Introduction: Make a Steampunk Pen (NO Lathe Required)

About: BIO: My day job is an engineer and training supervisor. I love to make stuff and write tutorials to show others how to make something. Please visit my blog to see more tutorials, article…
This instructable will show you how to make a Steampunk Pen. This pen is the very popular bolt-action pen, with a Steampunk theme. The mechanism works similar to the bolt action of a rifle. The tip resembles a rifle bullet.

The good news---NO lathe is required. I decided to do this project to prove to myself and others that a lathe is not always necessary to make a handmade pen. Don't get me wrong--I'd much rather use my lathe, but I realize not everyone owns one. It normally takes me about 45 min to 1 hour to make a pen on my lathe. This one probably took about 1.5 to 2 hours. It was a lot of fun to make, and I'm confident you can make one also.

Okay---let's get started!

Step 1: A Word on Safety

If you decide to make this instructable you do so at your own risk. Good news---the risk is relatively small. I assume you have some basic experience or training in woodworking and are familiar with common woodworking tools. Please read the operating instructions of all the tools you use to understand how to operate them safely and effectively.

Have a plan to control certain hazards: eye protection, dust, hearing protection, protection for skin. Use common sense and don't do anything you're uncertain about or don't understand.

Have fun and be safe!

Step 2: The Tools, Equipment, and Materials Needed

First let me begin by listing things I think are a necessity:

Pen mandrel (purchase through Penn State Industries or Woodcraft or Rockler)
Barrel trimmer (purchase through Penn Sate Industries or Woodcraft or Rockler)
Bushings (purchase from Penn State Industries or Rockler)
Electric hand drill
3/8 inch drill bit
CA Glue (Medium Super glue -- get at Hobby Lobby)
Steampunk Bolt Action Pen Kit (purchase through Pen State Industries or Rockler)
Sandpaper - 120, 220, 400 grits
Micro Mesh (optional - can purchase at Hobby Lobby)
Finish - we will discuss some options later.

Options for sanding (You will need one of these)

Belt sander
Dremel with sanding drum attachment
Small orbital sander

Incidentally the URL for Penn State Industries is

Step 3: Read Your Pen Instructions

Every pen kit comes with a set of instructions. These instructions will tell you what drill bit to use and what bushings to use. It also tells you how to assemble the pen later. Please READ these instructions CAREFULLY.

Step 4: Check Your Pen Kit

Pull out the items in your pen kit and make sure everything is there. Your pen kit instructions will point out all the parts that should be in the kit. Put everything back in the bag except the pen tube.

Step 5: Select Wood and Measure With Pen Tube

I selected Bocote as my wood of choice for this pen. It's a beautiful exotic wood found in Mexico and Central America. I believe this wood matches the antique brass/ copper metal plating very well. I purchased this Bocote blank from Rockler and used the pen tube to measure the section I needed to cut out. Lay the pen tube on top of the blank and leave 1/8 to 1/4 inch additional wood on either side of the pen tube. Use a pencil or marker so you'll know where to cut.

The good news with this particular kit is that you only have to shape one barrel for the pen. Some pen kits (like the Slimline kit) come with 2 barrels.

Step 6: Cut the Blank

I could have used my bandsaw to make the cut, but I wanted to show you it can be done with a regular handsaw. Another option would be a jig saw or table saw if you have one. If you use power saws, make sure you carefully read the operating instructions that come with them.

Step 7: Drill Hole for Pen Tube

I could have used my drill press, but I chose to use my electric hand saw to drill the 3/8 inch hole for the pen tube. Make sure you position the drill and drill bit in straight alignment with the blank. Drill the hole and try to go slow, but with just enough speed to get through the blank. If you drill too fast or too hard you risk cracking or blowing out the bottom of the blank. So be careful with this step.

Step 8: Glue in the Pen Tube

I used medium CA glue (super glue) to set the pen tube in place. I like to twirl the tube into the blank as I apply the glue from above. This ensures that the glue completely covers the pen tube. You have to do this fairly quickly since CA glue sets fast. Push the tube into the blank so it's centered within the blank. I like to wear nitrile gloves to prevent the glue from touching my skin. Allow the glue to set for maybe an hour.

Step 9: Use Barrel Trimmer to Square Up the Blanks

Place the barrel trimmer in your hand drill and place the blank in a vise. Trim down to the pen tube, but don't go too far. I like to carefully trim down until I see the shine of the brass tube. Do this for both ends. This step is necessary so that the pen assembly parts will fit flush with the pen barrel and there are no gaps between pen assembly parts and barrel.

