Introduction: Coffee in A... Pen?

About: "Black socks and Birkenstocks do not maketh the geek. I would argue that the essence of geekitude comes from within. To the true geek, it's not enough that things work. He or she must know how things work. And…

Good morning all! I hope you had your daily dose of C8 H10 N4 O2 or Coffee as some call it!

This Instructable is about how to make a pen embedded with your favorite coffee beans.

I am making this ‘ible for the Coffee Contest here, but I am not the first person to do make these pens. There are plenty of people making these on Youtube. Each doing it their own way. Since there is no one ‘right’ way to make these, please feel free to try variations (different epoxies and colors, different finishes, etc.)

Also note, it is not safe to take photos while using power tools, so some of these photos are ‘staged’ or taken when tools are not operating. Also, since I am alone, I cannot always hold the camera and perform some tasks (like pouring out precise measurements of liquid) and these photos are also staged. So please do not hold that against me.

Another note, there are lots of products names in the photos. I get no endorsement from any of them, but I do use them and like the brand. So take that with a grain of salt.

Last note, making these pens is AWESOME as it fills the shop with the smell of coffee! I do love COFFEE!

Please vote for me in this contest as well if you like this 'ible!

Enough rambling, onto the ‘ible!

Step 1: Getting Ready to Brew, What You Will Need.

What you will need for this ‘ible varies depending on how you want to make it. I do lots of pens of all types, so I have lots of specialized tools for it. But you need very little of these tools to make a pen. So please do not get intimated for trying this if you do not have these tools. There are plenty of work-arounds.

Minimum tools I would say you really need for this coffee pen…

  • Wood Lathe (with tools)
  • Scale*
  • Pressure pot*
  • Molds*
  • Barrel trimmer (or you can try to use a belt sander if you do not have one)
  • Drill

Minimum supplies you will need…

  • Pen kit (and necessary spindle and bushings for that kits)
  • Coffee beans*
  • Epoxy*
  • Super Glue
  • Sandpaper

*= you only need these if you are making your own blanks. If you want to buy pre-made blanks, these are not required.

Everything else I use is just to make it easier.

Step 2: Can You Handle the Pressure?

Note, working with epoxy is best if you can let it cure under pressure. This is to ensure you don’t get visible air bubbles in the final product. While these pressures are not totally great, bad things can happen fast when you compress air. Please make sure you are comfortable with this fact. We will only be using about 40psi here, but even that has potential to make bad things happen.

Instead of buying a pressure pot, most people make them out of the Harbor Freight Tools pressure painter. Making these is outside of the scope of this ‘ible, but there is plenty of info on how to do it elsewhere. I may even make an ‘ible on it later. Also, follow all safety measures. I'm not going to go over everyone of them, but be safe, we want you to keep making things!

Step 3: “Brewing” the Pen Blank

First, we need to create the pen blank. This is the most involved part of this ‘ible. If you want to skip this part, you can buy pre-made blanks from online sources. Heck, I’ll even make custom ones for you if you want (let me know what kind of coffee beans to use and the color of the resin and I’ll do them for you at cost.)

First, we want to get rid of any smaller or broken beans. Without doing this, the final pen looks dirty. So I just strain the beans in a strainer.

Next, we need to mix the epoxy. In this step, it is critical to follow the epoxy’s manufactures directions. Understand the difference between ‘volume’ and ‘mass’ for measurements. Some epoxies require their measurements by volume, some by mass. To give you an example, an epoxy rated 1:1 by volume would have to you measure equal parts of the epoxy by how much space it takes up (i.e. ml or fluid oz.) If it is 1:1 by mass, you would measure the parts based on their weight (ie. Grams or oz.) Many of these epoxies are very sensitive to these mixture ratios. I pour the measurements into separate measuring cups and mix them together. Be sure to scrape out the cup to get all of it into the mix. Then stir completely. Note the manufacture’s working time. This is the amount of time you have to pour the epoxy before it begins to set. Make sure to spray your molds with a release agent before you put anything in them. Then pour the epoxy into the mold with the beans (You must put the beans in the mold first, and be ready, they will float.)

Here I made some custom molds out of PVC pipe and plastic frame. I tape a piece of rubber glove to the bottom. These work the best I have found.

