How to Turn a Dip Pen




Introduction: How to Turn a Dip Pen

I recently started practicing pointed nib calligraphy so I decided to make some myself. It was surprisingly easy! You don't need a pen kit or any bushings. The finished dip pen is beautiful and most importantly balanced.

This project is very inexpensive if you have access to a wood lathe. The lathe parts required are standard with the exception of the 7mm drill bit. The trick is turning a jam chuck yourself so you don't have to buy a fancy closed-end pen mandrel and its specialty chuck.

Step 1: Tools and Supplies


  • Wood lathe with the following parts and big enough to turn 12 inch stock
    • chuck with jaws that can compress down to about 1/2 inch diameter
    • live center
    • drive center
    • drill chuck
    • 7mm drillbit
  • Tube Cutter
  • Calliper
  • (not pictured) Turning tools. I like carbide for rough shaping and HSS for final shaping and detailing.
  • PPE - safety goggles and respirator


  • Turning Stock - I used black and white ebony 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch by 12 inch that I ripped from a larger square stock. I recommend tight-grained dense hardwoods such as lignum vitae, desert ironwood, tulipwood, etc. I made my first one out of cherry and it was too light.
  • Sandpaper - varying grit from 150 to 600
  • Finish - I used a walnut oil and beeswax finish. Use anything you like.
  • Masking tape
  • 7mm brass tube - I bought a 10 pack for all of $2.50 from pennstate where you can also pick up the 7mm drill bit. if you don't want to pay for shipping you can get them at your local Rockler or Woodcraft.
  • CA Glue - or super glue
  • Pen Insert - holds the nib in regular nib holders. I haven't been able to find them anywhere but JohnNealBooksellers which is also where I buy all my calligraphy supplies.
  • Sugru - optional.

Step 2: Turn a Tenon

  1. Decide on the orientation. Tail end should go on the tail stock.
  2. Turn a tenon on the tailstock side.

Step 3: Cut Brass Tube to Size

It should be able to house the pen insert. See photo for precise measurements.

Step 4: Drill a Hole to Length

  1. Take your live and drive centers off and chuck up your tenon with the 4-jaw chuck.
  2. install drill chuck with pen drill on the tail end
  3. use masking tape to mark on the drill correct depth.
  4. drill into the wood until you hit the masking tape.

Step 5: Glue in the Brass Tube

Before you apply CA glue test fit it to make sure the hole is deep enough.

Step 6: Square Off the End

Wait for the glue to dry and carefully square off the end to free it of leftover CA and to make flush brass tube and wood.

Step 7: Turn Holder to Size

  1. Put the live center back on the tail stock.
  2. Rough down your stock.
  3. With your calliper measure the insert and turn down the nib end to for a seamless joint.

Step 8: Rough Shape Then Fine Shape

Customize and shape the pen. I held it intermittently with my writing hand to make sure it felt right.

Remember to always turn downhill.

Finalize the thicker diameter shape before tapering off the thin end.

At this point I noticed a wormhole right in the middle grrrr! I just left it alone.

Step 9: Finish the Body

I sanded to 600 grit and rubbed in my walnut oil and beeswax finish with a shop towel.

Step 10: Part Off the Pen

Loosen your tail stock a bit. This is to relieve pressure off the spindle, allowing for a very fine part.

I parted this by tapering down, with light cuts and a sharp tool.

Step 11: Turn a Jam Chuck

The tip from when we parted off is unfinished so this is all for finishing the tip.

Use the calliper to measure the inside diameter of the brass tube and turn a recess down to just a hair smaller.

Wrap the masking tape around a couple of times, tear off excess and jam the pen onto the jam chuck. `

Step 12: Finish the Tip

Sand down and finish the tip as you did the body. The makeshift jam chuck does not spin true and will only become more and more wobbly so support it with your fingers, and always sand from right to left.

Step 13: Assemble and Enjoy!

Hand press the pen insert in your holder and put a nib in it! It's a joy to use and makes me look forward to practicing calligraphy.

If you don't mind permanently marrying a nib to a holder, use Sugru instead of a pen insert. Sugru has the added benefit of waterproofing the nib holder.

I also added in a small ball bearing to weigh down very first one I made out of cherry.

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    5 weeks ago

    Thank you for this well done and useful instructable. Much appreciated and much respect.


    11 months ago

    Thank you for creating an excellent tutorial. I plan to make some.


    4 years ago

    THANK YOU! I turned a pen for my wife and have been looking everywhere for the nib holders! I couldn't find one anywhere until I read your post. Thank you for the link to John Neal!


    6 years ago

    Well if I needed another excuse to finally get a bench lathe, this broke the camel's back. Great instructable!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I just learned how to use dip pens. I should try this!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    go for it! it's fun and rewarding =)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I noticed the sandpaper stained your pen. That's my biggest pet peeve when working with light colored wood on my lathe. You can get tan colored 400-600 grit paper, but its hard to find. The best way, I found to beat it is to wet the wood only as the water breaks down the paper causing the grit to wear off, then as the paper gets wet, replace it. Awesome pen btw. Makes me want to turn one.


    Reply 7 years ago

    I suggest you wet the paper, a single piece of heavy quality sandpaper can be wet for up to 5 pens with great results!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Okay so I turned another one and sanded with Abranet mesh, and the deepening is definitely from the walnut oil which has an amber tint. I think the sandpaper you're talking about are those jet black super fine grit wet/dry ones.

    Fikjast Scott
    Fikjast Scott

    7 years ago on Step 13

    great job, this has motivated me, thanks for posting


    7 years ago

    Great instructable.