Tools and equipment needed for pen turning - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 10-31-2019, 04:12 PM Thread Starter
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Tools and equipment needed for pen turning

I am trying to piece together everything I need to begin turning pens but without having some guidance, I am afraid I will be buying things that I don't need and not buying the things that I do need. Is there somewhere that you can buy a package that includes all the tools needed for turning pens, bottle stoppers, etc...
Thanks
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post #2 of 12 Old 10-31-2019, 04:43 PM
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Welcome to the forum! Add your first name to your signature line so we'll know what to call you.

I have friends that are pen turners and can check with them but you'll probably get replies here before I can check with my guys. Do you need a lathe, as well, or just the mandrels and chucks and things like that?

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post #3 of 12 Old 10-31-2019, 07:16 PM
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Pen turning is a fun, addictive hobby. Here are the MINIMUM basics that you need to get started:

GENERAL:
* Lathe - Any woodturning lathe will do for pens. To choose a lathe, think about what other things you will make with it. For me, a variable speed knob is a must-have feature.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you get a lathe, pay attention to the taper size and headstock thread size. I recommend getting a lathe with the very common Morse Taper 2 (MT2), but a few lathes have MT1. Get a headstock thread size of 1 inch x 8 TPI (very common) or 1.25 inch by 8 TPI. Avoid 3/4 inch or any other non-common thread size. Pay attention to the taper and thread sizes when you buy a pen mandrel, a chuck, etc.

* Turning tools - high speed steel (HSS) or carbide or both. A three-piece carbide turning tool set might be a good start.
* Sharpening method - How will you sharpen those turning tools? (Carbide tips are usually replaced with sharp fresh ones.)
* Saw to cut pen blanks. A small hand saw is fine.
* Drilling method - A way to center and drill your pen blanks, and also to square the ends with the pen mill.
-> Drill press? Lathe? Hand drill with special jigs? I use the lathe, see below.
* Face shield.
* Dust mask.
* Maybe hearing protection. Some lathes can squeal or make other loud sounds. I wear hearing protection with most tools.

PEN MAKING:
* Pen Kit. One per pen.
* Pen blank. One per pen. Start with wood. Look at the ends for grain. Whatever you see on the sides will be gone after you turn it.
* Drill to match the pen kit. There are several common sizes. The pen kit instructions will tell you the drill size you need for that pen.
* Bushings to match the pen kit. Pen kits in the same "family" can share bushings, but each kit "family" has its own bushings. Keep your bushing sets separate!! Sizes are similar and they are impossible to sort out later.
* One set of slimline bushings to use as spacers, and to use as bushings for making slimline pens.
* Pen mill - Uses a drill to mill/grind the ends so that they are square.
* Pen Mandrel.
* Pen press or other assembly tool. I use these, but they only fit MT2 lathes (the most common):
https://www.woodcraft.com/products/l...-adapters-2-mt

SUPPLIES:
* Sandpaper.
* Glue - Start with medium CA glue.
* Disposable gloves.
* Micro-mesh pads (9 pad set). They last nearly forever. I am still on my first set, and I have made over 70 pens. Hint: Cut the 3x4 inch pads into multiple sets; a better value than buying the 2x2 pads.
* Applicator for CA Finish. Paper towels are popular, but I use a thin sheet of craft foam cut into small squares.
* Rags. For wiping off sandpaper grit and micro-mesh grit on a stopped lathe between sanding/polish steps, plus tiny bits of fabric for applying friction polish. I use cut up T-shirts.
* "Cover" - Use rags or plastic bags to cover and protect the lathe "ways" when you apply finish. Weigh it down with something to prevent it from getting sucked into the spinning pen blank.

The above recommendations assume that you will use the CA glue for gluing tubes inside the pen blanks AND also as a pen finish. Use the sandpaper, then wet micro-mesh pads in sequence to polish your CA-finished pen blanks to a bright, durable high-gloss shine.

