Introduction: European Ball Pen Modifications

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…

In years past I have received three of these wooden European-style ballpoint pens as gifts. They use quality Cross refills, and that is a plus. Since the advent of touch screen devices I have wished I could modify at least one to function as a capacitive stylus. This Instructable will show how I did that with one of the three. But, what I did may not work with every pen of this style. I can already see that the cap on one is constructed a bit differently, and that might be a problem.

In the last step I will show how to solve another problem I did not expect.


1 - #6-32 screw with a wide head (An M4 screw would probably work, if you have an M4 thread tap.)

Step 1: Remove the Top of the Cap

After looking at the cap inside and out I guessed at how the domed cap is attached to the top of the pen. I decided it fits on a brass stud inside the wooden dome. I used a knife edge to pry the wooden dome off of the brass stud.

Step 2: Choose a Tap

The brass stud has a hole in the center that is just the right size for a #6 tap. In the second photo I grasped the brass stud with a needle nose Vise-Grip and gently tapped threads in the brass stud.

Step 3: Alter the Domed Top

I used a belt sander to remove the top of the wooden dome. The wooden dome was not fully pressed down onto the pen, but I left a gap between the pen clip and the bottom of the dome. I sanded until the diameter of the flattened portion was the same as the 6-32 screw I had selected. What is left of the domed cap did crack and I worked some wood glue into the crack.

Step 4: Using the Pen

I checked with an Ohmmeter and there is a circuit through the screw I added to the pen clip. (This inexpensive meter never shows “0” Ohms, but always at least a couple of Ohms even when there is no resistance.) Allow your fingers to rest lightly on the clip when in use. Experiment with the angle you hold the pen for the best results when in use.

This capacitive stylus works well on my Kindle Touch and on my iPad. The screen on my iPhone X is somehow not sensitive enough for it to work on my phone. I can live with that. I checked, but I cannot find a way to increase sensitivity on my phone’s screen. From experiments I have done, a more massive piece of steel than the #6 screw would likely work with the iPhone, but it will significantly change the look of the pen, too.

See the next step for an unexpected problem related to another matter, and my solution.

Step 5: Loose Pen Barrel Problem

I almost did not do this project because the pen barrel suddenly would not fit tightly into the cap and I could barely get the pen’s ballpoint to extend when I twisted the barrel. The upper part of the pen barrel has three slightly raised stripes not easy to see. These make a friction grip with the inside of the cap. In time they no longer grip. The jaws of the slip-joint pliers point at the area where the three stripes are. Put the pliers around the area of the silvery tube where the three stripes are and very gently squeeze just a little. That will restore a friction fit between the barrel and the cap. If you squeeze too much, the barrel may not fit into the cap or the mechanism may not turn.