How to Turn a Ballpoint Pen Into a Metal Scriber...




About: Like my work but like being home better. Seem to have too little time to do things... Instructables best site ever!

As in any project, taking measures and transferring them to the workpiece correctly is crucial.

Lately, I have been working with metal so chalk, sharpies or other markers of the kind are ok, but sometimes one needs to use something more precise. That 's when the scriber comes in.

It appeared that my scriber developed little feet and a mind of its own as I was constantly searching for it...

As it is very sharp, keeping it with me and carrying it in a pocket is a big no no!

I happened to find a precision metal screwdriver that had been left outside. It was all rusted and at first sight I wanted to throw it in the bin, but it gave me an idea..

So I made a "portable" scriber and made a short instructable at the same time.

Hope you like it...

Step 1: Parts and Tools ...


Always protect yourself. Use appropriate safety gear according to the work you are doing.

E.g. grinding causes small particles that fly around so protect your eyes and lungs. Wear protective gloves but beware they don't get caught in the grinder. Wear ear protection also. In other words: use common sence - you'll be glad you did.


Precision screwdriver or some kind of hardened metal pen

Ballpoint pen which filling has the same overall dimensions (Parker in my case...)

Super glue

TOOLS (bare necessities):

Vice or clamp to hold the workpiece


Abbrasive to make a pointy edge


OPTIONAL TOOLS (to make your life a lot easier):

Cordless drill

Bench- or angle grinder

Step 2: Disassemble the Ballpoint Filling..

The whole point of the project is the scriber being able to retract in the pen: it makes it easy and safe to carry.

Start by checking the pen. Make sure the retracting mechanism works fine. The filling could be empty or solidified in time, no matter, it is to be disposed of anyhow.

Be carefull not to loose the other parts of the pen.

On top of the filling is a plastic gimmic. Secure the filling in the vice and remove the plastic by simply pulling it carefully. Try not to damage it - twisting left/right while slowly pulling helps a lot.

Keep the plastic as it is used in the next step. Notice how there is a hole in it, we'll use this to attach the screwdriver later.

Step 3: Prepare the Precision Screwdriver..

Clean the screwdriver in order to be able to freely move up and down the pen (in my case I had to remove the rust with sandpaper).

Examine the hole in the plastic and notice the dept and width of it.

Lay both the screwdriver and the filling besides each other and mark where you need to cut the screwdriver's head off, keeping in mind it needs to fit in the hole of the plastic and at the same time needs to have the same dimensions as the original filling. Mark it with a sharpy or use some tape in order not to grind off too much material.

Use the hacksaw to remove the top and sand it so that it fits the plastic.

Since scribers work best with pointy edges, you also need to sharpen it. Because it was a screwdriver to begin with, the metal should be hard enough that no extra hardening is required.

I found both steps easy to do since I put the screwdriver in a cordless drill and sanded it with a bench grinder.

You could also use a file to get the same result, it only takes longer and requires more "elbow grease".

Step 4: Assemble the Parts..

Now we are ready to assemble our new tool.

Attach the plastic to the screwdriver using super glue. Be carefull ! Touching the glue with bare skin can cause serious problems. Beware of the fumes and protect your eyes.

Let dry and put the new scriber in the pen as it was a new filling.

Click the pen a few times - if everything works fine you now are the owner of a new portable metal scriber.

Congratulations !

Step 5: Testing and Using..

After testing, the scriber works just like a "normal" scriber but this one can also be handled as an everyday ballpoint pen. I therefore call it my "Portable Scriber" ;-)

I can carry it with me without worrying of loosing it or more importantly: injuring myself or damaging my clothes.


I used a pen of the Parker brand, simply because that was at hand and both the filling and the screwdriver had more or less the same dimensions. I did try out another generic brand which had the same kind of filling but the scriber didn't retract because the pen already had a faulty mechanism to begin with (testing before is handy sometimes).

Perhaps one could use a metal rod in stead of a precision screwdriver. With the same dimensions it should work fine but keep in mind that the point should be hard enough to actually be able to scribe in the metal. One could not use mild steel for that since it does not contain enough carbon to be hardened - but that is another subject..

The pointy steel edge could be used in other circumstances as well.

I think of an EDC (every day carry) where one could apply the pen as a sort of Kubotan in a self defence situation.

Perhaps it could even break glass in an emergency, I'm not keen on trying that out.

It was not my intention to fabricate a concealed weapon and I am not planning to use it as such, but if you would do so it would be entirely on your own responsability.

Nevertheless I build it as a tool to begin with (and as an entry in the "Build a Tool" contest)....

Be Safe, Not Sorry !

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    17 Discussions

    Captain Vyom

    Tip 2 months ago

    Nice instructable. I liked the clever reuse of an old retractable pen mechanism for housing something useful.

    I use empty ballpoint pens with tungsten carbide tip as a scriber, without any modifications, on sheet metal (tested on copper, aluminium and even HSS hack saw blade). Since tungsten carbide is only next to diamond in hardness it can scribe most metals for a long time before wearing out. If the tip is worn out, another empty pen can be used. As these pens have 0.5-0.7 mm thick points, they are capable of scribing very thin lines for accurate markings.

    1 reply
    Ceddy17Captain Vyom

    Reply 2 months ago

    That's another good idea.. have to try that one...
    Thanks for the comment...


    3 months ago

    Very clever. I'd be worried about accidentally trying to write with it! Don't worry too much about using the correct word - scribe or scriber, engineering people know what you mean!

    1 reply

    3 months ago

    Great idea, I'm also always loosing my center punch and scriber. Thanks for sharing!

    1 reply

    3 months ago

    Great ible, the only problem with some of those "precision" screwdrivers is the quality of the steel point. I have gotten some that are very soft poor steel.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 months ago

    That's correct. Some "brands" are very cheap and therefore of questionable quality. You might try to harden the tip first and do a file test before. No guarantee but it might work... I guess I got lucky with mine...
    Thanks for the comment.


    3 months ago

    What a great idea! Who doesn't have a jar filled with old decorative pens they like but don't use! cool !!!!

    1 reply

    3 months ago on Step 5

    A scribe is:
    • a person who copies out documents, especially one employed to do this before printing was invented.synonyms:clerk, secretary, copyist, transcriber, amanuensis,
    • .an ancient Jewish record-keeper or, later, a professional theologian and jurist.
    What you are calling a scribe is in fact a scriber, which can be used for scribing, but it is not a scribe.
    1 reply

    Reply 3 months ago

    English is not my native tongue but I stand corrected, apologies!
    It seemes I have consulted the wrong documentation.
    Thanks for your comment, I made the necessary changes.
    Greetings from Flanders,


    3 months ago on Step 5

    A piece of super hard Tungsten rod tip commonly used for TIG welding, glued (Loctite) into a drilled piece of brass aluminium or hardwood rod for the thick pen barrel, sharpened to length?

    2 replies

    Reply 3 months ago

    Might work, but keep in mind that a Tungsten rod is very hard and therefore very brittle as well.
    I think metal chips could break off at the point at any time...


    Reply 3 months ago

    Grinder needed for sharpening.
    It is that hard.

    Alex in NZ

    3 months ago

    Brilliant design. Great photograph in step 4 showing the screwdriver/refill/hacked refill. Thank you for sharing your work :-)

    1 reply