Project 12: Pen making supplies

March 22, 2011

I have a confession to make: I forgot to take pictures in my pen turning class. I’m going to do my best to show you the steps using photos available online, but the final pen photo will be my own.


Pen making requires a lot more supplies than I had anticipated. In addition to the pen kit itself you also need the wood blank, a drill bit, bushings, a mandrel, glue, different grits of sandpaper, and various finishing waxes. The class I took provided all of these for me.

What are all those things, you ask? I didn’t know either. The mandrel is an attachment for the lathe that holds the wood as it is turned. The first step in turning a pen is to drill a hole to insert a brass tube into. This hole is why you need a mandrel. See one here.

Bushings are small metal pieces that slide onto the madrel on either side of your wood blank. They are uniquely sized to match the particular type of pen you’re making. Here is a set. The smaller end fits inside the brass tube and the larger end indicates how small to make your wood blank as you turn it on the lathe. The bushings help you match your wood to the rest of the pen.

I chose a purpleheart for my wood (see photo above). It’s one of those exotic hardwoods I avoided during my last project but I had no allergy problems so it’s probably safe to use again.

The mandrel and a couple of the finishing waxes are available for use at TechShop.

Tomorrow: making a pen.

Photo by Cormark International

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