Penmaking articles Penmaking Tips

Executive Writing Instruments: Rollerball Pens and Fountain Pens

by Joseph M. Herrmann of Timber Treasures
Reprinted by permission from Creative Woodworks and Crafts Magazine

I have been making and selling pens for over 10 years. They are easy to make and provide a ready source of additional income. People relate to their classy appearance so much that I market them as “Executive Writing Instruments” instead of just pens. There are a variety of styles available and so many different materials to make them from, so your end product is sure to please just about anyone. This article will focus on two of the better performers: rollerball pens and fountain pens. If you have never tried a rollerball pen, you are in for a treat. I have discovered that if I can get a potential customer to just try the rollerball pen, they will probably purchase it.

When you consider the actual time and the little money involved in making each of the pens, you realize that you can turn a very healthy profit with a minimal investment in both time and materials. I sell the rollerballs for $35.00 and the fountain pens for $40.00; others, however, are getting much more. Know your market!

Wood: Dymondwood or wood of choice—two blanks 3/4"
square x 6" long
Tools: chop saw; drill press with 10mm drill bit; pen drilling vise; pen insertion tool; pen knife; lathe with a roughing gouge and a 3/4" skew; disc sander; handheld electric drill with padded sanding discs and assorted abrasives; buffing system
Danish oil
PK-1008 Pen Assembly Press, $38.95*
PK-1301 Pen Drilling Jig, $42.95*
PK-1064 10mm Drill Bit, $4.95*
PK-1007 Pen Insertion Tool, $9.40*
PK-1196 Rollerball Pen Kit, $5.80* (the one used for article)
PK-1197 Fountain Pen Kit, $6.85*
PK-1194 Rollerball Pen Kit, $5.80* (the one with the end caps)
PK-1193 Fountain Pen Kit, $7.90*
PK-1065 3-Step Bushing Set, $9.00*
PK-1005 #2 Morse Taper Mandrel, $15.75*
PK-1110 Dymondwood Assortment, $16.70*
PB-1640 Tropical Wood Assortment, $8.20*
SG-THICK Thick Superglue, $3.95*

*Available from: Steebar Corp., (973) 383-1026, Steebar charges $149.95
for all of the above items, plus shipping. Order PEN-KIT-1

This is a savings of $26.35 over purchasing them all individually.

No Additional Discounts apply to this special offer...

Getting started
There is no pattern because you just turn straight from the bushings. The project starts by determining from what material you are going to make your pen. Choices literally range from bone to stone, with wood being the obvious first choice. Deciding upon which specie of wood to use is a little more difficult, however. I have found that the exotics–especially those in the rosewood family– sell much better than most of the domestic species. The exotics are hard and dense, turn easily and can be polished to a high shine. They are far more colorful and their grain patterns are much more dramatic and unusual than the “homegrown” varieties. Cocobolo is my best seller for men, while tulipwood is preferred by women.
Some “manufactured” woods are also excellent choices. One in
particular is called Dymondwood. Hardwood veneers (usually maple) are dyed and glued up in a pattern. The material is then impregnated with a resin, making it extremely durable, as well as colorful, and is an ideal material for making pens (see Fig. 1).

Preparing the blanks
Dymondwood is usually sold in a pre-cut blank measuring approximately 3/4" square and 6" long. Two blanks are needed for the pen we are making in this article, while just one is required for the other style. (See the cocobolo and tulipwood examples.) Dymondwood is somewhat temperamental in that it tends to crack along the veneers when overheated, and it sometimes blows out when the drill bit exits the bottom of the blank. Therefore, I like to cut my blanks about 3/8" longer than necessary to provide a little
insurance (see Fig. 2).

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