to wear out after a while. I made my dad a nice birdseye maple pen/pencil set and it's starting to turn a little green.

I remember seeing the snakeskin pen blanks in the woodworking catalog before but can't find it now. This site has them but they're quite pricey.  I've wanted to try using them but haven't turned with acrylic before and didn't want to make my first (and probably worst) one out of something so expensive.
jk.hardy (author)  frazeeg4 years ago
Thanks for the link - that's a pretty neat pen blank. I'm not crazy about turning acrylic - it doesn't have the same feel as turning wood, but definitely would make a unique pen. If I end up making one, I'll let you know.

Most friction polishes are shellac based - in my experience, shellac seems to be the "weakling" of the resin finishes. I'd try finding a combination linseed oil - tree resin finish. Wet sand the pen from 220 grit on up, and when you're done sanding, friction finish with a polishing rag - the concept is the same as with a standard friction polish, but using a tree resin will probably give a more durable finish. Hope this helps!
Arghus4 years ago
Why oh why?
It seems like a huge waste of Time/Effort for a bloody pen..
jk.hardy (author)  Arghus4 years ago
I think you could ask that question about the majority of things on a DIY blog.

I did it because it was fun, interesting, and now I have a pen made out of leather - which, in what I can tell, is relatively unique.

I probably won't do it again because it was a lot more time and effort than making one out of wood, but it's a high quality pen in a new medium that I had the satisfaction of making myself. If that's not reason enough, I don't what is.
fly_boy_bc4 years ago
And why is there no warning on the package? And why as a daily user of the stuff have I never heard this before? I have had CA spills inside cardboard boxes. If this had caused a fire Zap A Gap would have seen a nasty lawsuit because they did not warn me.

I find this most disturbing what's next? Will my glass cleaner kill me with fumes they have not told me about? I just can't get over the fact that this is NEW INFORMATION to me. Various CA suppliers have RISKED THE LIVES OF MY CHILDREN for no reason! How DARE they not disclose IN LARGE PRINT this DEADLY possibility?!??

I have stored this stuff in my field box which also contained COTTON rags for cleaning glue spills AND HIGH POWER SOLID ROCKET MOTORS. Once again a BIG lawsuit if there had been any problems because I WAS NOT TOLD!

I am REALLY pissed! I don't like being kept ignorant of such important safety issues!
I believe that small containers such as Superglue tubes don't contain warnings (other than 'irritant') because there's not enough to be a danger in shipping and normal use. Notice they don't usually sell it in large containers.
Oh? Just how much does it take to be a GRAVE LETHAL DANGER when stored alongside of HIGH POWER SOLID ROCKET MOTORS such as I had them?

Besides a single little tube CAN start a small fire and all a small fire needs to become a HUGE CONFLAGRATION is a VERY short period of time.

Load of gibberish to say that the ammount of glue makes any difference. One single match can start the worlds largest fire.
jk.hardy (author)  fly_boy_bc4 years ago
Sorry fly-boy, don't know what to say - the MSDS reports include the cotton/wool clause, and I only looked it up after a paper towel started smoldering on my kitchen counter. Best of luck, and be careful.
kmpres4 years ago
Nice job! I'd love to try it. I'm gearing up to do some pen turning myself soon. Got the lathe, tools, woods, etc, but still working on a way to sharpen my chisels. I want to make a belt sander with fine grit belts but that will have to wait until I can afford the parts.

A comment and a question:
First, the comment:

I never heard of the fire hazard with CA glue and cotton before. Been using the stuff for 20 years on model airplanes and anything else that breaks in my house with no such reaction. Are you sure you're not thinking of something else?

Now the question:
What is the finishing formula you're using? I have to make my own as where I live (Japan), no one has heard of it. I could import a ready-made finishing polish but it is ridiculously expensive. 
jk.hardy (author)  kmpres4 years ago
I've used different CAs for years and haven't had any problem with some of them, have had a couple incidents with some others. I'd venture a lot of it has to do with how pure the CA is (it's pretty hard to find pure CA - what we buy in hardware stores is relatively dilute). In any case, MSDS reports say to avoid wearing cotton and wool when using it, as does my personal experience. If you don't believe me, douse some cotton swabs (although I'd advise against it).