Step 4: Waiting for the Brew!

Everyone who loves coffee knows the worst part is waiting for the coffee to brew! Here is no different.

Once in put the molds in the pressure pot, bring the pot to about 40 PSI and then wait. How long depends on the epoxy you use. You can always give it more time to be sure, if you have that kind of patience. I normally do not.

Once you take it out, you can push the blanks out of the mold. Note, you will need to trim the top (and often the bottom) to get good working blanks. The length depends on your pen kits requirements, so check the instructions and make it a little longer, you will see why in the next step.

From this point forward, you will be cutting and sanding and every step of the way the sweet smell of coffee will fill the air! Breath it in and enjoy it. This is the smell of happiness!

Step 5: Getting the Blanks Ready for Turning.

Now you need to insert the barrel (little brass tube from the pen kit) into the blank.

First, you need to drill a whole down the center of the blank. This is best done with a drill press and a centering jig. But you could use a hand drill and vise. While it is not 100% required to center this hole, it makes for an easier turning experience. But if you fail to get the center, or if you are not perfectly parallel to the edge, you may be able to correct this on the lathe.

After the hole is drilled, scuff the barrel up a little with 60 grit sandpaper (not required, but I always do this.) Now put some superglue on the barrel and insert it into the blank. Make sure the barrel is not sticking out of either side of the blank (one of the reasons we cut the blanks longer in the last step.) Let it sit for about 5 or 10 mins.

Now, take it to the barrel trimmer. This will ensure you have a ‘squared’ edge on each side of the blank.

This is an easy process, just put the blank into the barrel trimmer as you have it turning slowly on the drill press. It will cut away the edge until it hits the barrel and then stop. Do this to both sides of the blank, and you are ready to turn.

Step 6: Now You Get to Really Dig Into the Pen!

First, place the front bushing on the spindle, then the blank, then the rear bushing and your live center on the back. Depending on your setup, you might need spacers or additional bushings to get the blank in a good working position.

I am not going to tell you how to turn the pen on the lathe. The final shape is up to you. The only real rule is that you need to be flush to the bushings on the ends of the pen. But the shape in the middle is up to you!

Once you have the rough shape, you need to sand. This is the part that makes all the difference. You must start with rougher paper (about 150 grit) and work progressively to higher grits. Do not skip grits. Each step gets out the scratches from the previous grit. Once you get to 600 grit, wipe the blank clean.

Now (and this is the super-secret part!) With the blank turning as slow you can go, put a coat of superglue on it using a paper towel. It may get messy but trust me. After letting that spin for about 3 mins, add another layer of superglue. You can add more layers for a ‘deeper’ finish. I normally stop at about 4 or 5 layers.

Once these are dry, it is time to jump to wet sanding. The more grits, the better! I start at 1500 grit and move to 12000 grit!

After sanding, use some turtle wax and put a good coat on the blank. Let it dry for about 10 -15 mins. Then, set the lathe to high speed and buff it out. The blank is finished.

Step 7: Putting It All Together.

Depending on the pen, you will have to follow the instructions on how to assemble the pen and in what order. The big part to remember is to go slow as it is hard to take them apart if you make a mistake.

Using a press is the best way to slowly control the pressure as you put them together. You can also use a vise, but make sure you put something to protect the tip and ends of the parts.

Once together, enjoy your new coffee pen!

Step 8: Final Thoughts

Enjoy your pen.

I do not get any financial compensation from any of these companies but I do want to talk about where I get my supplies.

Most of the pen working tools I get from Penn State Industries.

They have an amazing selection of kits, fair prices (not the cheapest, but their kits are quality.) Overall, their customer support is second to none! Over the years, I think I had two issues with their products, a quick call to them and replacements were on the way, for free! Can’t beat that.

Epoxies I get from multiple sources, I do like the Alumilite brand. It is easy to work with and doesn’t smell.

Coffee beans I use are just the cheap generic ones unless I have a custom order. A local coffee house may ask me for a run using their beans and I’m happy to do that.

And do not forget to vote for me in this contest as well if you like this 'ible!

In the end, this is a fun project and the result is a truly one of a kind keepsake!

Coffee Speed Challenge

Second Prize in the
Coffee Speed Challenge