Friday, June 12, 2015

Penafile

From my personal collection

I got a question about my pens on a previous post and I realized I hadn't updated everyone on that little hobby. But let me do a little background first. I love pens. I write a daily journal and it provided me great pleasure writing on a fresh page with a nice high quality pen. The pen needs a little bit of heft to it and needs to write smoothly. My wife being in a more prestigious occupation that mine, always seemed to get a few over the years given to her as gifts. She looks at them, puts them back in the box and back in a drawer where they collect dust. I asked a time or two if I could use them but was refused. That was when I googled how to make your own pen on the internet. It turned out that you really didn't need much in the way of tools other than a small lathe which I had purchased many years ago with leftover money in a gift card given to me and had never used. I broke out the lathe and became addicted.

My first pens were made to give as gifts for relatives back in the Philippines. They were big hits and looked nice compared to the average Bic, put I'm almost embarrassed at how they look compared to the ones I turn out now. That's not to say the ones I turn out now are the most beautiful in the world but they certainly make my first pens look like toads. I experimented around with a few different styles but found a style I liked that was reasonably priced and ordered a bunch of parts so I could get a bulk discount. I have been making pens ever since.

I started out with some local woods and some that I brought back from the Philippines. I moved on to other materials like deer antler, acrylics and synthetic stones. About five out of every six pens turns out pretty good so I put them in a display box that I got and salvaged the parts from the sixth one that didn't turn out so well. Most of the time it was due to some internal flaw that caused it to explode apart while turning on the lathe but occasionally it was just some flaw that I did in the finishing process which marred the beauty of it. Occasionally, one pen would catch my breath on how beautiful it turned out and those have mostly gone in my personal collection. I don't just collect them to admire but when I have a meeting, I pick one that suits my mood and take it along. They are working pens.

Gradually I built up a lot of pens that were not in my personal collection and started selling them by word of mouth. That sold a few but not a lot which is okay with me. I just make them because I like them and it is relaxing. If it became a business to make money, it would quickly turn into drudgery and I would probably stop making them. The few I sell are priced so that it pays for the parts in the pen and allows me to buy some more parts for another pen. On average, it takes me two pens to get enough funds to make another pen from scratch. Word is starting to spread a little and now I have one custom pen I am working on for someone who bought one of my pens already but "needs" another.

Mostly the people that buy them are penafiles like me. They love a good pen and use them quite a bit. One fellow used it to fill out forms for his business in where he had to put on an display of being very professional. Some collect them and others just find ones that I make out of deer antler unique enough to give as a gift. Which brings me to the one at the head of this blog post.

I have been recently experimenting with making pens out of burl wood. A burl is a knot of wood that grows on the side of a tree due to some past injury. The grain pattern can go every direction and even take on different colors which really provides a beautiful effect when turning the wood on a lathe. I made four or five of them initially and sold every single one of them already. They appear to be the next level that make even the ones made out of deer antler seem dull and unappealing. The only bad part with this is that burl wood is hard to come by and for the most part I have to buy the wood online. Eventually I may try hunting down some local burls and try harvesting some but now being the heat and tick season is not the time for walking in the woods.

So that's where I'm at with this hobby. I now have about a dozen pens in my personal collection, including the one at the top of this post and about 50 pens that I have made up for selling to those who come knocking at my door. After I finish up the custom made pen for my customer and a few that were already in the works, I will probably close up shop until cooler weather arrives in the fall.

The For Sale Collection

3 comments:

sage said...

These are beautiful! Thanks for telling us more about this hobby.

kymber said...

Ed - your pens are gorgeous! if i was back in the city and still working - i would buy the whole lot of them and then show them off at both national and international meetings/conferences. i am a penafile too!

your friend,
kymber

Ed said...

Sage - You are welcome.

Kymber - I've had more than a handful of people say the same thing. It is nice to hear, especially after I have made so many of them and the novelty wears off a bit. But it comes back quickly when I meet another penafile who loves looking at them.