The finishing oil I use is supplied by my university (so I don't have the brand name, sorry). From what I can tell, it's a generic wood finishing oil - combination of organic oils and resins. It gives a nice finish that's lasted for years on my pieces. Sorry I can't be more specific!
sqeeek kmpres4 years ago
Pour a couple of bottles of superglue on some fluffed cotton, you'll see :)
kmpres sqeeek4 years ago
Ah, then I guess my poor old cotton clothes are safe from explosions from the odd drop or two I get on them now and again.
jtobako4 years ago
"Cyanoacrylate - NOTE: Cyanoacrylate (CA) is dangerous not just because it bonds skin, but it also reacts violently with cotton (ie bursts into flames). Do not let it touch your skin, clothes, paper towels, etc."

Care to say how? I've never had a problem with it. Could you be thinking of nitrocellulose lacquer?
omnibot jtobako4 years ago
Well, I have a friend whos head burst into flames once when he tried superglue to attach dreadlocks to his hair. We figured out later that the glue reacts (don't ask me how) with both hair, on his head, and wool, in the dreadlocks.
It starts out smoldering, with a little smoke and takes a while.
Maybe your friend is just a hothead. Just sayin' ya' know.
jtobako omnibot4 years ago
Cause and effect. Did you know that drinking milk causes cancer? Sure, it take a long time to develop in some people, but EVERYONE WHO HAS CANCER HAD DRUNK MILK.

Yah, I don't believe your story either-mostly because so few women with extensions run screaming down the street with their head on fire.
jtobako jtobako4 years ago
My apologies. All my spills must have been too small to create combustion or the glue contained too much additives to allow combustion.

I still have doubts-for instance, if CA will ignite paper, why is cardbord used in it's packaging?
jk.hardy (author)  jtobako4 years ago
Nitrocellulose was originally produced by mixing starch with nitric acid - any cellulose-based compound (such as paper and cotton) mixed with a nitrating agent will create nitrocellulose. It's extremely flammable (potentially explosive), but nitrocellulose can be made from paper; it doesn't react with paper.

CA is a polymerizable ester - upon touching a nucleophile (such as water, alcohol, etc.), CA monomers "cure" and polymerize in an exothermic reaction. Compounds like paper and cotton contain a high concentration of starch-bound hydroxyl groups, which act as nucleophiles. CA will polymerize rapidly when in contact with such compounds, and the resultant can ignite the medium.

From personal experience, I accidentally dropped a bottle of CA and wiped it up with a paper towel. I threw it in the sink when it started smoking and it caught alight just before I turned the faucet on.

Reaction with cotton:

Applying cyanoacrylate to materials made of cotton or wool (such as cotton swabs, cotton balls, and certain yarns or fabrics) results in a powerful, rapid exothermic reaction. The heat released may cause minor burns, and if enough cyanoacrylate is used, the reaction is capable of igniting the cotton product, as well as releasing irritating vapor in the form of white smoke.[11]

Material Safety Data Sheets for cyanoacrylate instruct users not to wear cotton or wool clothing, especially cotton gloves, when applying or handling cyanoacrylates.[12]
=////=======> ~ Y-U Sneak...HAR..! That's cOOl.! YUP.
raveeeee4 years ago
very nice,,really it requires a lot of patience./././.
Kaelessin4 years ago
This is incredible! I never would have guessed this was possible! How is the feel of the pen? I'd bet it's nicer to hold than even wood!
jk.hardy (author)  Kaelessin4 years ago
I thought the pen would feel like an acrylic blank because I used so much CA - I was surprised to find it actually feels like leather. It's a little heavier than most of the woods, and didn't take on as smooth a finish. I like it that way, though - it has a more industrial era (perhaps even masculine?) feel to it.
Definitely! I've been wanting to try this but lack the tools (not to mention the list of projects extends into infinity already). It'd be awesome to make a fountain pen like this.

Thanks for the great idea and writeup!