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Woodcraft of Harrisburg

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3831 Union Deposit Road
Harrisburg, PA 17109

Hours of Operation

sunday 12PM - 5PM
monday 9AM - 7PM
tuesday 9AM - 5PM
wednesday 9AM - 5PM
thursday 9AM - 7PM
friday 9AM - 7PM
saturday 9AM - 6PM

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Turning a Pen

Pens are one of my most satisfying things to turn on a lathe. I enjoy it because I can finish a pen in a short amount of time. There are many styles of kits and turning blanks available and any size of lathe will work for turning pens, small or large.

Items needed to turn a pen include: a lathe, a pen mandrel, bushings and drill bits, epoxy or CA glue, sandpaper, a pen press, and a self-centering vise. Kits will come with either one or two brass tubes. Blanks should be measured and cut about 1/4” longer than the tube to allow for squaring the ends. Each kit has a specific diameter (or diameters) of drill bit required. Using a self-centering vise and drill press is a great way to ensure a safe and accurate drilling operation. The brass tubes are glued into the blanks with epoxy or CA glue, I find that thick or gel works the best. The ends of the blank then need to be squared with the tube. I like using a pen reamer, a tool which cleans the tube while trimming the end of the blank at the same time.


Exploded view of a pen kit assembly

Bushings are metal cylinders sized to the correct diameter of the final pen. Using a pen mandrel, the bushings and blanks are assembled for turning. The mandrel is held in the lathe by a #1 or #2 Morse taper on the headstock end and a live center on the other. Some turners like to use a mandrel saver instead of the live center which helps with wear.

Now comes the artistic part—actually turning the pen. The important part is turning the blanks to match the bushings where they meet the blank, ensuring a smooth transition from blank to kit. I usually sand my wood blanks starting at 150 grit and end at 600 grit. Acrylic or epoxy blanks need the Micro-Mesh system to polish the blanks to a high sheen. I remove the dust with acetone or denatured alcohol before applying a friction polish or CA glue finish. The final step is to remove the turned blanks from the mandrel and to assemble the pen kit. Many different kinds of pen presses are available, the important part is to follow the assembly instructions for each specific pen kit.


Pen mandrel with bushings and blank

I really enjoy pen turning because it’s quick, easy, and once you have the equipment, relatively inexpensive. Pens also make an excellent gift, especially when combined with a nice display case.

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