Penturning Tips and Tricks



To get free wood, tell people, “I’ll make you a pen if you give me enough wood to make three pens.”


Round the back corners of the band saw blade to decrease friction and heat.


Draw a squiggly line on one side of the blank so that when the blank is sawed in two, the grain of the pieces can be matched up on the lathe.


When drilling the hole in the blank, let the tip of the drill spin on the end of the grain for a few seconds until it finds the center.


Drill in small bites.  Pull the drill out of the hole often to clear the chips.  This helps to prevent overheating and splitting the blank.


Rough up the brass tubes with sandpaper so the glue will stick to the tubes.


Plug the ends of your pen tubes with dentists’ base plate wax (or plumbers putty) to keep the glue from entering the tubes (www.arizonasilhouette.com/Base_PLate_Wax.htm).


Sharpen the flat perpendicular surface of the pen mill using a small diamond hone.


For dense and/or brittle wood or plastic cut the longitudinal corners off the blanks with the band saw before turning.


Cut v-grooves in a wood clamp to hold the blank for drilling and pen milling.


Use a “Colt” drill bit or similar bit when drilling plastics.


Eliminate the center band or substitute another material for the center band.


If you find yourself applying a lot of pressure as you are turning, stop and sharpen your tool.


Russ Fairfield:  “Do not sand without covering your nose and mouth with a respirator or air filter that is approved for fine wood dust.  A cheap paper mask is neither.  If you think that this isn’t important, come back in 20 years and tell me again that it isn’t.”


After each grit sand lengthwise to remove the sanding circles created by sanding with the lathe spinning.


Raleigh Lockhart:  After sanding to 400 or 600 grit, lightly wet the blank with water or denatured alcohol and let dry to raise the grain, then sand again with 400 or 600 grit.


If you have a very pretty or very interesting piece of wood in your pen, use a finish that will draw the eye into the surface of the wood.  Highly reflective finishes reflect the light away from the surface and thus also deflect the eye of the viewer from the surface of the wood.


Paul Yates:  Before applying a CA glue finish, install plastic washers between the bushings and the wood to keep the glue from sticking to the bushing.  Hand-cut washers made from a plastic milk container work well.


Before assembling the pen, lightly sand sharp corners on each end of the wood barrels with 320-grit sandpaper to make for smoother transition between wood and metal components.


Kurt Hertzog:  Use a floppy piece of rubber to hold onto the pen if you have to disassemble it.


Give the customer a little pen care sheet with the pen.