Monday, June 9, 2014

Pen Me

Throughout my life, I've seen people given custom made pens as awards or tokens of appreciation and I've always thought they were so cool. I write in a journal everyday and find the act of writing with a pen and paper almost meditative. One of the most pleasurable things to me is starting a brand new journal with a smooth writing pen. Some of my most beautiful handwriting examples can be found on page one of any of my journals. Here's the rub though, I've never been given a pen. Not one single one.

Now that I'm taking care of our youngest daughter everyday, all day, my ability to get a lot done has greatly diminished for the time being. I can do a lot of finish work on my box building hobby while she naps but working with noisy power tools during the early parts of the projects is not recommended. So I have periods of time to fill with quiet projects and making pens seemed like a possibility. Another benefit is that we are gearing up for a long vacation to the Philippines in a few weeks and as custom, we need to arrive bearing lots of gifts or pasalubong as it is called in their native tongue. They love America food items like M&M's, Hershey's Chocolate Bars, Taster's Choice Instant Coffee, Marshmallows and Spam. I'm not sure why these odd things are so in demand and feel guilty bringing them to any sort of meeting so I tend to try to bring other things as well. In the past I have brought bottles of scotch for the adults and cheap electronics for the younger folks. This year I was thinking that perhaps I would hand out pens that I have made.

I'm a power tool-aholic. I have parents who don't know what to buy me for birthdays or Christmas and often give me a gift card to home improvement stores in the area. Thus I often spend my gift card money on power tools that I've wanted but have never been able to justify their purchase with my own money. Probably about six years ago, I purchased a cheap mini-lathe and it has been sitting unopened in the box every since. In recent years whenever I looked at the box I regretted the purchase because I knew it was cheap and if I ever got it out to use, it wouldn't be able to do what I wanted with it due to its small size and cheap build. I would inevitably have to buy a better one to do the job needed. Well I finally opened up the lathe and set it up and yet it is cheap but it still seems fairly solid and works well for making pens. As you can see in the above pictures, all I needed to do was buy a pen mandrel and turn down some small pieces of rosewood into roughly pen shaped objects.

The first pen I made, not shown, I essentially made straight barreled. While it still looked nice, it really didn't showcase the wood it was made of because there just wasn't that much left. Pens two and three I made fatter barrels and I liked the feel but the finish just wasn't popping enough. So after doing some research I made pens four and five and finished them using superglue of all things applied while they were spinning on the lathes. After several coats of that I used some friction polish and the results are seen in the picture at the head of this post. Now I think they are on the fat side so I plan on trying to find a happy medium somewhere. Once I have them the way I like them, I press in the components which I buy in a kit seen below into the wooden barrels using the press seen above. All told I can make a pen in about 30 minutes.

These pens are called Slimline models with twist top ball point pen refills. They came in an introductory kit that I purchases to see if I really wanted to do this as a hobby along with several other types. I plan to build the other kits first but I already know that I want to do some fatter cigar shaped pens and branch out into rollerball and fountain pen versions as well. I have lots of small bits of hardwood that I can never bring myself to throw away after a project that I will use up for this project. I enjoy the hobby and hopefully I can bring joy to a bunch of Filipino family in a few weeks. But the real joy will be mine when I keep the prettiest one of the lot and use to write in my journal every evening.


roaring40 said...

That's actually pretty magnificent.

I've seen one of those lathes that had a clamp fitting for an electric drill. Where you clipped the drill, affixed the item needing turning, set the speed on the drill, and placed your chisel on the plate. All you was a drill with a speed control.

warren said...

That looks great! I knew a guy who made pens for much the same reasons as you mentioned. It was great therapy to make AND use them for him. I have one of his pens and it truly is nice to hold on my hand. Anyhow, you could sell those for mad money (or real money more likely!)

Ed said...

Vince - Thanks. I've seen those drill lathes too but at the time I wanted something with more horsepower and features without breaking the bank. This mini lathe cost about the same as a nice cordless drill.

Warren - Those look pretty amateurish compared to my recent ones. I have figured a lot out since I wrote this post and I really need to post some pictures of my latest ones. But it is pretty relaxing and quick to do so I feel like I get something done on days when I don't. Right now I am still practicing the craft so I'm just making them to give away. Perhaps once I master it I might sell some... that is after I create the perfect one for myself!