Introduction: Caduceus Pen

I have enrolled in an online summer Art Appreciation class that includes an original art project. This Instructable is my presentation of what I have created for my art class. As such, I will not be detailing lathe tool use techniques, etc.


creativity, lathe with pen turning accessories, various common hand tools (If you have a lathe and know how to make a pen, you will have all necessary tools), patience


pen kit, copper wire, glue, epoxy, sandpaper

Disclaimer: This project involves the use of power tools and toxic chemicals. Never use any product in a manner other than as specified by the manufacturer. Always use all applicable safety equipment.

Step 1: Make a Plan

As with all artwork, an important step is to figure out what it is that you intend to create. In this case, I had already been thinking about making a new pen, so that initial step was easy to figure out. But.... what kind of pen?

I decided to brainstorm, with the results being the first picture. As you can see, I considered a wide range of potential subject matter in a wide variety of materials. I chose to limit my choices to materials that I already had on hand and decided not to spend any money on material (a choice which came back and gave me some problems later on). I ultimately decided to attempt to create a medical themed pen featuring a "caduceus" (two snakes on a staff with wings at the top) because I hope to go on to medical school and become a doctor, and because my father was a doctor.

The second and third pictures are me verifying that I actually have the bits and pieces of the pen kit that I intended to use with my pen.

Step 2: Make a Model

Now that I have picked a subject, I decided to attempt to sketch a potential design. (the silvery metallic pen is approximately the dimensions I expect my caduceus pen to be when complete, so it's a useful reference) After coming up with a design, I created a rough model out of super sculpey (my favorite modeling material by far). My original thought was to create a very thin black palm (the rectangular block of wood) center covering the brass tube, and then to model snakes and wings from sculpey. This plan served me well until I broke the wood while carving it on my lathe. I also had significant problems making wings thin enough to fit within the pen shaft as I wanted.

After further brainstorming, I ended up gluing sandpaper to the brass tube and using a some copper wire I had to create the snakes and wings.

Step 3: Snakes

Here we have the brass tube already covered with sandpaper (220 grit wet/dry sandpaper). I created the snakes head by tying a knot in the end of the wire and very carefully "mushing" (a technical term I use to describe the brutal mauling of things with excessive force) the copper into the shape I wanted. I originally left forked tongues, but ended up removing them because I was concerned that they would bend during the epoxy application process and leave me with an unsightly snake head.

After creating both snakes, I glued the heads to the sandpaper and then wrapped them down the body of the pen. Once I had the spacing and overlaps arranged as I thought they should be (read that as an hour of extreme frustration and the careful application of many very small clamps) the tails were glued down to lock the snakes in position.

Step 4: Wings

After completing the snakes, I knocked out the wings in another serious bit of glue and clamping. I ended up using 5 strips of the copper braid. I don't have many pictures of this portion because I didn't have any spare hands throughout the majority of the wings work.

Step 5: Epoxy and Turn

After preparing both halves of the pen, I proceeded with embedding them in epoxy. To do this, I first had to plug the ends of the brass tubes (I have "borrowed" one of my daughter's pink crayons for this purpose, and I now owe my two year old one fat pink crayon....) After plugging the ends of the brass tubes, I placed the entire structure within my high tech pen casting mold (a piece of PVC pipe standing vertically on a blob of sculpey. The lower end of the pink crayon presses into the center of the sculpey plugging the end and serves to keep the bottom of the pen centered in the pipe. I used a set of pins sticking into the crayon at the top end to keep the top centered.)

After preparing my mold, I discovered that my "good" epoxy had dried up (the silvery pen in some early pictures is made with the "good" epoxy), so I used my lower quality epoxy. (slightly yellow color, not perfectly transparent, more prone to small bubbles) The first picture is the pen after being removed from the mold, the second is after I separated the pieces and removed the extra epoxy and crayon and then mounted them on the lathe tool.

The third picture is the pen parts after I completed turning them on the lathe. As you can see in the fourth picture, I decided to cut directly into the copper in several locations in order to reduce the overall diameter and weight of the pen.

Step 6: Finished Pen

This is the final piece after assembly. I added grooves along the snake portion of the pen to tie in with the inset portion on the tip of the pen as well as to further reduce weight. The pen is comfortable to hold and use, and more importantly, it looks fantastic in person and is utterly unique.

I hope that this has provided you with some ideas for future projects.

Disclaimer: The creation of this item involved the use of power tools and toxic chemicals. Never use tools or chemicals in any way other than as intended by the manufacturer. Always use all applicable safety equipment.