Pen turning - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 01-07-2020, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
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Pen turning

My wife got we a lather for Christmas, and cousins gave me some pen making stuff. My question is what are some must have tools to pick up?. I have some bushing for a few pen kits, some drills bits and pen press. What are some good turning tools I should invest in?

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post #2 of 17 Old 01-08-2020, 08:58 PM
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You could do all your pen turning with a 1/2" skew, but they do take some practice. Other than that, a parting tool, 3/8" detail gouge, maybe a 3/4" spindle roughing gouge.
Mike Hawkins
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post #3 of 17 Old 01-08-2020, 09:29 PM
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Get on You-Tube and type in "Making pens". There is a lot of information for you to look at. I have been turning for about a year, or should I say trying to turn. I have not turned any pens yet but if I live long enough I will have to give it a go.

Don in Murfreesboro, TN.
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post #4 of 17 Old 01-08-2020, 10:29 PM Thread Starter
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I have couple different skews and a old gouge. I made 3 different pens so far.

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post #5 of 17 Old 01-09-2020, 07:09 AM
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The pens look nice Stemy. One thing I always recommend to new turners, check and see if there's a turning club in your area. You can go to the AAW website and search there. It's the American Association of Woodturners. Even if the club is an hour away, they normally meet once a month. You'll meet a very nice group of people that are more than happy to share and teach. You'll learn how to turn without developing bad habits and shorten the learning curve tremendously.
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post #6 of 17 Old 01-09-2020, 11:22 AM
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See my post #3 in this thread:
https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/t...urning-215309/

If you buy high speed steel (HSS) tools, be sure you have a way to sharpen them.

Here are the turning tools I use for pens. The HSS tools come from the Sorby six piece turning set, and the carbide tools are the Rockler full size ones:

Sorby HSS Tools:
* 3/4 inch Spindle Roughing Gouge (843H)
* 3/8 inch Spindle Gouge (840H)

Optional, but I use them on pens:
* 3/4 inch Standard Skew Chisel (810H)
* 1/8 inch Parting Tool (830H)

Rockler Full-Size Ergoniomic Carbide Turning Tools:
* Square Radius
* Round
Optional, but I use it on pens:
* Diamond

Belt Sander:
Used to round off the sharp edges on plastic / acrylic pen blanks to reduce the chances of chips, catches, and cracks when roughing down to a cylinder.

Comments:

* It is okay to switch between tools or switch between HSS and carbide tools
I do not limit myself to one tool for one pen. I go with whichever tools work on whichever material I am working on that day. Some days I will use one tool and it won't work, so I switch to a different tool that cuts perfectly. The next day, it will be the exact opposite. Sometimes the HSS tools aren't sharp, so I use the carbide out of laziness. When the HSS tools are sharp and cutting well, they are a joy to use.

Some tools just seem to work better on certain materials. I sometimes struggle with the HSS tools on those very hard plastics/acrylics, but the carbide tools cut well on them. Most people expect you to use carbide tools as scrapers. I do that, but sometimes I use the carbide in bevel-rubbing mode, especially on plastics/acrylics. To my surprise it can work well, with the material peeling off and floating away in very long, very sensual, ribbons of plastic. (... or wrapping around the pen blank in a cotton-candy-like mess that must be stopped and brushed off to continue turning.)

The quality of your turnings can differ between tools and much of it depends on your skill level. Some tools make it easy to leave very smooth, no-sandpaper-required finished surfaces. Other tools require more post-processing with sandpaper to be finish ready. A skew chisel can leave an amazingly smooth surface ... or not. Practice helps.

* Optional HSS Tools
A skew chisel can be a wonderful, versatile turning tool in the right hands with practice and acquired skill. I am still learning to get better with the skew chisel. I wonder whether my battles are sharpening issues. When the skew chisel is cutting well, it is a wonderful thing. When it grabs and catches, well, not so great. My Sorby skew chisel has sharp, square edges along its length. The current version has rounded, softened edges to make rolling the tool easier. Someday I may have the thrasos to round the edges neatly on my own skew chisel, or perhaps I will treat myself with an oval skew chisel.

The parting tool is perfect for making tenons, which is needed for a few special pen kits. (I have also used the carbide diamond tool to make tenons for pens.) The parting tool is so useful for other turning projects. I use it often, just not often for pens.

* Optional diamond carbide tool
If you have only carbide tools, then you would use the diamond tool to make tenons, which are uncommon for pens. An HSS parting tool might be easier and arguably better for tenons, but the diamond tool is certainly up to the task. I use the diamond tool to turn finger-grip rings on pens. I could easily use a HSS skew chisel or parting tool instead, but the diamond tool just works for me.

* Full size vs. mini size vs. pen size for carbide tools
I like the size, heft, and feel of the full size carbide turning tools. They are useful for more than just pens. The problem with the full size carbide tools is that their tips are larger, so turning fine details on pens is more challenging. You might prefer mini carbide tools or even the smallest pen tools. One issue with the smaller tools: They don't always come with the same tips. The Rockler mini set has a diamond carbide tool, while their pen set has an HSS parting tool instead.

* Tools I don't use for pens
I do not use the bowl gouge, round nose scraper, other hollowing tools, etc.

