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1st Wooden Ink Pens

I heard about making ink pens from wood a long time ago.  I decided to check it out and I ordered a free DVD in May of 2014 on how to make pens from Penn State Industries.

I watched the DVD and then decided to order the supplies necessary to try to make wood pens. I have an old 1939 Montgomery Wards lathe that I had a new headstock shaft made with Sears standard 3/4x16 threads, so I could buy faceplates and chucks from Sears. The new headstock shaft was made in the early 1980's. The new headstock has some play in the bearings and I did not know if this play would cause issues turning pens or not. It has been good enough for me to make many, many lathe projects in the past.

Here is the receipt for the items I ordered to try to make pens from wood. I figured out what to order from watching the DVD. I bought the same triple EEE abrasive and the Shellawax cream that the guy in the DVD recommended. Slimline pens are supposed to be the easiest to make, so I ordered 3 kits to experiment with. I also ordered a package of pre-drilled wood blanks to try them out as well. I ordered the pen press to assemble them and a 7mm drill bit to make my own blanks in the future.


Big Trouble on Start-Up
It had been a few weeks since I had watched the DVD when I ordered the supplies and was ready to make wood pens.  I received the shipment and was anxious to get started.  I put the wood blanks on the mandrel and started turning.  I noticed as I turned, the blanks were out-of-round.  I also blew out pieces of wood when the wall thickness got small!!

I was getting frustrated.....then I remembered from the DVD you are supposed to glue in the brass sleeves to the wood blanks before you take them to the lathe!!  I got out the DVD again, and yes...that is correct.

I glued in the brass sleeves using Nexbond xx. I put the 7mm barrel trimmer in the drill press and shortened the ends of the wood to the end of the brass sleeve.  I was holding the wood blank by hand, and 1 of them  spun out of my hand.  I switched to holding the blank with a pair of plyers for safety reasons, and this worked ok.

I went back to the lathe, and I still had problems with the wood blowing out when the wall thickness got small:


Now I was really getting frustrated, the guy on the DVD make it look so easy!!  I never expected this much trouble and problems.

I went back to the DVD and noticed he used a gouge to take off the corners of the blank, but he switching to a skew chisel to turn to the small finish diameter before sanding.  I suspected my gouge lathe tool was causing the blow-outs.

I have hardly ever used my skew lathe tool, so I decided to sharpen it precisely using the angle guide and stone set-up that I have:

I sharpened both sides of my skew chisel using the stones and angle guide. So my new process is:

1. Place glue on OD of brass bushing and on ID of wood blank. Be careful and don't
get it on your fingers, because it is really tough to get off. Use rag to wipe off
excess that comes out on end. Let dry. I think putting glue on the ID of the wood
    blank helps to prevent blow-outs.  Barrel trimmer removes any glue on the ID.

2. Hold wood blank with pliers, use barrel trimmer to trim ends of wood blank until
    the trimmer just touches the brass.

3. Sharpen gouge tool on grinder. Sharpen skew chisel using angle guide and stone.

4. Put blanks on mandrel on lathe.

5. Use gouge to knock off the 4 corners at low or medium speed (I only have low,
    medium, and high speed on my old 1939 lathe).

6. Use sharp skew chisel at medium speed to take diameter down to just thicker
    than steel guide bushings.

7. Use 3 steps of sanding. Sand with grain with lathe stopped at each step.

8. Apply EEE with paper towel.

9. Apply Shellawax with paper towel.


Success ---Finally!

I followed the DVD guy's advice and use a piece of scrap board to hold the sandpaper on while sanding my 1st successful pen.....



I used the Penn State manual press set-up to assemble the first successful pen I turned......


I finally had success using a pre-drilled rosewood blank.  I did not get every joint turned/sanded down to the exact matching metal piece OD at final assembly, but it still looks pretty good......


Next, I sawed a piece of scrap padauk to 3/4x3/4 to make a blank, then drilled it from each end on the drill press.  I decided to make this pen with more shape on it, versus almost straight walls like the pen above........


 I really like the look and feel of the Padauk pen.








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