My Pen Making Process

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Blog entry by Karson posted 02-28-2010 08:58 PM 5320 reads 4 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve had a couple of questions as to what I use for finish on my pens. So, I thought I’d post a small process flow.

I didn’t do the drilling process because the batteries died, so this is the lathe process.

I’ve purchased a couple of new lathe pen making tools, and I got a new Lathe chisel for my birthday. So this is the first time on this lathe. And the first time with these tools, but I’ve used the finish before.

I got a new Carbide Lathe tool. I saw them being used at the Woodworkingshow and my son David was using it and he was doing a great job. Since it was his first time I figured that the tool would be easy to use.

It a Ci3 chisel by Easy Wood Tools. it was sold by Craft Supply. It cost around $80.00 if I remember correctly.

It got a carbide circle tip that can be rotated when it becomes dull.

The new pen Mandrell is from Penn State Industries it cost $30.00

The new tail stock is also from Penn State, it cost $15.00

Here is the pen in position. Notice you don’t use the threaded piece on the mandrell anymore with this tail stock. The pen mandrell fits into the tailstock and it compresses the bushings and blanks tight together.

I started making a set of sanding papers. It currently has 10 grits form 80 grit to 1500 grit. 5 of them are regular sanding papers and the 5 finest are the wet and dry version.

I cut them in strips and clip them in order with a clip. I then use them to sand in order and don’t jump any grit, or get them out of order.

The finish that I use is also from Penn State.

I bought mine about 6 years ago and it has sure gone up in price since then. The finish is imported from Australia, at least the advertisement states that.

The Shellwax liquid is a shellac and Carnuba wax emulsion. It makes the figure in pen blanks really pop. Shellac is known for that. I put a little on a piece of paper towell and wipe it all over the blank while it is not turning. I turn the lathe on and polisdh the blank with the shellac piece. Afer a minute I put some more on the towell and do it again.

I then take Shellwax cream and put a little on another piece of the paper towell and wipe the whole surface of the stopped blank. I turn it on and polish the blank. I turn the lathe off and do it for the second time.

I then use a 2Ton bearing press (I know over kill) but it sure is easy, to press the parts together for the pens.

The ring is pressed on.

Then the tip is pressed on.

And then the retractor is pressed in.

Here is the completed pen.

It’s made from Mango from Hawaii and is currently available.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

22 comments so far

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 3941 days

#1 posted 02-28-2010 09:05 PM

Great post!!!!!

Karson, where do you get your 800 and up sandpaper?

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View Rj's profile


1047 posts in 4084 days

#2 posted 02-28-2010 09:18 PM

Karson Thanks for posting this ! I have my way of making pens but I learned some new things from your post that I will apply on my next pen making venture.

-- Rj's Woodworks,San Jose & Weed Ca,

View Karson's profile


35194 posts in 4853 days

#3 posted 02-28-2010 09:22 PM

The tail stock is a #2MT. They just came in stock this week and the #1 Tail Stock has not yet arrived. They are supposed to be the same price. I was on the waiting list for both of them.

I bought the fine sandpaper at the Woodworking show, 50 sheets for $$ (I don’t remember, maybe $25.00 or so) 10 sheets of each of 5 grits. 420, 600, 800, 1200, and 1500 I think. The course stuff was the same 80, 100, 180, 220, 320.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3756 days

#4 posted 02-28-2010 09:33 PM

it sure is a beauty..a very cool process…..i like the press ..never hurts to have enought pressure…isnt that how diamonds are

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View dustyal's profile


1310 posts in 3928 days

#5 posted 02-28-2010 09:42 PM

... yeah, but does it write?

Well done Karson… I enjoyed reading… I cringed a little thinking about cranking down with that 2 ton press… and I could imagine tooth picks flying everywhere… Don’t think I’ve seen Mango wood… very interesting wood.

As it happens, I just read a short article on the Shellac wax stuff… and it suggested not to try to make your own… as first appearance would seem to suggest it would be easy enough to make, but evidently not.

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View dustbunny's profile


1149 posts in 3748 days

#6 posted 02-28-2010 11:01 PM

Aaahhh, Shellawax !
I’ve read some posts about it.
I’ll have to order some to try it out (smaller quantity)
Thanks for the blog,
love the mango : )


-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~

View lew's profile


12822 posts in 4208 days

#7 posted 02-28-2010 11:20 PM

Thanks for the lesson. That Mango wood is gorgeous!


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4779 days

#8 posted 02-28-2010 11:33 PM

I knew I recognized that wood ;)
nice little write up. I like the suggestion about the sandpaper, sure beats my “now, where is that 400 grit piece again?”

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View jack1's profile


2128 posts in 4480 days

#9 posted 03-01-2010 01:11 AM

Wow. Who knew how many steps and tools. Love the Mango wood.

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View Jordan's profile


1400 posts in 3577 days

#10 posted 03-01-2010 03:33 AM

Wow Karson, how educating! And where might you get that shellawax stuff? Thanks for posting. Do you sell these pens at shows etc.?


View yarydoc's profile


417 posts in 3597 days

#11 posted 03-01-2010 04:02 AM

Hay Karson, the pen looks great. When I first started turning pens I used the Shellawax and it looked great but the finish wears off after using it a while. I now use ca/blo ( ca glue/boiled linseed oil) finish and I will last as long as the pen. It will take a while to get it but I think you will like it. Here is a link to a video by William Young that might help.

-- Ray , Florence Alabama

View Karson's profile


35194 posts in 4853 days

#12 posted 03-01-2010 04:25 AM

Thanks Ray I’ll check it out.

I give my pens away. I would sell them if I find any customers.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4432 days

#13 posted 03-01-2010 06:39 PM

Hey Buddy;

2 tons… You think that is satisfactory?

Maybe I will back off a little then. LOL

Nice blog my friend.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Grumpy's profile


25536 posts in 4303 days

#14 posted 03-02-2010 01:03 AM

Karson, Shellawax is a great product. I first started using it on pens but found the finsish is not as durable over time as poly. I now use wipe on poly. Takes longer because you need to wait between coats. There are products for finishing pens but I find the wipe on poly a good finish. I just use a cotton ball to apply the poly & burnish on the lathe a low speed with a soft cloth after it sets.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Karson's profile


35194 posts in 4853 days

#15 posted 03-02-2010 01:26 AM

Thanks Tony. I guess I’ll have to modify my process.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

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