Introduction: Make Your Own Rifle Cartridge Pen Blanks

Having turned several wood and acrylic pens I was looking at other unique types of pens. I found that you could get pen blanks made from bullet cartridges. I ordered some from the US at a reasonable price ($2-$4) along with some rifle clips. Even freight wasn't too expensive. Made pens out of the blanks which look great. I also ordered a kit which had all the parts and included the cartridge with a projectile (bullet) as the pen nib. Unfortunately I wrecked the cartridge (don't ask) and lost $20.

This got me to wondering if I could make my own. I was talking to a friend, Bob, who has several rifles and uses reloaded bullets. I asked him where he buys the shells and projectiles and if they are expensive, he pointed me to a few gun shops. He also went one better and got me several different shells and projectiles through his mate, Fred, who reloads the bullets.

I have now worked out how to make the Cartridge blanks and the Bullet kits. Though the Bullet kits still have some kinks to be worked out.

So this 'ible is how to make the cartridge blanks. (the Bullet kits maybe later, or stay secret :)

In this 'ible I'll be using 308 cartridges as they are the easiest to modify. They are just the right length and have the right neck diameter to match the pen nib. You can use other cartridges but they must have a neck diameter to allow a 7mm tube to pass through.

Many thanks to Bob and Fred for providing the cartridges and projectiles for me to experiment with, and lots of information on bullet types and dimensions.

The soldering method is based on williamoyoungs method on youtube.

WARNING - This should only be done with new cartridges made for reloading or cartridges that have been fired (spent cartridges). DO NOT use an unfired bullet (live bullet). Trying to pull it apart may cause it to go off and KILL OR INJURE, you or someone else.

Please excuse some of the photos, it's very hard to juggle a camera and do some action shots by yourself.
Maybe I need an assistant .....
"Igor get the camera !"
"Not that one you fool, the other one !"
"Muahahaha soon I WILL RULE THE WORL......."

Opps did I type that out loud?

Step 1: Bits and Pieces

Some 308 Cartridges - new for reloading or used, no projectile or powder, fired or no primer.
7mm pre-cut brass pen tubes or length of pen tubing

Drill press with vise
Drills Imperial and Metric
Bench vise
Slodering Iron - 40 Watts or more
Wood lathe
Pen mill
1/4" bolt, 3" long and 1/4" nut
Thick CA glue
Thin flux cored solder
Wet and Dry Sandpaper - various grades 400, 800, 1200
Micro Mesh pads - 1500 to 12000
Maguires Car Polish

Optional -
Centering Pen Vise
Pen turning mandrel
Metal lathe ?
Grinder with buffing/polishing wheels
Rubber mallet
Cutting oil
Deburing tool

Step 2: Preparing the Cartridge

Depending on where you get your cartridges, they may or may not have a primer in the back.  If you buy the cartridges new (for relaoding) you should get them without a primer.  If you get them from someone who reloads bullets or just spent rounds the primer will probably still be there. 

The primer should have a small dent in the centre, this means it has gone off and should be safe. 

If there is no dent, leave it alone.  Trying to remove an unfired primer may set it off and could cause you some harm.

You can remove the primer by knocking it out with a long thin nail or rod inserted  from the neck of the cartridge (thinner part, where the projectile would be) to the centre of the back.  You should be able to tap it out gently with a hammer.  No need to place it in a vise, either hold it in your hand or place it over a hole drilled in a piece of scrap wood.

Next, you need to drill a 7mm hole in the back of the cartridge.  This hole needs to be exactly in the centre of the cartridge so you need to use a drill press or a lathe.  A metal lathe would be ideal, but I don't have one (yet).  I used my drill press and a centering vise that I use for dirlling pen blanks. However you drill the hole, do it at a low speed.  I set my drill press to its lowest speed of 500 rpm.

You could also use a vise with soft or V jaws.  Another method might be a piece of wood with a hole drilled the same size as the cartridge. The wood should be cut down the middle.  You can then clamp the bullet and wood halves in a drill press vise.

How ever you hold the cartridge it needs to be in line with the drill bit and in centre.  I get it on centre by using a smaller drill bit that just fits into the hole for the primer.  with the drill press off I nudge the vise until the drill bit goes smoothly into the hole without catching in the sides.  I then clamp the vise in position, recheck, and put in the 7mm drill bit.

I then drill the 7mm hole into the cartridge.  I use some cutting oil placed into the primer hole, this helps the drill bit to cut the brass smoothly.  If you don't have cutting oil just use some light oil or motor oil, you may get a little smoke with these.  When drilling don't do it in one shot. Drill a little at a time and allow any swaf to clear the hole, add more oil if needed.  There is about 5mm of brass to drill through.

Next is to clean the cartridge with degreaser or turpintine to remove the oil and any dirt.  Once clean use some 400 grit sand paper rolled into a tube or wrapped around a rod, dowel, or drill bit to clean and roughen the inside of the cartridge neck.  The inside of the neck should be a shiny brass colour.

