Introduction: Hardwood Pen
I made it in TechShop. You just need to take the WOD103: Wood Lathe SBU class to use the power lathe.
Tools I used:
- Power lathe
- Lathe turning tools (i.e. the long chisel looking tools)
- Pen mandrel
- Pen bushings
- Protractor (or center finder)
- 8mm drill bit
- Drill press
- 4" clamp
- (optional) Rivet anvil and bit
- (1) hardwood pen blank (3/8" x 3/8" x 5")
- Pen hardware kit (24 karat sculpted twist pen, Parker refill cartridge)
- Instant glue
- (optional) friction polish (this is easier and nicer than using the instant glue as a finish but it's $20 for a bottle)
- Paper towels
- Disposable nitrile gloves
- Sand paper (220, 320, 400, 600 grit)
Step 1: Pen Hardware Kits and Materials
You can find the hardware for the pen, such as the twist or click mechanism, clip, tip, pen cartridge, etc in kits at Penn State Industries or WoodCraft. There you'll also find the mandrel for holding the hardwood blank and the bushings used as a guide for your turning tool. The instructions will vary by kit, so read them carefully.
I bought the hardwood pen blanks (5/8" x 5/8" x 5") to save time but you could use your own. For this project I chose Bloodwood, a deep red rosewood with an iridescent sheen that really looks great against the 24 karat gold hardware. It's hard but it splinters easily so be sure to rough it very gradually so you don't split the wood.
Step 2: Prepare and Drill the Blanks
The pen I made required (2) 2" blanks, so I cut them from a single 5" blank. Be sure to leave about a 1/16" extra to allow for sanding the edges flush to the brass tubes (next step).
Once you've cut the blanks, use a protractor set at 45 degrees or a center finder to mark lines diagonally across each corner of each blank. Where these diagonal lines cross is the center of the blank. You can see in the pictures that even though the blank was more rectangular than square, the lines intersected in a small square in the middle. I punched a mark in the center of that and drilled there.
Use a couple of scrap pieces of wood to protect your blank from the clamp and clamp the blank tight. My blank was cut square so clamping it flat on a surface gave me a nice 90 degree angle for drilling straight down the length of the blank.
Depending on the instructions for you kit, drill an 8mm hole straight down the length of the blank.
Step 3: Glue the Brass Tubes Inside the Blanks
Spread the instant glue on the brass tube and insert into the blank using a twisting motion to spread the glue evenly (be sure to use disposable gloves, this glue sets in seconds!).
After the glue sets in a minute, sand the ends of the blank down to the brass tube.
Step 4: Mount the Blanks on the Mandrel
Mount the blanks on the mandrel according to the instructions in your pen kit. I was able to mount both blanks at once as you can see in the pictures.
Once the blanks are mounted, secure the mandrel in the lathe. You'll need to put the fixed end on the motor side of the lathe and the free spinning side on the live center side of the lathe. You'll need to extend the live center so the turn guard fits close to the blanks. Crank the live center tight to the mandrel so the blanks don't stop still when you press the turning tool against them.
Step 5: Turn the Blanks
First we'll use the roughing tool to turn the blanks until they are round. Do this in gentle, shallow passes as the blanks are square, uneven, and easily splintered and cracked. Do this at a relatively slow speed, depending on the instructions for your lathe. The TechShop power lathe should be set to about 600 rpm for roughing a 2" blank.
Once round, crank up the lathe speed to about 1600 rpm (for a power lathe and a 2" blank) and use the curved tool to shape the pen sections as you like. I made a very shallow lozenge shape for each piece, with the upper section a little straighter than the lower.
Turn the wood down until it's nearly flush with the bushings. Then use the 220 grit sand paper to finish down to the bushings.
Step 6: Sand and Polish
Finish sanding with increasingly fine sand paper, 220, 320, 400 and 600 grit until the pen sections are smooth.
I then polished it with the instant glue, applying it with a paper towel (be sure to wear disposable gloves!). The instant glue makes a nice hard finish and each coat dries in about 30 seconds, but unfortunately it left ridges on the surface after each application, no matter how carefully and smoothly I applied it. Those ridges had to be sanded off with the finest sand paper after each coat. I put about 5 or 6 coatings before I felt that it was smooth and polished.
Several people (including my lathe instructor who stopped by...TechShop is awesome) suggested using friction polish instead, with 2 coats applied 2 hours apart. I'll definitely try it next time. UPDATE: I tried the friction polish on my next pen and it's definitely easier to use and looks better. The only downside is that no one seems to sell it in reasonable sizes, the smallest bottle is 500ml and you use less than 2ml for each pen so it's basically a lifetime supply for $20.
Step 7: Part the Ring
My pen kit had a center ring, so I used the parting tool to cut one end of the upper blank down to the brass tubing. Be careful not to cut through the brass tube, it's very thin. Then stop the lathe and use a razor (or xacto, box cutter, etc) to scrape the last bit of wood on the corner of the brass tube, so the ring fits flush against the wood section when the pen is assembled.
Step 8: Assemble the Pen
Now take the pen sections off the mandrel, and assemble them according to the instructions.
The cap assembly was a bit tricky to get together because I couldn't get them together even with pliers. So I used a rivet anvil and bit to tap the cap and cap pieces together. Be sure to cushion the cap with a piece of cardboard between it and the anvil so the cap doesn't get scratched.
The kit I used did not require any kind of squeezing tool, so all of it (except maybe the cap assembly) squeezed together easily by hand. It's a tight fit and hasn't come loose yet. The twist mechanism is smooth, the Parker cartridge writes perfectly, and the whole pen feels solid. It's really an exceptional pen.
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