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Equipment Used in Making Handmade Pens

February 26, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 193

Although there are many methods of making a handmade pen, there are some commonalities on the types of equipment used. An artist that decides to make a pen has a plethora of choices from which to choose. Let's look at the type of equipment that are regularly used when making a pen.

Cutting Equipment

Since materials comes in many shapes and sizes, one of the first steps is to prepare a 'blank' of that will later become the pen. Keep in mind that a pen can be made from wood, synthetic materials such as TruStone and Corian, antler and other materials. Each may require a little different technique, but all need to be cut to the appropriate size. Some pens require more cutting than others, and some materials such as antler require special jigs to hold the antler securely, since it isn't particularly square.

Typically, most of the cuts are made on a table saw to take raw stock such as wood (Birdseye Maple, Walnut, Amboyna, Bloodwood, Purpleheart, etc.) and cut it to approximate, manageable sizes. Synthetics come in all shapes and sizes and may need to be trimmed as well. Next, a bandsaw is typically used to cut the material to the correct length to make a blank. Often,a miter saw (chop saw) is used to make repetitive cuts. In all cases, the goal is to end up with a piece of material, with pleasing grain patterns, that is approximately 5 1/2 inches long and around 7/8 of an inch square.

Drill Press

Once a pen blank has been cut to the appropriate length, width and height, it needs to have one or more holes drilled through it. This can be done on a lathe or drill press. Typically, a drill press is used to drill holes, but sometimes a lathe is used. It really depends upon the type of material, with the harder materials usually being drilled on a lathe.

A drill press is very convenient to drill holes. I have a vice that is used to hold the pen blanks vertically while the hole is drilled. This makes it a little easier to have a hole that is straight through the center of the pen blank. This can be very important as you must have a straight hole when turning pen blanks that have been laminated, otherwise you will not have a symmetrical pattern. Also, if you have a hole that isn't straight through the pen blank, you might end up with too little material to turn the pen, which means throwing it away and starting over.


Making a handcrafted pen is typically considered a form of turning. In order to "turn" anything, you need a lathe. A lathe is a rather simple tool, in which a motor is connected to a shaft which turns your stock (pen blank in this case). It is supported on both ends while you shape (i.e. cut) the wood with a series of tools. It is typical to have multiple lathes. One that is used as a primary lathe for turning the pens, and one that it used for finishing the pens. This helps keep cross-contamination (dust, etc.) down during the finishing process.

Often, there can be a number of additional items added to the lathe. Tool rests, many turning tools (both high-speed steel and carbide tipped), drill attachments, sanding disks and buffing disks are all examples. All of these help make the steps of shaping and finishing a pen easier.

Hand Tools

Although there are many hand tools used when making a pen, one of the most common is a power drill. This is often used to square the end of the pen to the tube which is glued into the pen blank. This is very convenient. This can also be performed with a sanding station / stationary disk sander.

Sanding Station

A stationary disk sander is very convenient and often required when making a pen. It is very important that the ends are square to (i.e. perpendicular to) the tube inside the pen blank. If it isn't, then there will be gaps after the pen has been assembled (not good, as you often can't reverse the process). Additionally, the disk sander is used to "touch-up" the ends after the final finish has been applied. This is a key step to a great fit, and can be done by hand with sandpaper, but it takes much longer.

Polishing / Buffing Wheels

Once a pen has been shaped and the final finish has been applied, the pen is polished. This is a key step in obtaining a high-gloss, glass-like finish. Of course, if you want a satin finish, this step can often be omitted. These polishing and buffing wheels can be on a stand-along buffing station, or mounted on a lathe.

Miscellaneous Equipment

The equipment above represents the bugger ticket items used in constructing a pen, but there are many, many other tools used. There are hand files and scrapers, drill bits of all shapes and sizes, and jigs used to hold materials.

Of course, there are consumables. These include several types of glue and epoxy, and what seems like endless sheets of sandpaper, rolls and rolls of paper towels, toothpicks and tongue depressors, plastic bags, paper bags, waxes and other finishes, and polishes. The list goes on and on. Each type of material requires its own techniques which often require a specialized piece of equipment, process or consumable.

Although it looks like making a pen is a simple task, it really is a long series of tasks. Some are simpler than others. But, like most things, specialized equipment makes the process easier. This is a great example of the old adage, "The right tool for the right job".

William D. Ake invites you to view his handcrafted pens at Mazurka Pens. Each handmade pen is a unique work of art that can be enjoyed for years. Sign up for his newsletter to receive updates on his latest creations at

Source: EzineArticles
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