Looking to Start Pen Turning - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 09-16-2015, 11:18 AM Thread Starter
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Looking to Start Pen Turning

Hey folks,

I've been woodworking for almost a year now, and I've fallen head over heels for the hobby. To this point, I've focused predominately on joinery and box-making, selling my boxes for enough to slowly upgrade my shop. One thing I have a strong interest in is pen turning. I am an English teacher, and the idea of making my own pens for myself and colleagues is one I keep coming back to. I'm going to pick up the HF 10" x 18" lathe as my starter (I looked into the Rockler Excelsior, but I've read that they're basically the exact same lathe just priced differently). What I need help with is what tools I'd need as well as what lathe accessories I'd need. Any guidance would be a huge boon. My goal is to eventually, once I'm confident in pen turning, escalate to turning small bowls, wooden shot glasses, and similar stuff.

Thanks,
JP
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post #2 of 22 Old 09-16-2015, 12:05 PM
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I went with a Rikon 70-100 mini, It's a solid bench top lathe with a 1/2 hp motor. WAY better quality than HF. I've turned bowls and platter up to 12 inches with no problem.

For pen turning, you will need a pen mandrel. I recommend a mandrel saver that mounts in your tail stock. It keeps you from bending the mandrel and keeps it more stable.

If all you plan on turning is pens, a gouge is all you will need. A scraper is nice for the last cut but not essential. Also pen kits and bushings of course. Watch some YouTube videos, pen turning is quite easy.

Eventually you will want to turn other things and will acquire a face plate, a nice chuck (Nova G3 is great), various chuck jaws, a spur drive, a live center, and more gouges.

Don't buy a set of turning tools, many of them you will not use. Buy the best quality tool you can afford, one at a time. A good 3/8" bowl gouge and a parting tool could be all you need. I have 2 skew chisels that I never use.

Have fun and be safe!

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post #3 of 22 Old 09-16-2015, 01:07 PM
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Welcome to the wonderful world of turning!
Making pens is a great way to use up those scraps of expensive wood that you just don't want to throw out.
You'll find pretty quickly, though, that all the accessories end up costing more than the lathe itself. In addition to the accessories Jim Beam mentioned, you're going to need to sharpen your gouges and that means a grinding wheel and a sharpening jig, like the Wolverine.
Penn State Industries has all the supplies you would need to get started turning pens and anything else https://www.pennstateind.com/
Have fun!
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post #4 of 22 Old 09-16-2015, 02:52 PM Thread Starter
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I was curious about sharpening. That aspect of it makes me nervous, honestly. I was curious about if it's possible to get them professionally sharpened. Is that cost prohibitive to the point where doing it yourself just makes way more sense?

The Rikon looks great, but it's prohibitively expensive for me right now. The HF is less than $200, and it looks like the Rikon is around $400. I am also buying a brand new bandsaw (I've hawked Craigslist for a while with no luck thanks to where I live), so the lathe needs to be fairly cheap.

Last edited by Pandemonium; 09-16-2015 at 02:55 PM.
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post #5 of 22 Old 09-16-2015, 03:58 PM
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Have you taken a look at Grizzly's new line of mini lathes? They actually changed up their designs a little and their prices went down over $100.

They have a basic 10"x18" for $235 (on sale for $215); a variable speed 10"x18" for $279; and a variable speed 12"x18" for $315. I have an older version variable speed 10"x16" which used to see new for almost $400.

http://www.grizzly.com/search?s=category:Wood%20Lathes

As for sharpening, I'd start with some basic carbide tools. They are more $$ upfront for the same type tool, but you'll save a fortune in sharpening equipment & frustration!!!

Mark

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post #6 of 22 Old 09-16-2015, 06:00 PM Thread Starter
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Really like the look of those Grizzly lathes. The shipping is a bit of a road block ($50). Do they ever run promos for free shipping?
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post #7 of 22 Old 09-16-2015, 06:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pandemonium View Post
I was curious about sharpening. That aspect of it makes me nervous, honestly. I was curious about if it's possible to get them professionally sharpened. Is that cost prohibitive to the point where doing it yourself just makes way more sense?
Yep. I've not heard of such a service, although if you pal up with some other turners they may let you use their grinder.

Eventually you will end up with a Rikon slow speed grinder with 8" wheels and a basic Wolverine jig system. Sharpening is easy, and having a freshly sharpened tool makes turning much more better.

