Penmaking articles Penmaking Tips


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

I have had the misfortune of having small pen blanks catch on the bit and spin in my fingers. I didn’t want to risk that happening with such a large blank, so I clamped the block in an adjustable hand screw. This provided more stability to the block and gave me a handle to better control the stock while it was being drilled. Take your time and BE SURE to raise the bit often to clear the chips from the hole. In the past, while teaching wood shop, I have had students who failed to do that and I’ve discovered that it is very difficult to remove the bit from the hole once sawdust gets packed tightly around its shaft!

Turning the blank
The bushings provided for this project allow it to be turned on a standard, 7mm pen mandrell. I like to keep my turnings as close as possible to the headstock of the lathe so I used spare bushings supplied for other pens to shim out the remainder of the mandrell. I also used another bushing as a spacer to keep it just slightly away from the headstock end of the mandrell. This gives you a little more room to maneuver the sander when the time comes (see Fig. 3).
Turn the blank to 1-3/4"-diameter. I chose a large
roughing gouge to do this and I used a pair of outside
calipers to continually check my progress. The blank
doesn’t have to be that precise, but you do want to be as accurate as possible.
Once the blank was round and to the correct diameter, I used a small detail gouge to square up the ends of the blank so they were perpendicular to the hole (see Fig. 4). Just take off enough wood to do the job; don’t get carried away and substantially reduce the length of the block.
Measure over 7/8" from the headstock end of the
blank and draw a line around the wood. This marks the transition point between the two large beads that together form the shape of the egg (see Fig. 5).
It helps to be able to visualize exactly what an egg
looks like—even if it means going to the refrigerator and getting a real one to use as a model! Most people forget that an egg is more rounded and they actually end up turning more of a taper rather than a large, elongated bead. I have found that it is helpful to make a small template to use as a guide so you don’t remove too much material from the wrong place (refer to the kalegg-oscope template located in Full Size Pattern Section 1).
I started at the headstock end of my blank and
turned the large bead that will form the bottom of the egg-shape (see Fig. 6). I just try to get close at this point because I will come back later and refine the shape. It is important to get a clean cut to minimize any sanding later on, so be sure to shear cut rather than scrape.
Turn your attention to the front bead next. Start at the tailstock end of the blank and work back toward your line. Use a sharp gouge and remove as little stock as possible in each pass until you get to the desired form.
Continually check your shape as it evolves against that of the template. Remember the shape doesn’t have to be perfect, just close.
Once you have finished, step back away from the
lathe and look closely at the shape (see Fig. 7). Refine it as needed to get a smooth flowing curve that is free of any lumps and bumps.
Sanding and finishing
I power sanded the egg with the rigid sanding discs as well as the padded Velcro ones. A lot of sanding won’t be necessary at this point if you were careful and produced a clean cut. Whatever you do, however, DON’T change the shape of the egg.

Fig. 1: Fig. 1. As you can see here, there are quite a few parts to this kit. In addition, you will need a set of bushings and a drill bit.

Fig. 2. Drill the hole completely through the block. This is a rather large block, so I recommend that it be held in an adjustable hand screw clamp. This provides a little more stability for the block and will prevent it from spinning in case the drill bit catches.

Fig. 3. The block is mounted on a standard pen mandrell for turning. Spare bushings are used to fill out the length of the mandrell.


... Continue


<Previous 1, 2, 3, Next>

On we provide you with pen making instruction and tips to make a satisfying hobby even more enjoyable. You will find a complete line of Pen making kits, supplies and turning tools on If there's something you can't find just send us an email and we'll be glad to point you in the right direction. Don't forget to stop by our wood working craft site

You may also be interested in our Clock Parts and Clock Making Supplies...