Some people prefer a friction polish better than a CA finish. I like the natural look of the friction polishes better than the "plastic" CA finish, but the friction polishes are not as durable as a CA finish. Look for "Hut Crystal Coat" (okay, not great), Myland's, Shellawax, etc.

Rockler sells a Starter Pen Turning Kit with 3 slimline pen kits, 3 pen blanks, slimline bushings, a pen mandrel, a 7mm drill, a pen mill set, and medium CA glue in an organizer box:
https://www.rockler.com/starter-pen-turning-kit

OPTIONAL EXTRAS, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:
* Plastic Bushings. Keeps CA finishes from sticking to your metal bushings. Worth it. I put them on before sanding time to keep from sanding the bushing steel and darkening the wood ends, but be careful not to round over the edges of your turned blanks!
https://www.rockler.com/non-stick-pe...-for-ca-finish
* Mandrel Saver - Keeps your mandrel from bending, reduces chances of off-center turning, better overall.
I bought mine from Woodcraft, but can't find it there now. Search for "mandrel saver" on Amazon and other places.
* Spare brass pen tubes. Takes the stress out of making pens. If you mess one up anywhere before final assembly, you don't stress over it. Get out another piece of wood and a spare tube, no hassles.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS, MORE COSTLY, BUT RECOMMENDED:
* Calipers for measuring parts, measuring your pen turnings, and more. I like the digital calipers, but other people hate them. Whatever works for you.
* Four jaw chuck for drilling on the lathe, and also for all kinds of wood turning, especially bowls.
There are lots of choices. I like the Nova G3 (1 in x 8 TPI) and Nova SuperNova 2 (1.25 in x 8 TPI), but there are many other fine chucks.
-> This pen making Nova G3 chuck set is brand new on the market. I like it because it includes the pen jaws and a mandrel saver. It includes a woodworm screw and 50mm jaws for bowl turning. Make sure the chuck matches your lathe threads (1 inch x 8 TPI):
https://www.rockler.com/nova-g3-chuc...ndle-1-x-8-tpi
(I use a Nova G3 chuck set, but it came with different components. I bought the pen jaws and mandrel saver separately.)

* Jacobs Chuck for drilling on the lathe:
Works with the four-jaw chuck above to drill on the lathe. The Jacobs chuck holds the drill bit. I use pen jaws in a Nova chuck to turn the pen blank while I slowly crank in the drill bit in the Jacobs chuck on the tailstock. Get the Jacobs chuck and the taper that matches your lathe (probably MT2). This is what I use:
https://www.rockler.com/lathe-chuck-and-tapers-chuck

EXTRA HINTS:
* This website has everything you need related to pen making. They are gentle with beginners. The folks there are almost as nice as the folks here in WoodworkingTalk. Maybe nicer. :-)
https://www.penturners.org

* Pen blanks are typically 3/4 x 3/4 x 5 inches or so. You can make a pen from nearly any wood, and many other materials as well (but start with wood). My point is that you don't have to buy ready-made pen blanks. You can take any board or branch or burl or scrap and cut a small piece of it for pen making. Before long, you will have more wood than you have time.
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post #4 of 12 Old 11-01-2019, 01:09 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the info. I have the 10x18 Central Machinery lathe and it is MT2 and 1" 8 tpi. I have an 8 piece HSS Woodworking Lathe Chisel Set and just bought a Sorby Toolmaster with 4 interchangeable carbide tips. As far as the rest goes, I'll read over everything again and come up with a shopping list.

