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  • Beginners Guide To Pen Making Equipment

Beginners Guide To Pen Making Equipment

The essential items:

Depending on a budget: The price range of wood lathes available from Carbatec varies from $400 -$4000. If your only interest is pen turning then the MIDI LATHE is sufficient.

My preference for lathe selection is one that has Electronic Variable Speed (EVS)Control.

Reasons for this preference:

  1. When turning the blanks run the lathe as fast as possible (2500-3000 RPM). You are turning spindles which are on average 19mm square. The reason for the high speed is a better finish from the chisel. Just because I turn fast, does not mean you have to, choose a speed you feel comfortable with.
  2. When sanding you should turn slow around 500-1000 RPM, to reduce friction heat that sanding creates.
  3. If you use the lathe to drill your pen blanks, I like to keep the speed slow. With acrylic blanks, the heat generated from high speed will start melting the acrylic.

Having EVS you can simply dial up/down to your chosen speeds. A time-saving function

Without EVS you manually change the speed by stopping the lathe and change the position of the drive belt on the motor and headstock pulleys.


PSI Mandrel Saver - PKMSTSSET
PSI Mandrel Saver Complete Mandrel Package -#2MT
Pen Mandrel - MAND-92

Pen Mandrel #2MT

The one shown is a great value for money

Includes the mandrel, this is compatible with most of the pen kits sold on the market. For different kits, you need to purchase the appropriate pen kit bushes.

The included 7mm drill bit is great for those starting out the 7mm slimline kit is usually the go-to kit, included 5 slimline pen kits in the packaging, and the cheapest per pen price. Good for those new to pen making if and when mistakes are made, you’re not throwing away a lot of money for one pen.

The mandrel saver is an excellent tool as it slides over the mandrel for support and with the aid of the tailstock, you make adjustments for varying pen kits which all have different lengths of pen blanks also able to control the amount of pressure to secure the pen blanks for turning.

The basic mandrel may require the use of spacers for the shorter length pen tube kits to apply the holding power necessary while turning. 


You will need a drill bit to suit the diameter of the brass tube included with the pen kit.


If you own a Drill press this is one option, you will require a means to support the blank while you drill the hole to take the brass tube.

Pen Blank Drilling Vise - PV-609

Pen Blank Drilling Vise

Quick Action Self-Cemtromg Pen Blank Drilling Jig - CT-PV4

Quick Action Self-Centring Pen Blank Drilling Jig

It allows you to drill into the exact centre of your pen blanks. The vise jaws on the jig at left move in and out together; ensuring a precisely drilled hole in the centre of your pen blank. Even when you change the pen blank size there is no need to adjust the jig - it adjusts automatically. Just set up the vise once and drill all of your pen blanks in the exact centre. Perfect for round or square blanks 

Option 2:
Keyless Chuck with No. 2 Morse Taper - HM-513

Keyless Chuck with No. 2 Morse Taper

Use your lathe, to do this you will require a Jacobs style chuck either key or keyless

The 2MT is the most popular. Most recent lathe tailstocks are either a #1 or #2 Morse Taper.

With the Jacobs Chuck, the drill bit is stationery and you turn the pen blank. 

If using Option 2 you will need a means of holding the pen blank for drilling.

Either of the chucks shown are suitable provided you purchase either the following 

Nova G3 Woodturning Chuck - TK-G3

Nova G3 Woodturning Chuck

Nova SuperNova2 Woodturning Chuck - TK-SN2

Nova SuperNova2 Woodturning Chuck

If you only require turning pens then this would be the choice.
Nova Pen Plus Jaw Set - TK-6034
Nova Pen Plus Jaw Set

The NOVA Pen 'Plus' Jaws easily convert your NOVA chuck into a fast and accurate Pen Blank drilling facility. The big jaw profile provides a vibration-free; solid grip for all sizes of pen blanks and an accurate centered hole every time. Also perfect for squaring up the pen blank ends after gluing in the pen kit tubes. Their solid; heavy-duty design means not only will they hold Pen blanks securely; but they are also powerful enough to handle larger and longer spigot work. 

These jaws offer greater versatility
Nova Pin Jaw Set - TK-JSPIN
Nova Pin Jaw Set

These special 25mm extended jaws are designed to act like a pin chuck - expanding into a pre-bored hole. This is an especially useful technique for free form edge bowls. A really big advantage over Pin Chucks though is that you don't have to bore to an exact size - any size between the minimum and just under the maximum expansion will do. The longer jaws allow for a very powerful spigot grip for all smaller work like lace bobbins (up to 6inch in length) and delicate pots etc. The jaws also have a dovetail to mount small bowls (up to 6inch dia). Features standard on all NOVA Jaws: Full Cross Function: Only NOVA Chucks give you the same jaw fixing system and same insert/adaptor system across all chuck models. This means all accessory jaws in the range fit all the chucks in the range; including older chuck models*; giving you the ultimate flexibility. In buying a NOVA chuck; you can be confident that whether you want to move up or down the range; any accessories you have invested in will Fit. Special Dovetail Pro

Pen Mil - PEN-MILL

Pen Mill (Unhandled) for 7mm Pens

When making your pens, the quality of the finished pen may be spoilt if you fail to have perfectly square ends. This is the purpose of this tool, the shaft is the correct fit for the inner diameter of the 7mm pen kits, this keeps the cutting face square to the end of the brass tube. This may be fitted to the Jacobs chuck in the tailstock or the drill press once your tube is glued to the blank. You then trim the end of the blank until you reach the end of the brass tube.

