For us, this pen holder was a good excuse to try out some of our new rotary tool bits. The result was acceptable for a first try with these bits, so we thought we would share the process. Some of it is done with the band saw and some with the scroll saw, but all of the carving and detail work is done with the rotary tool.
What you'll need
- Wood 3/4" or thicker (we used 1" thick walnut)
- Drill or Drill Press & Drill Bit (size depends on pens, we used 5/8" bit so markers and pens would fit)
- Scroll Saw or Coping Saw
- Printable Template (if you want to make this exact one) - can be found on our website
- Rotary Tool, Carving Bits, Drum Sander Bits (ours is a Black & Decker, but all bits work with Dremel as well)
- Clear Finish
Make sure you check out the video, it shows a bit more of each step than the images do. Please enjoy and if you make it or something like it, we'd love to see it.
Step 1: Making the Template/Pattern and Applying
The whole design started with a sketched concept and was then refined in Inkscape using the bezier tool for outlining. Making a custom template is extremely easy this way. You can just scan in a sketched drawing, trace and then refine. If you would like to make the exact pen holder that we made you can get the template on our website. Check our bio for the link to the site.
You can tape or glue the pattern onto the wood. We use a temporary spray glue, but you could also use a glue stick. We applied the pattern to a 1" thick piece of walnut.
Step 2: Drilling the Pen Holes
Once the template is in place you'll need to rough cut it on the band saw or scroll saw. This will allow you to drill the holes that will hold the pens or markers.
Striking a line down the middle of the top edge of the piece will help in getting the bit centered when you drill. The spacing for our pen holder was already laid out in the template. But you could easily figure this out by just laying some pens out on it and marking as you see fit.
Each of the holes we drilled were done with a 5/8" drill bit that was set at a depth that was 1/8" shy of the bottom of the pen holder. This will keep you from going through the bottom. If you have a drill press you can set your stop. If using a drill, just mark the depth with a piece of tape wrapped around the bit at the correct depth.
Step 3: Cutting the Pattern
To cut the inside of the pattern you'll need to drill a hole. You won't need a super large hole for this. We just used the bit we used for the pen hole to save time.
We used an Olson 10 TPI pin end blade for the inner and outer cuts. To see the full cutting process, make sure you check out the video.
Step 4: Sanding
Of course there is some sanding involved as with most woodworking projects. We used the disc sander to clean up the edges and then a small rotary sanding drum to rough up the sharp edges and give them a little bit more of a hand made feel. We also did this to the faces, but only slightly.
Step 5: Carving the Sunken Relief
The pattern for the relief carving was drawn on by hand. We weren't sure exactly what this would be before we started. I just drew on a design and went with it. For the most part it follows the curves of the piece itself.
The bit I used for the main part of the carving is a Dremel high speed cutter bit. It has a spiral ball head and works great for removing a decent amount of material quickly. For the corners I used a smaller, pointed off-brand grinder bit. I'm not exactly sure what it is made for, but it worked great for this application. There are many bits that can achieve this same outcome.
You'll want to do some light sanding along the way to check your progress. Then give it a good overall sanding once you are finished with the carving. I used a combination of 220 grit sandpaper and sanding sponges.
Step 6: Finish
Once you are happy with the carving and the overall feel of the piece, you can add your favorite finish. We used a wipe-on polyurethane. We only applied two coats; just enough to give it a light sheen. In some of the hard to reach areas we used a paint brush to apply the poly.
Step 7: All Done!
This was a fun and very simple project to make and it was a great starter project for using the rotary tool to carve. I foresee many projects for us in which the rotary tool will be utilized for carving. Perhaps with a bit of practice, more complex carvings will be possible, but for the time being this will find a home on my desk and help keep my pens close at hand.
We hope you enjoyed this DIY project and the video that goes along with it. If you have any questions or comments please let us know, we'd be more than happy to help you out. If you're interested, check out our YouTube channel as well and consider subscribing. We make a wide variety of DIY, woodworking and craft related videos every week.