I know, I know... my first pen.....

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Project by pneufab posted 12-31-2010 02:09 PM 2004 views 1 time favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I know I know….. I will not be posting every pen that I turn, just my first one


The wife and I attended a demo at the local Rockler about 6 months ago and she was hooked. For Christmas I purchased her a mini-lathe and wanted to make her a pen as a gift. She was using it at work and sent me a cool picture of it on her desk, so I decided to post it.

Since the lathe is setup in the basement, it is rather relaxing to come home from work, put on my PJ’s and be able to turn a completed project in an hour or so (yes I am very slow right now).

This is all I have to contribute for now.

Thanks for looking! Happy New Year!

15 comments so far

View waters's profile


369 posts in 4637 days

#1 posted 12-31-2010 02:16 PM

It’s a fine pen :)

-- Dale, Oregon

View reddinosaur's profile


120 posts in 4420 days

#2 posted 12-31-2010 03:43 PM

Pretty cool! How did you drill the acrylic blank? How was it turning?

-- Jess

View ed220's profile


627 posts in 4684 days

#3 posted 12-31-2010 04:09 PM

Nice job !!!! just got a mini lathe also and can’t wait to turn a pen… unfortunately switch broke on the Jet mini as soon as i turned it on :( ...but that’s my problem.. you should be very proud of your work.

View pneufab's profile


131 posts in 4372 days

#4 posted 01-01-2011 01:29 AM

Jess – I am going to apologize for the long, drawn out explanation, but I struggled with the drilling part, so if this helps you or someone else not go through the frustrations I did, I am happy to type it out. Just remember, you asked. I added a few pictures of my quick and dirty pen blank setup.


Drilling it was actually the most challenging part for me. I tried a few different RPM’s and clamping methods, but it seemed like I would drill about 1/16” and I would notice the drill bit and blank wobbling quite a bit. I would eject the chips, drill another 1/16” and it would wobble again. The first batch that I drilled, there was a noticeable increase in the hole size, that some of them were not even usable! I was thinking about trying a slightly smaller drill bit (this was 7 mm bit or .2756”) so I was thinking of trying a 17/64” (.2656) to try and counter act the wobble. I had some scrap plywood and decided to try mounting the vise like shown in the updated pictures as opposed the clamping the blank with the vise in the “normal” position.

This helped, but I still noticed it took very little for the chips to build up and start wobbling a bit. I am not sure what the RPM was set at, but I tried a few, faster then slower. I finally set the speed to 200 RPM and used a vacuum to help grab the chips when I pulled out the bit so they did not fall back into the hole. This did the trick!! This process may be a bit slow (I think it took about an hour to set up, cut and drill 12 blanks) but I couldn’t ask for a cleaner hole.

Sorry for the long story, but this was really the most frustration part for me. I put in bold the key points, in case you don’t want to read all of ramblings. When I drilled that first clean hole and tested a pen tube I was grinning from ear to ear! You still have to make sure to eject the chips every 1/8”-1/4” or so, but the vacuum does a great job of pulling the chips out of the hole.

Turning it, was not bad at all! I have probably some lower quality chisels, no experience in sharpening or turning and my first pen was acrylic I didn’t even try wood first. I read and heard how acrylic can be tricky to turn. I wanted to try that first (maybe I like to fail before I start most of the time?) to see how difficult it really was.

Trust me, if I can do it anyone can!!!

I have 2 pens under my belt now, so by all means I am not even close to being an expert on anything!! I am just letting you know what worked for me. If anyone else has any advise, I would greatly appreciate it!! My wife if going to be the turner, for the most part, but I still have to prep the blanks!

Once again, I apologize for the novel!

View pneufab's profile


131 posts in 4372 days

#5 posted 01-01-2011 01:39 AM

Ed- You are in my project post, so your problem is my concern and I feel your pain!! I heard (no experience) that Jet has good customer service. I hope they have you up and running in no time!

I had to smile though. If you notice, I have a big ol’ power switch on the side of my drill press. My regular power switch went out Christmas weekend (for the second time in the last 10 years or so). Luckily I had this one sitting around for my router table project, that I was able to use in the mean time. If I wasn’t able to get the wife some blanks drilled, she wouldn’t have been too excited about her new lathe!