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post #8 of 22 Old 09-16-2015, 06:56 PM
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I have been thinking about turning pens, small bowls, and other small items. I will follow this thread. From other folks have told me the price difference between the Grizzly and the Rikon is too steep for any significant benefit and that the Griz is a great deal. I also would love to here from experts here what they think.
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post #9 of 22 Old 09-16-2015, 07:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pandemonium View Post
Really like the look of those Grizzly lathes. The shipping is a bit of a road block ($50). Do they ever run promos for free shipping?
I believe they do, those others will need to confirm. I live about 10 miles away from the Springfield, Missouri store so shipping isn't even an option for me.

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I have been thinking about turning pens, small bowls, and other small items. I will follow this thread. From other folks have told me the price difference between the Grizzly and the Rikon is too steep for any significant benefit and that the Griz is a great deal. I also would love to here from experts here what they think.
I have used my older G0657 for a few years no and I'm very happy with it. I've know a few local turners who have been using their newer style 10x18s and really like them. For the price, I feel they deserve a serious look as they are a good unit.

Mark

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post #10 of 22 Old 09-16-2015, 09:52 PM
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You should look at penturners.org for answers to most of your questions. They've been there done that.
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post #11 of 22 Old 09-17-2015, 11:16 AM Thread Starter
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All right. You guys have me convinced that I should save a bit more and go after a Grizzly or Rikon. What brand is best for the turning tools I'm after? I know that the suggestion is to go with carbide tools. Any suggestions and/or links would be massively appreciated.
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post #12 of 22 Old 09-17-2015, 01:02 PM
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You are definitely going to want to sharpen your own tools. The cost of sending them out will soon add up, and you'd be without your tools for 2 weeks at a time. Once you have a grinding wheel and set up a sharpening jig it just takes a few seconds to sharpen a gouge. I sharpen every few minutes when turning (though pen turning won't dull your tools as much as larger projects).
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post #13 of 22 Old 09-20-2015, 10:54 AM
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I have a craftsman full size lathe. Can you make pens on one full size or do you need a mini lathe? Or do you need a jig or fixture to make that work? Just curious. I inherited the lathe from a family member.
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post #14 of 22 Old 09-21-2015, 12:59 PM
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I'm pretty sure you could use any size lathe to turn pens.
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post #15 of 22 Old 09-23-2015, 09:21 AM Thread Starter
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So, I made it up to Muncy, PA where there is a huge Grizzly warehouse/showroom. It's being relocated to Missouri, so all stock is 10% off. In addition to getting a G0555LX bandsaw, I picked up their T25925 variable speed woodworking lathe. So excited to get it up and running. I still have to buy a LOT of stuff for it (pen-turning gear, safety gear, and chisels), but that stuff will come in time. I also have a buddy with a slow-speed grinder who is going to help me on the sharpening end of things until I can get my own. This is like Christmas, haha!
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post #16 of 22 Old 09-23-2015, 04:54 PM
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Soon you'll have to change your name to Pen-demonium
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post #17 of 22 Old 09-24-2015, 04:30 AM
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Pandemonium,
I've contemplated driving to the Muncy location but never know what they are going to have in the scratch and dent section. Did you by chance look in that section when you were there? Since they wont be having the tent sale this year they started running those items early.
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post #18 of 22 Old 09-24-2015, 11:14 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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Soon you'll have to change your name to Pen-demonium
Love the pun. Haha.

@woodtink - I did check out the scratch and dent, and it looks like any desirable pieces were long since scavenged. All of the stuff there (mostly jointers) had something seriously wrong with them (typically, cracked metal in the bets, engine housing, etc.). My buddy, who is far more technically adept than I, agreed that what's left is probably stuff for the scrapyard at this point. The showroom was absolutely gorgeous, though. I wish I'd known about it earlier. It's a shame PA is losing out on something like that.

Quick question for you guys. I'm looking into picking up a chuck, a mandrel, and a mandrel saver. How do I know which ones will fit my lathe? For instance, the Nova G3 is the chuck I'm looking to grab, will that work with the Grizzly? Do I need specific mandrels to go with it? This is all very new to me.
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post #19 of 22 Old 09-24-2015, 12:05 PM
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Your lathe head will have a threaded stub with a hole in the center, the threads will be a size that is standard so accessories that size will fit it.
The hole is a Morse taper also standard sizes so any tapered accessory that size will fit.
Tailstock is the same, Morse taper, find matching accessories.
Just check your lathe specs for spindle size, spindle taper and tailstock taper.
Tapered accessories for your headstock come in two styles, with a tang or threaded for a drawbar.
The tang style work for any application that has pressure only pushing it back from the end such as a drill bit, any application with sideways pressure, such as turning a spindle will require the style with the drawbar.

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post #20 of 22 Old 09-24-2015, 01:08 PM
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There are different sizes of Morse tapers for the tailstock. You'll need to check the manual or ask Grizzly which size yours is.
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