Make a $5.00 "Space Pen" for Your Wallet

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Having a writing implement handy when you need it is a good idea, but keeping a bulky pen in your shirt or your pants pocket can be a drag, especially when conventional pens leak. Your wallet is a natural place to keep a pen but just about anything available commercially is too big. So, make a Space Pen for your wallet. It's small, writes every time you need it, upside-down, and probably under water, too, although you'll have to test that yourself.

The "NASA Space Pen by Fisher" is a cool pen that retails in stores like Staples and Office Depot for about $22 in its basic, chrome-plated version, up to near $50 for the special, "signature" version. It is the famous pen the astronauts supposedly used in the space program. The pen uses a sealed, gas-pressurized ink cartridge, which delivers the ink at a perfect flow without clogging--important for a pocket pen. The problem is the NASA Space Pen body is very thick. It feels like a carrying around a big, chrome-plated bullet in your pocket.

It's way too thick to slip in your wallet, too. Overall not a good traveling pen, even at that price point. But, interestingly, the same outfits that sell the pens also sell the refills and they are a fraction of the cost: about $5.00. The one to look for is labeled, "Fisher Pressurized Space Pen Refill - SPR-F". As near as I can tell all the pens use the same, $5.00 refill.

(link: example of refill at online store)

With a bit of heat-shrinkable tubing, a pocket clip taken from a discarded mechanical pencil you can have a cool pen that keeps in your wallet nicely. And since it uses the pressurized, Fisher Space Pen refill, it isn't likely to leak in your pocket.

And, it writes upside down. So, let's get to work. This one will take about five minutes.

Step 1: Adding the Heat-shrinkable Tubing

The tubing makes the pen cartridge a bit more holdable then just the bare metal. I used black tubing for mine, but it can be obtained in various colors. Radio Shack sells a very reasonably-priced assortment in various colors. The black tubing used in this project was ordered in bulk from Mouser Electronics. For this, use 3/8 inch tubing. Cut the tubing with an X-ACTO knife, leaving about 1/4" past the first ridge in the point, or about 3/4" from the tip.

Step 2: Top View

For a really finished look on the top, leave a millimeter or two of excess before shrinking it. It will wrap over the top, giving it a sealed, "factory" look.

Notice the clip, here, is already in place.

Step 3: Shrinking the Tubing Using a Small Pocket Heatgun

I used a small pocket heat-gun to shrink the tubing. A butane lighter can also be used. When using either, be sure to keep the flame moving across the surface, never stopping at any given point. This ensures that the tubing won't burn and that the ink cartridge does not get too hot.

Step 4: The Pocket Clip

I used a pocket clip from a discarded mechanical pencil. Slip it off and, using a pair of needle-nose pliers, crimp the band of the clip slightly to hold it snugly against the body of the pen.

Check your pencil-cups around the house for pens or pencils with clips to scavenge. It's amazing how many things have pocket clips.

Step 5: The Clip Should Fit Snugly But Not Bind

You may require a bit of adjustment with the pliers to get a good, snug, but not binding fit.

Step 6: Keeping It in Your Wallet

Since the pen is small in diameter and length, it is easy to slip it into your wallet, where it is handy for taking notes in the field or signing a check at the store.

Either way for about $5.00 you can have a Space Pen in your wallet.

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    90 Discussions

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    c6h12o6

    10 years ago on Introduction

    I heard that NASA spent a large budget on this years ago and that the russians just developed the dispensing pencil, in half the time and at a fraction of the cost. Hmmm might just be one of those urban legends tho. V cool idea for instructable though, handy.

    19 replies
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    Shakoorc6h12o6

    Reply 3 years ago

    i heard the same thing and i looked it up to see if it was true .
    the graphite from the pencils end up getting into the equipment on the space shuttles and has a possibility causing problems that can even lead to deaths. i guess bc graphite can conduct electricity? and small amounts get sucked into vents too. going to who knows where lol.
    anyways the russians started using the american kind of space pens soon after america started using them.

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    Shakoorc6h12o6

    Reply 3 years ago

    i heard the same thing and i looked it up to see if it was true .
    the graphite from the pencils end up getting into the equipment on the space shuttles and has a possibility causing problems that can even lead to deaths. i guess bc graphite can conduct electricity? and small amounts get sucked into vents too. going to who knows where lol.
    anyways the russians started using the american kind of space pens soon after america started using them.