* Great resource for learning more about Pen Turning
There is a wealth of information about pen turning at:
https://www.penturners.org

EXAMPLE TOOLS, IMPORTANT NOTE, PLEASE READ:
Here are links for the tools that I use, for your reference and example. They work for me, but PLEASE don't feel that you must acquire the same ones. I tend to buy from Rockler because they are my local woodworking store. There are many other companies that make excellent turning tools. You can find turning tools at all quality levels, including tools that are worse, and equal, and better than mine.

Robert Sorby Six Piece Set:
I bought the Sorby set when it was on sale at Rockler, but it is out of stock right now. It came with a GREAT woodturning book and an okay DVD. You can find the set elsewhere at lower prices. The book and DVD can be purchased separately.)
https://www.robert-sorby.co.uk/a67hs...rning-tool-set
https://www.rockler.com/sorby-6-piec...ndation-course
https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Sorby-.../dp/B0002IXQHO
...

Rockler Full Size Ergonomic Turning Tools - Carbide:
https://www.rockler.com/full-size-sq...e-turning-tool
https://www.rockler.com/full-size-ro...e-turning-tool
https://www.rockler.com/full-size-di...e-turning-tool
Also consider their mini tool turning set or their pen turning set.
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post #7 of 17 Old 01-15-2020, 08:29 PM Thread Starter
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These are all the tooling I have.

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post #8 of 17 Old 01-16-2020, 06:56 AM
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I think I see three skew chisels and a roughing gouge. Those will work great for pen turning if:

* You have a way to sharpen them.
* You have learned to use skew chisels. They are not as easy to learn as some other turning tools, but they are versatile once you have mastered them.

I keep practicing with my skew chisel. For myself, there is much more room for improvement. That said, I have turned several pens with nothing but a roughing gouge and a skew chisel.

If you have difficulty with the skew chisels, consider adding a HSS spindle gouge or perhaps a round or square radius carbide tool. If you buy a spindle gouge, know ahead of time how you plan to sharpen it.
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post #9 of 17 Old 01-16-2020, 11:15 AM
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As a Novice with a lathe, I would like to see what lathe attachments should be considered when thinking about beginners pen turning.

Gary
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post #10 of 17 Old 01-16-2020, 11:33 AM
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I bought a small lathe over a year ago. It's still sitting in the box, unopened. One of these days, I really need to get around to building that lathe stand.

⚡ Anthony
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post #11 of 17 Old 01-16-2020, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AmishElectricCo View Post
I bought a small lathe over a year ago. It's still sitting in the box, unopened. One of these days, I really need to get around to building that lathe stand.
Shameful! Get at it! And Enjoy!

I bought mine to make tool handles. I got a Nova chuck for Christmas and hope to use it soon.

Gary
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post #12 of 17 Old 01-16-2020, 12:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmercer_48083 View Post
As a Novice with a lathe, I would like to see what lathe attachments should be considered when thinking about beginners pen turning.
See post #3 in this thread, which gives a lot of detail for the MINIMUM supplies you need to get started with pen turning:
https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/t...urning-215309/

Quote:
Originally Posted by AmishElectricCo View Post
I bought a small lathe over a year ago. It's still sitting in the box, unopened. One of these days, I really need to get around to building that lathe stand.
You don't need a lathe stand. For classes and demos that I have attended (and given a few), we set a mini or midi lathe on top of a workbench and go with it. It works well. Pens are small. You do not need a boat anchor lathe stand for pens. Some people turn pens on their kitchen tables. Just take your lathe out of the box and put it on a firm surface.
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post #13 of 17 Old 01-16-2020, 04:48 PM
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I bought it to make small stuff: pens, tool handles, knobs, etc. At some point, I'd like to build a nice chess board and turn the pieces for it. Definitely on my to-do list...which seems to be growing much faster than my "available time" list.
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⚡ Anthony
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post #14 of 17 Old 01-16-2020, 07:39 PM
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www.penturners.org is a good start. They specifically focus on penturning, obviously. Loads of information in the IAP Library. I bought the Harbor Freight set of HSS tools years ago but only use 2 or 3 of them. A skew takes lots of practice to master it; I'm still learning. There are good videos on the skew on YT by John Lucas and Stuart Batty, among others. I do 99% of my pen turning with a 3/4 roughing gouge. A low speed sharpener is worth its weight in platinum. I sharpen my HSS tools before turning and touch up with a DMT diamond file. BTW, if you have a Woodcraft store near by, they give classes. My grandson and I took one.

A diamond is how coal reacts under pressure.
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post #15 of 17 Old 01-26-2020, 08:27 PM Thread Starter
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What is a good fat pen kit to make?

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post #16 of 17 Old 02-16-2020, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AmishElectricCo View Post
I bought a small lathe over a year ago. It's still sitting in the box, unopened. One of these days, I really need to get around to building that lathe stand.
I'm building this lathe stand right now.
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post #17 of 17 Old 02-16-2020, 04:44 PM
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A skew is a wonderful tool, once you made an intense effort to make it your friend. On smaller square stock, I even use it to round the stock. There is a tendency to use it as a scraper, and it can do that as well, but when you learn to make a fine thin cut, taking off a little ribbon of wood slightly larger than a human hair, it leaves a finish smooth as a baby's bottom. That takes a fine touch, but is worth every minute learning to get there. With some woods you leave a finish as smooth as you would get with 400 grit sand paper. Saves a lot of effort sanding.

I know many people like to scale down the tools they use for fine turnings. Watch Alan Lacer make a miniscule top with a 2 inch skew starting at 5:20
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