Mark
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post #5 of 12 Old 11-01-2019, 02:42 AM
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Most of my list was stuff you have at home like sandpaper and rags and stuff. That Rockler kit has everything you need to make three slimline pens except:

* A way to drill the pen blank. The problem is lining up the pen blank so you can drill very straight through the middle of end grain wood. (You provide a holder, plus a drill press or guided handheld drill ... or use chucks on the lathe.)
* A way to mill the pen blank, using the included pen mill. (You provide a drill press or electric drill.)
* Sandpapers in assorted grits and polishers (Micro-mesh) for a CA finish.
* A way to assemble the pen (pressing the pen kit parts into the finished blanks).

https://www.rockler.com/starter-pen-turning-kit

Check out the Penturners.org website. There is a lot of information there, including many tutorials. Trust me, they can help you get going, and give you honest opinions about what works and what is a waste of money.
https://www.penturners.org

I hate to mention Penn State Industries. There are better sources for pen making stuff, but they are very large and their catalog is very broad. Their pen kits are mediocre, but I use them anyway, mostly because they are so convenient to purchase at the local Rockler store. Look at their website to see the wide variety of stuff they sell, but also look at ExoticBlanks.com, Woodturningz, and others.
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post #6 of 12 Old 11-01-2019, 10:42 AM
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Credit card with a high limit! The lathe is the about the cheapest thing as accessories, tools, etc. as listed will add up to some big bucks. I suggest you also look at www.woodturner.org for more info on turning. I joined AAW plus joined a local chapter- both are worth the $$$, or should I say, investment. One good turn deserves another!
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post #7 of 12 Old 11-01-2019, 03:34 PM Thread Starter
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I really do appreciate all the information. I am starting a Go Fund Me page if ya'll would like to contribute...hahahaha.
I thought my jeep was breaking the bank but looks like woodturning is gonna have it's turn also. With the info and the links provided here, I feel more confident that what I do buy now will actually be the right stuff. I'm getting ready to check out the rockler, penturners and the other websites y'all listed. I feel pretty certain that I will be back asking more questions though. Until then, thanks and have a great day.

Mark
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post #8 of 12 Old 11-06-2019, 05:29 AM
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This 3-piece Rockler carbide pen turning tools can cut through soft wood, hard wood, stabilized wood and acrylics with ease. They are designed for small projects like pen turning, so I do not recommend them for larger projects. If making pens, rings, bottle stoppers, letter openers, etc. is your intention for these tools, you won't go wrong purchasing this set.
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post #9 of 12 Old 11-06-2019, 09:04 AM
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Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by taurus709slim View Post
I really do appreciate all the information. I am starting a Go Fund Me page if ya'll would like to contribute...hahahaha.
I thought my jeep was breaking the bank but looks like woodturning is gonna have it's turn also. With the info and the links provided here, I feel more confident that what I do buy now will actually be the right stuff. I'm getting ready to check out the rockler, penturners and the other websites y'all listed. I feel pretty certain that I will be back asking more questions though. Until then, thanks and have a great day.

Mark
Check's in the mail.
JEEP= Just Empty Every Pocket!
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post #10 of 12 Old 11-06-2019, 12:12 PM
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I turned two pens a couple days ago.

The dragon pen is a gift for a young family member who is into dragons and has a birthday coming up. The blank is "Nuclear Grape" inlace acrylester. Spouse chose it to match the dragon pen kit. I have never seen a real dragon, so I had to rely on Spouse to get the colors right.

Note: Inlace acrylester can be challenging for beginners. If you want to turn plastic (acrylic) pens, do a bunch of wood pens first, then real acrylic, and then try inlace acrylester. My first inlace acrylester pen took three tries. I had to go back and buy another blank. Twice. Yeah, I am stubborn. Once you get it figured out, it isn't difficult. Plastic blanks take me about three times longer to turn than wood, and they are much messier due to static cling of the plastic ribbons and dust that come off. When polished, they look real perty.

