Introduction: Turning a Camphor Pen
So I am a pen turner and I'd say I'm a fairly decent one. There are many secrets to turning a pen that aren't shown in the instructions that come with your pen kit. Today I'll show you how i turned a Slimline Pen out of Camphor wood.
Step 1: Preparing Your Blanks for Turning
I held the brass tube up to my blank and marked a line about a sixteenth of an inch oversized and extended it with a speed square. I did this same thing on my other blank. Next, I cut at those lines on my bandsaw. Then, I clamped the, up in my homemade pen vise and used a standard 7mm brad point bit to drill a through hole through each blank. After that, I prepared everything to glue the brass tubes in. First, I scuffed the shine off the tubes for a better bond. Second, I pulled out a scrap of plywood to wipe the excess on. Then, I grabbed my bottle of medium CA glue. I first ran a small bead of glue inside the the hole in each blank. I did this because once you glue the tube into the pen, by the time it reaches the other end, there is hardly any glue on the tube from squeezing out. After that, I stuck the tube on the end of a pencil and ran several beads of CA on it. Then I slowly inserted it into the blank, twirling and pulling it in and out for maximum coverage. I then dragged each end of the blank across the plywood. This will ensure that the tube is flush with one end of the blank and also remove any excess. I repeated all that with the other blank and tube and let them cure up. Once dry, I flush sanded them on my homemade disc sander.
Step 2: Turning the Blanks
I put everything on my mandrel and applied pressure with my tail stock and mandrel saver instead of the brass nut included with the mandrel. I used a roughing gouge to knock off the corners and I use a skew for a little bit just to stay in tip top shape with my skew skills and get some practice in. But, my go to tool for pen turning is a low fluted spindle gouge which is basically a roughing gouge with the wings drawn back. With a series of push cuts I first brought each end of the blanks down to just a hair above the diameter of the bushings and then smoothed it over and developed a nice easy curve to each blank. You might want to consider a really light skew cut to clean up the surface before sanding. You can pretty much use whatever tool your comfortable with except a scraper. You might be able to use a negative rake scraper or a skew scraper but DO NOT use a round nose or square scraper of any kind! It will catch and blow apart your pen!
Step 3: Sanding!
I always start sanding with 180 grit and work through with 240, 320, 400, 600, and then 800. I use Rhyno Soft foam-backed sandpaper because it is locally sold at my woodturning club and it is extremely comfortable to sand with while turning. Always remember to wear a respirator or use some sort of dust collection. I wore my North Respirator and used a hose clamp to attach my shop vac hose to my lathe.
Step 4: CA Finishing
I know that everybody has their own process for applying a CA finish and by no means do I have any right to say that my technique is the best, but I think that my method of applying CA is a very good one and has always been reliable and given me great results. I squirted a small amount of CA onto a small piece of paper towel and quickly wiped it on the wood (I was turning at around 800RPM). Don't linger with the CA because it could very easily dry and then you have a piece of paper towel glued to your pen......I don't know for sure, but I'd imagine that wouldn't sell to well at a craft show. I hit it with some accelerator (activator) and waited about 43 seconds. Do not lay down all of your coats at once because it will be soft and won't dry properly. If you are using a thin CA each coat will dry almost instantly but you'll need to lay down about 8 coats to get a nice durable finish. However, I'm using a medium CA, so I only need about 3 or 4 coats, but it takes longer to dry even with an accelerator. So I did the same process of squirting CA onto the paper towel, wiping it on, and spraying it with accelerator. Always wipe your CA from the middle of the pen blanks. This will cause it to not gum up so much on the bushings. Also, wiping some beeswax onto the bushings. This will prevent them from sticking to the wood. Then I sanded everything down with 400, 600, and 800 grit. Turn off the lathe after 400 grit and look to see if there are any shiny spots. If so, continue to sand with 400 grit. We are trying to remove the hills and valleys that the CA left over and make everything even.
Step 5: Polishing
I use micro mesh pads to polish the CA finish. Micro mesh is fine grit sandpaper that starts at 1500 and ends with 12,000 with about 9 or something grits in between. Each grit leaves a smaller sand scratch and the last one is so small that the overall surface will look extremely shiny and feel like glass. After the micro mesh I use Meguiar's Buffing Compound (you can use a plastic polish or any sort of buffing compound). I use a damp rag and apply it by hand first to ensure that I get even surface coverage and then I start up the lathe and let it run at 600 revs and gradually turn up the speed as I'm buffing it. By the end, I'm rolling at around 1500 RPM and the surface is absolutely flawless. It will legitimately be smoother than a glazed car. After that, I will take both pieces off the mandrel.
Step 6: Assembly
I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty detail of assembling a slimline pen. I printed my instructions here: https://www.woodturnerscatalog.com/docs/apprentice_fancy_slimline.pdf The only thing I did slightly different than the instructions is that I applied the smallest morsel of CA to the pen clip and top assembly because as time goes by and the pen gets more and more use, the clip will come loose and spin freely, so gluing it in will make sure that that doesn't happen. Just be careful with the CA. Only a dab will do the the job. That's it! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and it was helpful to you! Thank you!