Thanks for the kind words.

View Hix's profile


161 posts in 4569 days

#6 posted 01-01-2011 04:50 AM

Great looking pen! It’s a slippery slope and once the adddiction sets in, it GROWS fast.

There are alot of different acrylics out there, some turn easier than others. You (your wife) might consider drilling on the lathe…it is pretty easy to do and very accurate.

-- ---call me---- Mark

View reddinosaur's profile


120 posts in 4420 days

#7 posted 01-01-2011 03:09 PM

Thanks so much for your advice about the acrylic!!!! I’ve been holding onto my blank for ages now because I had no clue how to work with it. I will definitely try it out soon. Did you use anything special for finishing?

-- Jess

View pneufab's profile


131 posts in 4372 days

#8 posted 01-01-2011 06:30 PM

Mark – Thanks for the tip. Yes it is a slippery slope! I find myself refraining from ordering a bunch of pen stuff myself! I need to keep telling myself, this is for Jenn, not for me! go back in the cold garage and do something productive! :)

These blanks were from PSI, their funline. If you have any experience with these. Please let me know if they are the one of the easier acrylics to turn (which I suspect they are!)

Actually, I was planning to use the lathe, eventually. I didn’t want to spend any additional money, right now, unless I had to. I plan on getting a drill chuck and collet set as a more permanent way to drill. When I took a metal machining course a few years ago, drilling on the lathe with a collet was the way to go for accurate, centered holes. I think I am going to opt for the collet set and turn the blanks round first over one of those chuck vises or a standard 4 jaw chuck. The collect set will be more useful for other types of projects. That pen chuck seems like a one truck pony.

Jess- Do it! If you have a special blank (which it sounds like you do) maybe you should get some cheap ones first to try them out first and build up your confidence!

I accidentally purchased ( I had one pack in my cart when I ordered and added another one without realizing) some of the PSI Funline group B blanks. SO I have quite a few left!!! I can send you a few if you want to practice on them, just let me know your address and I will stick them in the mail.

To finish this one, I purchased a micromesh kit from Rockler. No polish just went through the steps.

I tried one pen using automotive paper (I work at an auto paint supply store) from 400-1500 and then used some rubbing compound and polish. I worked well, but not as easy to use as the mesh.

View JBD's profile


3 posts in 4602 days

#9 posted 01-01-2011 07:37 PM

Not as easy as it seems. I’ve just started and have made about 100 so far. Sold 50, gave away 30 and wrecked 20….. but it’s all about skills development and, like yourself, enjoying and learning as I go. Be careful: this can become extrely addictive, but practice does pay off and the quality gets better all the time….. even when we think our first one is perfect !! Compared to my first pen – exactly the same style, yours probably is !!

View jim1953's profile


2744 posts in 5133 days

#10 posted 01-01-2011 07:48 PM

Great Lookin Pen

-- Jim, Kentucky

View MarkWilk's profile


229 posts in 5168 days

#11 posted 01-02-2011 12:04 AM

Using the drill press vise as a stand for the pen blank is a stroke of genius. Thanks for posting that photo. I’m going to make something like that out of my drill press vice next weekend.

Great pen. Check out for some great deails on kits and blanks. I use them a lot, and they have twice annual sales that are complete blow-outs for great pen kits. They will also special order nearly anything from PSI.

Enjoy turning.

-- Mark, Atlanta,

View pneufab's profile


131 posts in 4372 days

#12 posted 01-02-2011 02:22 AM

Mark – Wow thank you so much! I sent my wife the link to woodturningz. We are definitely going to do some shopping! She was bummed that there were only 5 kits left (from my original purchase!) so we are going to need to do some shopping!

I don’t know about a stroke of genius. More like desperation!


Thanks again!!

View RickL's profile


253 posts in 5232 days

#13 posted 01-02-2011 01:47 PM

Nothing to apologize for…great looking pen, hope to see other ones you make.

-- Rick, Union,KY

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4158 days

#14 posted 01-02-2011 03:15 PM

The pen is very nice and you should be proud of it.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View rance's profile


4279 posts in 4452 days

#15 posted 12-17-2011 12:16 AM

Very nice looking pen. And you post as many as you’d like. It is cool to be able to buy your wife a lathe. I did that too.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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