The Duraclick EDC (every day carry) pen was a disaster in every way during construction, but it eventually worked out. The look is very bland - the blank came out of a fallen branch from a Brazilian pepper tree in our backyard. I turned a sample of the branch six months ago, and it was stunning in color, texture and grain. This pen came from the same branch, and it is as plain as can be. Sometimes all the "pretty" goes away as you turn the pen. Here is the detailed story: https://www.penturners.org/threads/162275/

Sources, FYI:
https://www.pennstateind.com/store/PKDRAAB.html
https://www.rockler.com/nuclear-grap...ster-pen-blank
https://www.pennstateind.com/store/PKEDCDBR.html

Photos:
* Dragon pen in antique brass, made with Nuclear Grape inlace acrylester blank.
* Original test turning and Duraclick EDC brass pen, both made from the same branch of a Brazilian pepper tree.
Attached Thumbnails
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Name:	Dragon Pen Nuclear Grape Blank.JPG
Views:	7
Size:	168.5 KB
ID:	380347  

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Name:	Pepper Tree Duraclick EDC Pen and Original Test Blank.JPG
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post #11 of 12 Old 11-06-2019, 01:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Agnostic View Post
Pen turning is a fun, addictive hobby. Here are the MINIMUM basics that you need to get started:

GENERAL:
* Lathe - Any woodturning lathe will do for pens. To choose a lathe, think about what other things you will make with it. For me, a variable speed knob is a must-have feature.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you get a lathe, pay attention to the taper size and headstock thread size. I recommend getting a lathe with the very common Morse Taper 2 (MT2), but a few lathes have MT1. Get a headstock thread size of 1 inch x 8 TPI (very common) or 1.25 inch by 8 TPI. Avoid 3/4 inch or any other non-common thread size. Pay attention to the taper and thread sizes when you buy a pen mandrel, a chuck, etc.

* Turning tools - high speed steel (HSS) or carbide or both. A three-piece carbide turning tool set might be a good start.
* Sharpening method - How will you sharpen those turning tools? (Carbide tips are usually replaced with sharp fresh ones.)
* Saw to cut pen blanks. A small hand saw is fine.
* Drilling method - A way to center and drill your pen blanks, and also to square the ends with the pen mill.
-> Drill press? Lathe? Hand drill with special jigs? I use the lathe, see below.
* Face shield.
* Dust mask.
* Maybe hearing protection. Some lathes can squeal or make other loud sounds. I wear hearing protection with most tools.

PEN MAKING:
* Pen Kit. One per pen.
* Pen blank. One per pen. Start with wood. Look at the ends for grain. Whatever you see on the sides will be gone after you turn it.
* Drill to match the pen kit. There are several common sizes. The pen kit instructions will tell you the drill size you need for that pen.
* Bushings to match the pen kit. Pen kits in the same "family" can share bushings, but each kit "family" has its own bushings. Keep your bushing sets separate!! Sizes are similar and they are impossible to sort out later.
* One set of slimline bushings to use as spacers, and to use as bushings for making slimline pens.
* Pen mill - Uses a drill to mill/grind the ends so that they are square.
* Pen Mandrel.
* Pen press or other assembly tool. I use these, but they only fit MT2 lathes (the most common):
https://www.woodcraft.com/products/l...-adapters-2-mt

SUPPLIES:
* Sandpaper.
* Glue - Start with medium CA glue.
* Disposable gloves.
* Micro-mesh pads (9 pad set). They last nearly forever. I am still on my first set, and I have made over 70 pens. Hint: Cut the 3x4 inch pads into multiple sets; a better value than buying the 2x2 pads.
* Applicator for CA Finish. Paper towels are popular, but I use a thin sheet of craft foam cut into small squares.
* Rags. For wiping off sandpaper grit and micro-mesh grit on a stopped lathe between sanding/polish steps, plus tiny bits of fabric for applying friction polish. I use cut up T-shirts.
* "Cover" - Use rags or plastic bags to cover and protect the lathe "ways" when you apply finish. Weigh it down with something to prevent it from getting sucked into the spinning pen blank.

The above recommendations assume that you will use the CA glue for gluing tubes inside the pen blanks AND also as a pen finish. Use the sandpaper, then wet micro-mesh pads in sequence to polish your CA-finished pen blanks to a bright, durable high-gloss shine.

