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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Turning Something New

Since I've really been enjoying the learning curve that comes along with learning to turn, I have been wanting to try something else that seems to be popular with some turners, pens. I looked at several different catalogues and websites though, and pen kits for turning are high. I just couldn't afford to even attempt it right now. I put some thought into this though, and had an idea.
I went to Wal-Mart and bought a ninety eight cent pack of ink pens. It's those cheap ones with the white plastic tubes. Then I pulled the head and ink tube out of them to use as inserts. I drilled some trial and error holes in some scrap wood until I found the perfect size hole for a snug press fit. With this, I was able to turn some cheap pens. They may not be quite as nice as ones made with the fancy pen kits I see as being so popular, but I think they turned out pretty nice.
First though, before I was able to make them, I had another problem. I needed to drill holes perfectly straight for the inserts to go into.
I know that doesn't sound like too big a deal, but this photo shows what happens when you try to turn a pen with the hole drilled at even the slightest angle. The hole has to be perfect or you will have problems.
So I looked again in the catalogues and seen a nifty vice jig that would do the trick. The problem is it too was more than a broke man can afford. It was not more than a thinking wood worker can make though.
The only difference between mine and the expensive one I seen is that my squaring jaws are made of wood instead of plastic. Also, in addition to what the expensive jig offered, I attached mine on a board such that I have infinite adjustability forward and back, and side to side. So, I can still use this, with it's adjustability, to center and drill things other than just pen blanks.
On day one I was just learning and experimenting with ideas. Here's the results of day one though. The first two on the left are made of pecan. The next one is sycamore, and the last two are sapelle.
Day two was even more productive. The first five are pecan. The next three are oak, and the last two are sycamore.
I think they turned out good. If I can ever get ahead and afford it though, I would still love to make some of those with the fancy pen kits from Penn State Industries.


  1. Nice one - I've been making pens using bought (expensive) kits and your method of WalMart plastic pen inserts - brilliant. Davro

  2. Thanks for commenting. I too have moved up to expensive kits now. I like to make some of these cheap pens for practice at times though.

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