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Getting Started Turning Wooden Pen Blanks

Using Wood Pen Blanks

All pen styles have a distinctive weight, feel, and look. Using wooden pen blanks can add to the unique look of your next custom turned pen. Building pens from natural figured wood blocks can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

What Wood Pen Blanks Do I Order?

Wood blanks are available in a wide range of species, colors, and grain patterns. If you are just starting, order a few woods to see what you like. You can select from a simple domestic hardwood such as cherrymaple, or walnut, or more exotic woods such as cocobololeopardwoodbocote, and zebrawood. You can also try a unique look and order a laminated wood turning blank. After sanding and adding a finish to your wood blank, you will be amazed at the natural beauty and depth of color and grain your new pen will possess.

Choosing the Style of Your Wood Pen

Before turning your wooden pen on a lathe, you’ll need to start with one of our wood blocks and drill it with the proper sized hole. You’ll then insert and glue the metal tube from your hardware into place. Pen diameters vary depending on the style you choose. The slimmest pen is 7mm in diameter, followed by a larger cigar‐type pen that is 10mm, and a unique lipstick‐style pen is as wide as a ½” in diameter. You may also consider the type of refill in the pen. Ballpoint is very common, but rollerball and even an ink cartridge for a fountain pen are also available.

Tips and Tricks for Turning Wood Pen Blanks

Avoid the burn, trim slowly.

When trimming the ends of a blank, once the barrel is adhered inside, use only minimal pressure. Raise and lower the barrel trimmer frequently. Trim for a second or less and back the trimmer out of the hole to check the depth of cut.

Stop wood pen splits after being turned.

Store your wood pen blanks in a cool dry area. Drill your pen blank and then let it sit overnight in a cool dry place. In some cases the tube may not fit in the hole the next day because the wood has moved slightly overnight. Re-drill the dried blank and avoid the possibility of any more movement and cracking. In addition, a pen tube secured to the wood blank is less likely to move than a blank that is free to move. A 2-part epoxy is best for those blanks that tend to crack.

Say no to blank blow out

When drilling your blanks we sometimes hear turners having trouble with the bottom end of the blank “blowing out” as you drill through the end. Try cutting your blanks longer than needed for your tube (more than the custom 1/16” to 1/4″), then drill the blank. Return to the band saw and cut off the excess blank material before gluing in the tube. Barrel trim as usual.

Sharper is better

Be sure to sharpen your turning tools frequently. As a guideline, sharpening your tool once during a pen turning should be sufficient.

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