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    adamthiedec6h12o6

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    USA: Let's develop a secret agent underwater-upside-down-write in space pen! Yeah! Russia: That's great... let's use a pencil!

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    keastesadamthiede

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    we're Americans we over-engineer everything, oh and wtf is K.I.S.S. supposed to mean anywho

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    oniman7keastes

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Keep it simple, stupid. Or something like that. Personally, I think a pencil would have worked just as well.

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    rule001c6h12o6

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Jup, it actually is thrue! NASA spent milions of dollars on research developing this pen...and the russians solved the problem by just taking a pencil with them. This pen is one of NASA's greatest embaressements. (..but it does write pretty good, even thrue oil spils, grease,...)

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    kaensrule001

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    It's actually not true, see here, although astronauts did use pencils for a while.

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    rule001kaens

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    ...and how much did NASA pay Fisher to claim this? ;) (It wouldn't be the first dumbass american gouvernement expence that needs to be covered up,...and probably not the last ;) ) ps:...ok, ok, ..i might be a conspiracy theory nut :D

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    Foxtrot70rule001

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    rule001 - Oh, surely NOT! After all we didn't land on the moon...the flag waved in the wrong direction! How's that for wasted millions or billions. A Million Dollars here, a Million Dollars there...after a while you're talking REAL money! - Former Ill. Senator Everet Dirksen (deceased)

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    Foxtrot70Oompa-Loompa

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    It is a matter of my skeptical being. Of Big Government and Big Business i.e., I applied for SSI,I am 57 keep in mind I have paid into SS system for the last 41 years and the time I need assistance..."Oh! We just can't help you." When I go to retire which will probably be forced, rather than volentary, by who ever happens to be employing me. The way things are going SS will most likely be bankrupt by the time I reach 65 or some weisenheimer in congress will reset retirement age to 72. This is in hopes that the applicant will die before any benefits are required to be paid. So, yeah I have doubts we ever went to the moon. One way to prove it beyond any doubt would be to turn the Hubble Telescope on the moon. I grew up in Missouri where the State Motto is: "Show Me"... if there is nothing to hide "Show Me!" Show Me - The Moon Rover; Show Me - The Tranquility Base; Show Me - The Flag; It surely can not cost all that much to enter a few data commands to swing the Hubble around and put everything to rest. If the moon is too close for the focal length of the Hubble there are any one of dozens of scopes on earth that could do the job! SHOW ME!

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    Oompa-LoompaFoxtrot70

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    They did moon landing on mythbusters. There were a few ways they proved it. 1. pictures of footprints on the moon were shot down by saying that they wouldn't form in a vacuum. After testing, footprints could be made in a vacuum. 2.The flag can't wave in a vacuum as it did on the actual footage. They proved that a flag's momentum is enough to keep it waving in a vacuum after being jostled around by the astronauts. 3. They proved that the way the astronauts bounced around could not be perfectly replicated on earth, and had a specialized jet thing let them experience low gravity, where they could perfectly replicate the bouncing. 4. The astronauts were said to have placed reflective equipment on the moon's surface. After sending laser signals out to the moon and receiving them back, they proved this was true.

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    Foxtrot70Oompa-Loompa

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Another way to verify is since we have satelites orbiting the moon for surface mapping. Why not have one of them focus on the Lunar lander and provide pictures of our space junk. After all we paid millions for it. SHOW ME!!

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    Foxtrot70Oompa-Loompa

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Oompa I went to the YouTube site and viewed the MythBuster episodes. I do concur with you we did land on the moon. It would seem to add to the confirmation if a satelite pic weather from Hubble, Moon orbit mapping satelite, or Earth based were available.

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    Oompa-LoompaFoxtrot70

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    True, but I don't think if we ask they'll just give us a picture of the moon, so for now, we'll just make due.

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    gitemstevedaverule001

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    In the link above, they explain that Nasa paid/pays retail for them. Fischer owns the patent, so there's nothing to "claim".

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    JoelDudec6h12o6

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    actually NASA spent like 100k+ to invent a preasure ink pen so the ink would come out, the rusians finally talked about the problem with nasa, they discovered that the rusians used regular disposable pencils