Penn State is okay. I'd be a bit leery of some of their introductory bundle packages. I bought one and didn't think the quality of the pen kits was up to snuff. Shipping is remarkably slow, too (not just once but every order). In fact, they're my last option for buying pen supplies because of the slow shipping. Packards is better, imo and I'm planning on trying Woodturningz since they have some higher quality wood and promise quick delivery.
If you have a lathe the main thing you'll need is a pen mandrel and the bushings for the pen style you're making. There's a $20 device called a mandrel saver that I think is worth buying, too. The standard mandrel uses a knurled knob to tighten the parts and the tail stock live center fits into a divit in the end of the mandrel. if you over snug the tail stock you'll bend the mandrel and the result is out of round pen turnings. If you buy the mandrel saver its a lot harder to bend the mandrel. Don't ask me how I know. If you do, the mandrel shafts are replaceable for a few bucks.
The only other thing you need is a way to assemble the pen or pencil and you can buy a pen assembler if you want. I use my drill press and a block of wood and keep the part aligned with my left had while the right hand turns the press down. I've also used a bench vise to assemble pens and it's handy too. Everyone sells pen disassembly kits for about $20. You can go to Harbor Freight and buy the exact same thing but they call it a punch transfer set. $5 on sale and about $10 regularly (Part No. 3577). I find having the ability to take a pen apart comes in handy sometimes. Apparently others do too.
If you have a Woodcraft nearby, they'll have what you need to get started. Their mandrel is reasonably priced and the pen kits are often on sale but even if they're not, by the time you add in shipping from the other guys, their price is reasonable. Plus you're buying local and they can give you whatever advice you need.
I would say keep it fairly simple to start with. No need to buy a bunch of tools and cutters dedicated to pen making. Just some of the basics. The finish....thats when your real questions will start :0
IMO, you're best not to spend an excessive amount on tooling on mandrels and learn to turn between centers. far, far more accurate.. BUT if you want to learn more of the Penturning habit, International Penturners Association Don't forget to introduce yourself enjoy the vast information in the Library
A forum community dedicated to professional woodworkers and enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about shop safety, wood, carpentry, lumber, finishing, tools, machinery, woodworking related topics, styles, scales, reviews, accessories, classifieds, and more!