Penmaking articles Penmaking Tips
Polaris Pen and Pencil Kits

24-Karat “Slimline” Pen and Pencil Kits

by Scott & Kathy Griffith, premiere turning artisans
Reprinted by permission from Creative Woodworks and Crafts Magazine

Regardless of how much wood is removed, only the thinnest thread of brass should be ground off. This ensures that the bushings have a proper fit on the end of the blank, which in turn ensures that your pen assembles with smooth transitions from metal parts to wood parts. When loading the mandrel, be sure to use the Polaris bushings and fill in the remaining space with extra 7mm bushings (see Fig. 3). Do not over tighten the locking nut on the mandrel, as this can cause blanks to split or the mandrel to bow.

Install the mandrel on the lathe and set the lathe speed to low. Be sure to use your safety goggles or face mask, ear plugs, dust mask and dust collector before turning on the lathe. With a roughout gouge, begin to round the pen at low speed using a slow straight cut down the length of the pen (see Fig. 4). As the pen becomes round, the speed of the lathe can be increased. Stop the lathe frequently to check the shape of the pen and determine which areas might require more attention. When nearing the finished shape, switch to a sharp skew gouge to cut the final profile.
Keep the wood a bit larger than the bushings; this
allows you to sand away the tool marks without going below the bushings (see Fig. 5).

Starting with 80-grit cloth-backed sandpaper in 1"-wide strips (4-6" in length), begin to sand your blank (see Fig. 6). Gradually progress through the grits to about 400- or 600-grit cloth-backed sandpaper. Frequently stop the lathe and check the surface of the wood (it should begin to feel like satin). There should not be any swirl marks or scratches; if any are visible, try backing up a few grades of grit and working to the final again. While you are increasing the speed of the lathe during this process, be sure to use less pressure on the pen as you use finer grits of sandpaper. Also keep moving to unused areas of the sandpaper as the grit does clog and often wears off. This is also the time to clean up any blemishes because the finish will probably highlight them. For all the new turners, remember that you can always turn a new set of tubes for a kit. There are extra brass tubes available as well as some disassembly kits. This sanding process may seem tedious at first, but as it is repeated the quality and speed will improve greatly. The finish we use for our turnings is Shellawax Cream, which is applied while the pen is on the lathe (see Fig. 7).

Shellawax Cream is a creamy paste made of white shellac and a mix of highly refined waxes, including carnuba and bees wax. Using a piece of T-shirt fabric or your finger, spread a thin coating of the finish on the pen, turning the lathe by hand and making sure to thoroughly cover the wood (see Fig. 8). With the lathe on low, slide the waxcovered swatch over the wood and then switch to a clean area, turn the lathe speed to high, and buff to a nice shine. If the wood seems to absorb the wax, you can add another coat and buff again.

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Fig. 5. A close-up of the turning before being sanded.

Fig. 6. Starting with 80-grit sandpaper, begin to sand your blank.

Fig. 7. Apply Shellawax Cream while the pen is on the lathe.

Fig. 8. Use a cloth to buff the coating of the finish on the pen.

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