Step 3: Tube Preparation

Get a 7mm brass tube that's used for making pens.  I used a tube from a Slimline pen kit, it is just a little longer than the cartridge.  You can also get longer lengths of 7mm pen tubing, just cut a length about 5mm longer than the cartridge. Remove any burrs from the outside and inside of cut tube.

Square off one end of the tube with a 7mm pen mill.  You can do it by hand as the brass tube is thin and soft. Don't remove too much or the tube will be too short.

Roughen the outside of the tube at each end with some 400 - 800 grit sandpaper.

Wrap some tape around unsquared end of the tube.  The tape should be enough to pass through the neck of the cartridge without any slack.  It should be a firm fit but not tight.  The edge of the tape should be about 3 mm from the open end of the neck.  I used electrical tape, 2 - 2.5 layers.  I then used clear sticky tape for final fit as it's much thinner.  You may have to do some adjustment for each blank as neck diameter may vary slightly.

Step 4: Gluing and Soldering

Insert the 7mm tube into the cartridge from the neck, squared end first.  Push it all the way through so the tube sticks out the back of the cartridge.  Then push it back up to test that the tape centers the tube in the neck of the cartridge.  If not add some more tape to one side or the other.

Now push the tube so it sticks out the back of the cartridge.  Put some thick CA glue (super glue) on the end of the tube about 3mm back from the edge of the tube.  Then push the tube back in until it is flush with the back of the cartridge.  You should be able to make adjustments using the other end of the tube.  There should not be any excess glue on the back of the cartridge, if there is you can carefully scrape it off after it sets.  Wait until the CA sets or use some accelerator.

Once the glue sets we need to solder the other end.  You need a soldering iron (+40 Watt)  and some thin electronics solder (flux cored solder).  I used my portable gas soldering iron with the large tip.

To hold the cartridge I clamped a 3" long 1/4" bolt into a bench vise and put a 1/4" nut  down at the bottom of the thread.  I then put the cartridge over the bolt, neck end up.  This gives support without drawing heat from the soldering process.  The cartridge may want to rotate on the bolt when you apply the soldering iron, this may be useful if your iron can't heat the tube and the neck all the way around.  You can just "walk" the soldering iron tip around the tube.  Otherwise some tape at the bottom should hold it long enough.

Place the tip of the hot soldering iron so that it touches both the cartridge and the tube and heat them until the solder melts when you touch it to the 7mm brass tube.  Apply the solder only to the 7mm tube, you don't want any solder on the outside of the neck.  Then you should be able to apply solder all the way around.  Don't use too much solder as it will overflow on to the cartridge.  Also don't let it heat up too much as the tape on the tube will start to melt and try to exit through the solder. The solder should flow and fill the gap between the tubes.

Once it has all cooled take the cartridge off the bolt and sand or file the 7mm tube until it is almost flush with the cartridge neck.  If you got any solder on the outside of the cartridge, use some 800 sandpaper to sand off the solder.  Don't worry about the scratches as they will be polished out.  Use the pen mill to square off the neck end, again you can do it by hand as the brass and solder are soft, just don't remove too much.  Stop when the 7mm tube, solder and cartridge neck are flat and shiny all the way around.  Don't worry about any voids in the solder.

Step 5: Polishing

Now to polish the cartridges. You can use Brasso by hand but that may be a long and hard process.  If you have a grinder with buffing wheels, you can polish them like you would any piece of metal.  I used my lathe and pen mandrel to polish the cartridges.

I placed the cartridges on the pen mandrel separated with 7mm pen bushings.  I then used finer and finer grits of wet and dry sandpaper.  I use the sandpaper wet. I start with 400 or 800 depending on how bad the surface of the cartridge is.  I then go through the grits 400, 800, 1200 and then the 9 micro mesh pads 1500 - 12000.  After each grit I stop the lathe and sand along (horozontally) the cartridges all the way around, turning the lathe slowly by hand.  This breaks up the circular scratches left when sanding on the lathe.  I also wipe off excess water and grit each time.

After the sanding I use brasso on a small piece of folded paper towel.  Then wipe off and polish with an other piece of clean towel.  I may do this 2 or 3 times until the cartidges are very shiny.  I then apply some Maguires car polish to seal the brass, other wise you'll get instant tarnish as soon as you touch the brass.  Apply the polish with some folded paper towel and then wipe off.  Using another paper towel pinch the paper towel around the cartridge create some friction to set the polish.  I do this twice.

Step 6: Make a Pen

You can now use the cartridges  to make pens using Slimline, Streamline, and Comfort  7mm pen components or kits.

You can use 2 cartridges back to back to form a pen.

One cartridge at the bottom and do a wood or acrylic top.  Camo patterned acrylics go great with the bullet/gun theme

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