Introduction: Cola Pen Materials and Design for Small Production Run

About: Based in San Francisco I strive to incorporate custom lettering in the art that I design, print, and make.

Cola Pens are calligraphy writing pens that are a niche handmade luxury item. In the calligraphy world many master scribes use a variety of materials to make pens for their calligraphy. This instructable includes information about the materials that I used to make a set of 12 cola pens. 

The wooden handles in the images are from Arizona Juniper and cottonwood that was upcycled.

NOTE: Not for under 18. The edges of the can are very sharp and there are very few safe ways to cut the can as shown in step 2. Please be careful. Safety First.

I have made 2 instructables abou cola pens
1) how to select material (this instructable)
2) how to assemble the cola pen - see Cola Pen Construction From Arizona Wood And SF Cans at Techshop

Submitted by SFlettering for the Instructables Sponsorship Program

Step 1: Preparing the Wood for Making Handles

Using a hatchet, a chopping block, and a piece of Juniper wood without the bark I prepare to make the wood blanks that will be sanded down to become the handles for the cola knives. 

TIP: When holding the small piece of wood in place use a helper stick and KEEP your hands away from any surface an ax will strike.

Step 2: Splitting the Wood

Splitting the wood is best done by finding several pieces of "dead and down" wood. Wood that is on the ground and still hard can be hard to locate depending on where you live. Take your time in wood selection and choose pieces that are about the length from your thumb to your pinkie stretched out. 

When you are selecting materials pay special attention to the strength of the writing end and to the feel of the area you will be holding. When selecting these materials for the wooden handle I removed the bark, split thick pieces of wood, and cut several longer branches as shown in the images.

Step 3: Cola Can Nib Construction

After drinking a few Arizona Ice Teas for $1.00ea you are ready to start 

1) cut off the top
2) cut off the bottom 
3) cut down the seam
4) cut strips the width of your desired broad knib cola pen

You now have prepared the "cola" part for the cola pen construction. Within this process you can use many different materials to form the writing knib. In this example of the cola pen we are using a readily available and very durable material (the cola can). When bending the can to make the nib allow the pen to bend in the natural direction of how it was manufactured for durability or bend the other direction (as done in the images) to get a sharper more precise writing tip.

Safety TIP: The can is very sharp and can easily cut a person

Step 4: Sanding the Wood: Making It Smooth and Ready to Hold

When you have cut your wooden handles to size you are ready to sand the handle and prepare it for making your cola pen. Make sure to test the feel of holding the handle to know where you want to sand down areas. In this example my goal was to smooth the surface rather than actually sanding the wood into shape.

TIP: attempt to incorporate knots of wood or thicker areas of the wood specifically in the portion that you will hold in your palm.

Step 5: Rough Sanded Wood

When sanding wood to make it smooth for use as a handle consider not making the surface perfectly smooth. A perfectly smooth surface will be harder to hold and my also be less comfortable. The handles feel best when sharp areas are sanded roughly and left at a level where you can still easily hold and manipulate the handle while writing.

Step 6: Edge Smoothing With Obsidian: Obsidian Smoothing Not Required for Final Construction

To achieve the most smooth edge possible in the area where your fingers touch the handle you are going to need a piece of obsidian. Safety: obsidian is so sharp that it is used for scalpel blades. Safety First

This image shows how you can smooth the wooden handle with a sharp "chip" of obsidian. The Arizona obsidian in this image will be able to smooth only a portion of the handle before chipping or requiring using a different edge to keep it sharp enough and strong enough to create the super smooth areas. Here I am showing how smooth the obsidian makes the wood as a demonstration (fyi: the demo area will actually be under tape after the nib is joined to the handle.

TIP: Obsidian is easily found in certain places throughout Arizona. If you are not in a location where you can collect obsidian consider purchasing your obsidian from an Arizona source to support Arizona Rock Hunting Activities.

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