Woodcraft Stores to Host Turn for Troops National Turn-a-Thon

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San Diego State University students turned these pens that helped the San Carlos Woodcraft store reach a 15-year Turn for Troops milestone in 2018 – 10,045 pens.

Woodcraft is preparing for its 16th Turn for Troops National Turn-a-Thon on November 9 and 10. Woodcraft retail stores throughout the US will host Turn-a-Thons and invite volunteers to come and make unique gifts for military personnel on active duty and recovering in rehabilitation facilities.

During 2018, a total of 17,097 one-of-a-kind wood pens were turned, bringing the 15-year total to 175,224. In addition to the annual Turn-a-Thons, some stores hold turning events at other times during the year, and some groups and individuals turn pens all year to donate to Turn for Troops. 

“Woodcraft encourages anyone interested in making a special thank-you gift for a man or woman serving in the military to become a volunteer pen turner for a day at your local Woodcraft store,” Woodcraft President and CEO Jack Bigger said. “Without volunteers – from the public and Woodcraft employees – the Turn for Troops program could not reach out to thousands of military personnel annually.”

To participate in the Turn-a-Thon, contact the Woodcraft store nearest you for more details. If you have never turned a pen, check with your local Woodcraft store about whether first-time pen turning instructions will be provided the day of the Turn-a-Thon.

Two Woodworking Adventures blogs also include instructions for how to turn pens: Pen Turning 101 and A Great Start for Basic Pen Turning.

A Message from Home

A note from a young pen turner at the Seattle, Washington, Woodcraft store 2018 Turn-a-Thon.

Pen makers are encouraged to include notes, like the one above, with their thank-you gift pens. In addition to thanking the military man or woman for their service, notes sometimes include the type of wood used to turn the pen and contact information for the maker. In return, recipients of the pens often send notes of appreciation for their pen gifts. 

Volunteer Turners

Volunteer turners in the 2017 Turn for Troops event included Manager Charlie Wilson of the Lenexa, Kansas, Woodcraft store, a Vietnam veteran, left, and Navy Capt. Will Pennington of the USS H.W. Bush aircraft carrier.

Sometimes pen recipients and veterans make pens. Pens made during the 2016 Turn for Troops Turn-A-Thon – 4,840 – were sent to sailors aboard the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier. Navy Captain Will Pennington, a pen recipient, then showed up at the Virginia Beach Woodcraft store in 2017 as a volunteer to make pens for his military comrades. That same year, Manager Charlie Wilson, now retired, a Vietnam veteran, joined volunteer turners at the Lenexa, Kansas, Woodcraft to turn pens for his fellow military personnel.

A San Diego State University student focus on shaping a wood pen during the Turn for Troops Turn-a-Thon at the Woodcraft store in San Carlos, California in 2018.

Woodworking clubs and other groups often support a Woodcraft store’s Turn for Troops program. In 2018, the San Carlos, California, Woodcraft store “crossed” the 10,000 pen line with the help of  Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity members at San Diego State University and the Silicon Valley Woodturners.

So far since the 2018 event, 8,600 pens have been sent to military personnel in Japan, 3,000 to Colorado, and 400 to Alaska. Coincidentally, of the approximately 1,354,094 US military personnel serving overseas in June, the nation hosting the largest number was Japan – approximately 55,327.

Each year, after pens begin arriving from the stores, Woodcraft personnel at the corporate office check with their military contacts about where to send the new batch of pens. Sometimes stores will suggest where to send some pens, and sometimes military personnel will reach out to Woodcraft after reading publicity about the annual event.

Hats off to all the volunteer turners and Woodcraft store personnel who make this annual event a success and allow Woodcraft to reach out and remind the men and women serving in the military that we care, and they are not forgotten!!


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