If you already have a set of woodturning chisels then these are not essential.
Robert Sorby Pen Turning Set - RSB-A36HS3T

Robert Sorby Pen Turning Set

This set consists of:

- ROUGHING GOUGE for turning the square blank to round

- PARTING TOOL used to square the ends or cutting the blank

- SPINDLEMASTER is a tool for the person who is just starting out in woodturning. This tool is used to finish turning the pen blank

The tools in this set may be purchased as separate items.

For the someone who has woodturning experience you may use a spindle gouge for the turning process

 Callipers I believe are essential. I do not trust the bushes as they may not be machined to the exact size.

To create a quality product always compare the size of the fittings to the bushes finished diameter.

Callipers are handy once you start working with different kits that have different size tubes. If the markings on your drill bit are worn you can use the calliper to compare the drill size to brass tube size. 


To help from getting glue on the fingers when inserting the brass tubes consider this tool
PSI Universal Pen Tube Insertion Tool - PKTINT2

PSI Universal Pen Tube Insertion Tool

This helpful pen tube insertion tool is versatile enough to work on any pen kit - from Slimline through the Majestic. Now one insertion tool is all you need. Accepts and inserts tubes from 7mm through 37/64". 

Once you have turned and finished the pen blank, it's time to commence assembling the various components.
Pen Assembly Press - CT-PAP1

Pen Assembly Press

The fittings are designed as a press fit. The pen press is designed for this purpose. However, other methods of doing this are by bench vise, drill press or use of the tailstock on your lathe. The dedicated pen press is ideal as the design of the device makes use of a nylon clamping faces to protect the plating of the pen components from damage. 

The pen disassembly set may help you knock a fitting from the pen once assembled. Mistakes can happen.
PSI Pen Disassembly Punch Set - PKDISET

PSI Pen Disassembly Punch Set

Keeping your turning tools sharp is a must. This bench grinder is the starting point.  
Carbatec Wide Stone Bench Grinder - With LED Light - GR-W150H

Carbatec Wide Stone Bench Grinder- With LED Light

AussieOil is my preferred choice for wooden pen blanks

U-Beaut EEE Ultra Shine - UB-EEE

U-Beaut EEE Ultra Shine

U-Beaut Shellawax Glow - 500ml - UB-SGW

U-Beaut Shellawax Glow - 500ml

Ubeaut Aussie Oil - UB-AUSSIE
Ubeaut Aussie Oil

Many finishes are available for wooden pen blanks the ones shown are a small sample and popular, The EEE is used just after sanding as a polish, but the shine will soon disappear that is why you then apply either of the glow, the oil or finish of your choice

A popular alternative to these finishes is CA Glue.

Hot Stuff Glue (Red) - Fast Drying - HS-4

Hot Stuff Glue (Red) - Fast Drying

Hot Stuff CA Glue Accelerator - HS-QA6

Hot Stuff Glue (Green) - Slow Drying

Hot Stuff Glue (Yellow) Medium Drying - HST-4

Hot Stuff Glue (Yellow) - Medium Drying

Hot Stuff Glue (Green) - Slow Drying - HST-4T

Hot Stuff Glue (Green) - Slow Drying

Some pen makers prefer CA glue for gluing the brass tubes into the pen blanks. Medium CA, this gives you a slightly longer working time to press in the tube

My preference for gluing pen blanks is Polyurethane
Titebond Polyurethane Glue - 355ml - TBD-Pol-355ML

Titebond Polyurethane Glue - 355ml

This is a foaming glue that expands as it cures. A major advantage of this glue is the flexibility it provides especially for timber blanks as it permits the wood to expand and contract. You have a much longer working time compared to CA glues. It is easy to clean-up.

Epoxy glues are another alternative to the above. 

You venture into turning the acrylic pen blanks then the Micromesh sanding pads are ideal. Try this colour coded sanding set.
Micro-Mesh Micro Finishing System Pack - SP-MMESH-SET
Micro-Mesh Micro Finishing System Pack

Micro-Mesh is a long-lasting cloth-backed sanding product that is applied to a foam cushion layer. The paper itself is much like wet and dry paper but the addition of the cushion layer allows more control of the cutting action. While all sandpaper creates a scratch pattern; the Micro-Mesh pattern is very fine and promotes consistent sanding and extraordinary levels of gloss in acrylics and wood alike. Used primarily for finishing pen kits in acrylic this phenomenal sandpaper is useful in other turning projects too. Sold as a complete set; this product is a delight to use.  Grits included are 1500, 1800, 2400, 3200, 3600, 4000, 6000, 8000 and 12000.  Each pad is 50mm x 50mm and all are double-sided. 

An ideal accessory for woodturning spindle work, pen making and other applications where narrow sanding strips are an advantage. This kit contains 5 rolls of 25mm x 6 metre sanding lengths with the following grits: 180G, 240G, 320G, 400G & 600G.  Sanding mesh is perfect for most sanding applications, and it doesn’t tend to 'fill' with dust due to its open design.  These grits are also double sided, so will have a longer life then regular sandpaper. 
5 Pce Mesh Sanding Kit - CT-SMS-5
5 Pce Mesh Sanding Kit

If you want quality information about pen making please check Kurthertzog Demos.

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Woodturning Design Magazine "Journey from Penturning to Penmaking" Column

Written by Gary Bidgood