A New 270 Year Old Pen

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Project by JohnGreco posted 07-21-2012 04:26 PM 2255 views 2 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A New 270 Year Old Pen
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I’ve been fortunate enough to have an opportunity to work with some really cool, historic wood lately. The most recent is this piece that dates to ~1740. It came from the Cedar Bridge Tavern, a site some historians believe may be the last battle of the American Revolution.

The wood came to me spongy and flaking apart. The inner wood was only slightly better once I cut some blanks from the larger board, but overall “punky wood” would probably not really come close to describing this.

I stabilized it using cactus juice, a heat treated resin, in a vacuum chamber. It took a good 2+ hours for the vacuum to remove almost all of the air while pulling 29”. Once I released the vacuum, and the wood absorbed the watery resin, it was baked for another 1 hour+ to harden. And WOW did it harden. These pieces came out with maybe a millimeter of unusable wood on the outer layer and the rest hard as a rock.

The rest of the pen was worked as any other wood and was given a CA finish sanded to 12,000 grit and buffed.

The nib is solid 18k gold, the rest of the pen is rhodium & gold plated with a swarovski crystal on the clip. Hands down the most high end fountain pen I’ve ever made. I included a bottle of J. Herbin ink, a maker that dates to 1700….a fitting match, I felt, given the time period the wood was from.

Thanks for looking.

-- John

11 comments so far

View Mcasady's profile


28 posts in 3195 days

#1 posted 07-21-2012 05:12 PM

Very nice, well done!

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1109 posts in 4817 days

#2 posted 07-21-2012 07:41 PM

First, congratulations on a fantastic project. Well done.
I’m interested in your stabilizing techniques. Can you point me to your sources regarding how and what you did to harden the soft woods so that you could use them in this project? Thanks in advance. Max

-- Max the "night janitor" at

View JohnGreco's profile


284 posts in 4065 days

#3 posted 07-21-2012 09:07 PM

Thank you both :)

Max, I use Cactus Juice from Turntex. He sells everything you need, but I made a vacuum chamber from a Binks pressure pot with a 3/4” acrylic sheet on top and hardware from a local store (except the vacuum gauge, I ordered one from eBay for ~$15 with shipping).

I got a vacuum pump from HF, go for the more expensive of the 2….I’m not sure the entry level one they offer can draw a deep enough vacuum.

Once my hardware was setup, I cut the blanks slightly larger than I needed (in case there was any warping after they bake) and submerged them in a container with cactus juice. I use thick wire mesh on the bottom to make sure the juice got under the blanks, and on top with a weight so they didn’t float out of the juice. They need to be completely submerged.

I vacuumed out the air and had a ball valve lever to control how much vacuum was being pulled so the juice didn’t froth over the sides of the container. Eventually I was able to let it run full blast pulling a perfect vacuum of 29” Hg. Every now and then I gave the pot a bit of a bump/rock to release any air bubbled trapped under the blanks and when there was hardly any more bubbles coming from them I turned off the vacuum. As air goes back into the pot the resin is sucked into the wood where the air used to be.

From there I wrapped the blanks in tin foil and put them in a toaster oven at 200 degrees for a bit over an hour. As soon as they cooled they were ready to work :) The stabilized pieces tend to produce a bit more dust than typical wood, but it turned and sanded beautifully.

What’s great with the cactus juice is since it is a heat cured resin, whatever doesn’t get absorbed by the blanks you can dump right back into the bottle. I use a coffee filter in a funnel to stop flaked off bits of wood from going in.

By the way, the reason I use a pressure pot is because I am also going to be using Alumilite to fill larger voids in some of these old blanks, which needs to be don under pressure, not vacuum….so the 1 container meets both of my needs.

-- John

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4544 posts in 3571 days

#4 posted 07-21-2012 09:18 PM

Well done on the pen and Great save on the wood. :-))


-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View GenerationWW's profile


521 posts in 3260 days

#5 posted 07-22-2012 12:11 AM

Very nice, great job on saving the wood.

-- list your handcrafted treasures @ for free!

View Craig Havran's profile

Craig Havran

346 posts in 3622 days

#6 posted 07-22-2012 12:48 AM

Craigy want…

-- "There's plenty of time to read the instruction manual when you're laying in the hospital bed". - Dad

View Doe's profile


1437 posts in 3840 days

#7 posted 07-22-2012 09:17 AM

It’s a beautiful pen and it’s wonderful that you’re preserving history. Thanks for posting the stabilizing information; I think I’d like to try that some time.

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View hunter71's profile


3545 posts in 4197 days

#8 posted 07-22-2012 10:30 AM

A work of art for sure.

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View Roger's profile


21051 posts in 3814 days

#9 posted 07-22-2012 11:24 AM

Very kool. Thnx for the history lesson. You’ve helped preserve a piece of it.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View dust4tears's profile


397 posts in 3159 days

#10 posted 07-22-2012 04:49 PM

Wow~ I am a pen collector and that is AWESOME~

-- Ride hard or go home~

View BandManHisey's profile


13 posts in 3146 days

#11 posted 07-23-2012 05:44 PM

VERY NICE!! Thank you for the information!

-- God Bless :.

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