Some people prefer a friction polish better than a CA finish. I like the natural look of the friction polishes better than the "plastic" CA finish, but the friction polishes are not as durable as a CA finish. Look for "Hut Crystal Coat" (okay, not great), Myland's, Shellawax, etc.

Rockler sells a Starter Pen Turning Kit with 3 slimline pen kits, 3 pen blanks, slimline bushings, a pen mandrel, a 7mm drill, a pen mill set, and medium CA glue in an organizer box:
https://www.rockler.com/starter-pen-turning-kit

OPTIONAL EXTRAS, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:
* Plastic Bushings. Keeps CA finishes from sticking to your metal bushings. Worth it. I put them on before sanding time to keep from sanding the bushing steel and darkening the wood ends, but be careful not to round over the edges of your turned blanks!
https://www.rockler.com/non-stick-pe...-for-ca-finish
* Mandrel Saver - Keeps your mandrel from bending, reduces chances of off-center turning, better overall.
I bought mine from Woodcraft, but can't find it there now. Search for "mandrel saver" on Amazon and other places.
* Spare brass pen tubes. Takes the stress out of making pens. If you mess one up anywhere before final assembly, you don't stress over it. Get out another piece of wood and a spare tube, no hassles.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS, MORE COSTLY, BUT RECOMMENDED:
* Calipers for measuring parts, measuring your pen turnings, and more. I like the digital calipers, but other people hate them. Whatever works for you.
* Four jaw chuck for drilling on the lathe, and also for all kinds of wood turning, especially bowls.
There are lots of choices. I like the Nova G3 (1 in x 8 TPI) and Nova SuperNova 2 (1.25 in x 8 TPI), but there are many other fine chucks.
-> This pen making Nova G3 chuck set is brand new on the market. I like it because it includes the pen jaws and a mandrel saver. It includes a woodworm screw and 50mm jaws for bowl turning. Make sure the chuck matches your lathe threads (1 inch x 8 TPI):
https://www.rockler.com/nova-g3-chuc...ndle-1-x-8-tpi
(I use a Nova G3 chuck set, but it came with different components. I bought the pen jaws and mandrel saver separately.)

* Jacobs Chuck for drilling on the lathe:
Works with the four-jaw chuck above to drill on the lathe. The Jacobs chuck holds the drill bit. I use pen jaws in a Nova chuck to turn the pen blank while I slowly crank in the drill bit in the Jacobs chuck on the tailstock. Get the Jacobs chuck and the taper that matches your lathe (probably MT2). This is what I use:
https://www.rockler.com/lathe-chuck-and-tapers-chuck

EXTRA HINTS:
* This website has everything you need related to pen making. They are gentle with beginners. The folks there are almost as nice as the folks here in WoodworkingTalk. Maybe nicer. :-)
https://www.penturners.org

* Pen blanks are typically 3/4 x 3/4 x 5 inches or so. You can make a pen from nearly any wood, and many other materials as well (but start with wood). My point is that you don't have to buy ready-made pen blanks. You can take any board or branch or burl or scrap and cut a small piece of it for pen making. Before long, you will have more wood than you have time.
This post needs to be saved so others can read and learn from it. This is the best (how to do it) post I have ever seen.
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Don in Murfreesboro, TN.
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post #12 of 12 Old 11-07-2019, 04:13 AM Thread Starter
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My grocery list of supplies is supposed to arrive today. I'm excited to give pen turning a try. There is an abundance of knowledge in this thread that will be very helpful when I go hibernate in my backyard shop today. I like the idea of the shorter tool set too. I'm sure that will be on my next list of things to buy.....and that dragon pen looks really nice. I have a jeep buddy of mine that is into pirates. I'll have to see if I can find something with a pirate theme like that. Regardless of how my first slimline pens turn out, I'll post some pictures.

Mark
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