Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Over the course of the last month, I've made a couple dozen pens. The first dozen were okay but nothing I was really proud. I think the ones I showed you before were the third and fourth ones I made. I didn't like the shape of them. As you could tell in the previous post, I was striving for a more substantial feel to the pens but the bushing in the middle was too narrow so they ended up having a weird shape. If I made them less shapely, they felt thin in my hand like a pencil and not real pleasing to use. But the initial set I bought had a bunch of them and they were the cheapest you could buy which made for good training material.

I also never liked the finish of them. They weren't real glossy which I was looking for in my finish and they felt like holding polished wood. I wanted something that felt almost like holding glass yet made from wood. I researched a lot on the internet and came up with a finish that I wouldn't have ordinarily thought about right away. Superglue or more specifically CA glue. When putting it on, I could almost get the results I was looking for. I could get the glass like feel but not the high gloss. I ended up getting some synthetic mesh sanding pads up to 12000 grit and they did the trick quite nicely.

The one remaining problem is that two out of every three pens that I did and got this awesome finish on would delaminate a bit when I pulled them off the mandrel on which I turned them. The CA glue would stick them to the sizing bushings used to get the components to fit correctly and even when I carefully scored the glue from the joint, I would still end up with blisters more often than not. they were unsightly and destroyed the whole look in my opinion.

So after much research again, I found a solution. I would use the mandrel and the sizing bushings to turn the blanks down to size and sand them. I would then get some 60 degree bits (which I didn't have at the time) to hold the blanks one at a time on the lathe so I could apply the CA glue finish and do my final sanding with sandpaper and synthetic mesh pads. I ordered the bits and when they came in, they worked great. So I took more expensive pen component set and what you see above are my first two attempts putting everything together.

The style of pen called the Big Ben Fountain Pen is substantial feeling in my hand. The finish feels like holding glass and is high gloss which highlights the pen barrel material which in this case was a deer antler shed on top and some scrap walnut I had leftover from my treasure chest project for my oldest daughter on the bottom. The ones shown at top are both fountain pens but the walnut one has the nib cap on to show how they look both with and without the nib cap on. The fountain pen kit comes with a replaceable ink cartridge and also an ink pump cartridge so you can just buy a container of ink and refill it whenever needed. It rights incredibly smooth and I'm in love with it. I plan to make a few more of them using different woods and using gel roller balls instead of fountain pen nibs. All but perhaps a couple will be given out as gifts this year to people I know. Perhaps any extras I might sell if I find the right market. The latter part is not really a requirement since I do it more to just feel like I accomplish something and I find it very relaxing and satisfying. But if I recoup some of my costs of buying pen components to insert into my turned wood blanks, that wouldn't be all bad either.


warren said...

I mainly sell honey just so I can spend time keeping bees...sort of like your pen's worth the mental health benefit if nothing else!

Ed said...

Warren - Amen to that!

Anonymous said...

These are really lovely. There's not much more I can say about them.
Have you priced the making of them. You might try some high end shopping street like Wilshire Boulevard or that place in NYC I cannot remember. They could easily become 'A Thing'.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

My husband, Pat (Grenville on our blog) is a wood turned. He considered making pens, but never gave them a try. Like yourself, he makes objects purely for enjoyment and relxation and gives some as gifts, candle holders and other whimsical turnings, most of which have no descriptions or names.