Introduction: Realistic Cigar Pens
There is no shortage of wide-barreled cigar pens and their even larger screw-capped cousins available to the apprentice woodturner, so in order to make a pen stand out you need to provide some real creativity. Modifying the metal parts, changing the profiles, and building up blanks consisting of many colors, woods and castings are certainly all viable strategies, but have you changed the true form of a pen?
It's time to make one look like a real, lit cigar!
Construction-wise, these aren't too much more difficult than a normal pen, although they are ideally turned on a closed mandrel. I don't have one of those in my arsenal yet, so I used a Vicmarc chuck with extended jaws and a standard pen mandrel with extra pressure.
Basic pen-turning setup:
core set of turning chisels
pen kit of choice, along with the bushings/drill bits to match
Wood turning blanks large enough for the barrel, at least 7/8" square
-cutoff for burning embers
-cutoff for ash
Optional: Dremel rotary tool to form ash
Step 1: Assembling the Blank
Starting this adventure requires a little prep on the blank. Choose a body that resembles tobacco leaves, ideally a medium-brown wood with plenty of figure. Square off the sides and ends.
Because we want to give the pen the appearance of being lit, we will need to add some material to the end. To do this, I went to the box of leftovers and used a 1/8" layer of double-dyed black/red stabilized burl for the embers and some dark buckeye for the ash, since it is the closest you can get to gray. The length is up to you but ~3/8" seems to look good. Trim these down and assemble with some high-strength glue that will react well with the stabilized blanks.
Step 2: Shaping the Blank
If you have a closed-end mandrel, this is where our paths diverge and you can take the easy road. Ideally, you'd split the blank to make room for the brass inserts, drill each piece on a press and then move to the lathe.
As an alternative method and since the blank was a little long, I started on the lathe. Mark the blank's center and trim the corners. Clamp the end of the blank in the chuck and center it on the tail.
Shaping the blank is easy, you just need a uniform cylinder. Remove the material slowly so you don't take too much, then sand it until you like the look. I usually go up past 1000x, then add sanding wax to get an even shine.
Once there, use the Dremel and a round bit to chew up the buckeye ash at the end. There's no pattern to follow, you just need to deform it a little.
At this point I used a razor saw to split the blank. This was my solution to get a small kerf and have the grain marry back up after assembly. I've had more successful attempts but I think this is better than cutting the blank on a miter saw and losing 3/32" of grain structure.
Step 3: Drilling for the Brass Centers
As I mentioned, this part is just as easily done on a drill press, but I wanted to push the limit on how well aligned I could get the blanks. Wrap the finished blank in a single-layer show towel and secure it back in the chuck.
Pen turning gives you no shortage of crazy-sized bits to fit the outside of the brass tubes. For this project, we also need a step down to sink and conceal the center band and provide for the extended depth required for the spring behind the pen mechanism.
For Woodcraft's Navigator kit, I needed a 9/16" bit to cut the recess for the band, 25/64" and 15/32" for the tubes, and a 7mm for the spring.
The ash side became the cap for my pen, so I started with the 9/16, checked the fit constantly, then moved down to the 15/32" and repeated the process on the opposite side. Once I was done with the writing end, I added a 7mm (checked the size by sigh) hole at the back that went 3/4" deep for the spring, since we won't have the metal end cap.
Step 4: Assembly and Finishing
Almost there now.
Glue the brass tubes into the holes; I used clear polyurethane glue for extra strength.
Line up your metal parts and press them together in a vise. Remember, the goal is to have the grain line up perfectly so this takes some patience.
To complete the look, I add real cigar bands. If you're not keen on buying cigars just for the bands, some shops will give them out if you ask or sell them by the bag. Add CA glue across the back of the band and wrap it on the barrel, but be careful since you only have one shot. (big reminder, if you're making a fountain pen, match the band to the top of the tip)
Complete the pen with a finish of your choice. I went with Renaissance Wax for the warm satin look.
Step 5: Complete the Setup!
For the full effect on your desk, turn the ashtray from some burl and drop the buckeye shavings in the bottom.
Good luck with your own!
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