Step 10: Mount Blank and Bushings to Pen Mandrel

Normally the pen mandrel mounts to a wood lathe and spins with the lathe. For this instructable we will only be using the mandrel to hold our blank in place while we sand. Two large bushings go with this kit and they are the ones you see in the second picture. In the last picture, you can see that they are positioned up next to both ends of the pen blank. These two bushings will match the dimensions of the pen assembly parts -- the pen tip and the end of the pen. The bushings will serve as our guide for the sanding process so that we will sand the blank down to the correct dimensions--no more or no less.

I'm also using some smaller bushings that are normally used with a pen kit called Slimline. In this case, I'm only using them as additional spacers to give me room to maneuver the blank around my sander.

The last picture shows how I've mounted everything to the mandrel. You will need a couple of channel lock pliers to tighten / untighten the morse taper end. This is the part that would normally slide into a lathe's headstock. On the opposite end is a brass nut. Use the brass nut to tighten everything into place so that the blank does not revolved around the mandrel shaft.

Step 11: Begin Sanding the Blank

Here is where a few options come into play. Your goal, of course, is to sand the blank down to a round shape and down to the bushings.

Option 1 - Take a carving knife to whittle the blank down and then sand it by hand.
Option 2 - Use a Dremel with a sanding drum attachment.
Option 3 - Use a small orbital sander.
Option 4 - Use a belt sander.
Option 5 - Fix the mandrel in a vise and sand by hand with sandpaper strips
Option 6 - Attach mandrel to electric hand drill for final sanding.

I decided to use options 4, 5, & 6. A Picture is worth a thousand words. My first two pictures show me using a belt sander I bought for $50 from Harbor Freight. I used the belt sander to take off the majority of the wood. I recommend that you constantly keep the wood moving as you sand. What I did was rotate the wood blank to help create the round profile. My goal was to sand down close to the bushings but not all the way. My other goal was to leave the blank fatter in the middle.

In the next picture, I have the mandrel clamped in my bench vise, and I'm using a long 1 inch strip of 120 grit and 220 grit sand paper. I'm grabbing both ends and working it back and forth around the blank. This also helps create the round profile that's needed for the pen. Continue to sand the ends near the bushing until they are flush with the bushing. I like to run my fingernail along the wood and bushing until they are the same dimension. Be careful here not to sand on the metal bushing, because you don't want to ruin it for future pens. Too much sanding applied to the metal bushings could altar their dimensions.

Also, you need to take the sandpaper and sand lengthwise along the wood to cancel out any scratches.

In the final picture, I've taken the morse taper end off the mandrel and mounted that end into my hand drill. I placed the hand drill very carefully in the bench vise, not tightening the vise much at all (don't want to ruin the drill). Turn the drill on and sand with the 400 grit and then move to the Micro Mesh. This final sanding will bring everything to the proper dimensions and create a smooth surface along the wood.

Once done, inspect the wood blank to make sure you have a round and symmetrical profile.

Step 12: Apply a Finish

Once you are satisfied that the blank has the nice round profile you want and the ends are flush with the bushings, then you can apply a finish of your choice.

Since I had the pen mandrel already mounted in the bench vise, I decided to use my friction polish made by Hut. This is a mixture of shellac and wax, and it cures with friction. The first picture shows a bottle of the friction polish, and the next one shows me applying the polish to the wood as it's turning in the drill. I squirted out about a quarter-sized amount and then move the cloth and polish along the bottom of the wood, back and forth. You can feel some heat coming through the cloth which is good. Be careful not to let the cloth get tangled on the spinning mandrel. In fact, it would be safer to use a paper towel. Wear your safety glasses so none of the polish slings up in your eyes.

The final picture shows the pen blank after I've finished applying the friction polish. I like to give it a few minutes to completely dry and cure.

If you don't want to go the friction polish route, I you could try a wipe-on polyurethane. Read the instructions on the container and apply the finish.

Or another option would be to apply a wax and buff it or don't apply a finish.

Step 13: Assemble the Pen

Pull out your pen kit instructions. The instructions tell us to press in the pen front-end assembly first (see first picture). Go slow and make sure the front-end assembly is lined up properly with the wood pen barrel. Don't force anything, if it doesn't seem to be coming together. I simply rotate and reposition the pen in the vise.

In the next picture I am pressing the pen's rear-end assembly into the other end of the wood pen barrel. Again, go slow and keep everything aligned.

Final steps are to uncrew the tip, slide the ink refill into the hole, slide the spring onto the front of the ink refill, and then reattach the tip.

Slide the bolt back and forth to make sure the mechanism is working correctly. Write something on a scrap piece of paper to see how well it works.

And presto --- you're done!

Step 14: Enter the Steampunk Pen Giveaway

Thanks for reading this Instructable. I would like to invite you to enter my giveaway. Go to my website, using this URL:

Go to the bottom of my post and look for the Rafflecopter Entry Form. It will direct you on how to enter the giveaway.

No purchase is required, and I will ship the pen to the winner free of charge.

Good luck!!