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Picture of Wand-erful Wooden Pens

Why choose between a pen and a wand as your weapon of choice, when you can have both?

I started woodturning (cutting wood that's spinning on a lathe) recently and have been having a blast making pens and wands. I had a thought to combine the two into one concept, as inspired by this reddit post I came across, and this was the result. I learned a lot from trial and error, and the mistakes paid off as my pens got better and better. In fact, this tutorial features many types of wood in the pictures, as I took pictures throughout my whole learning process to string this guide together.

Side note: if you like this tutorial, votes in the Woodworking Contest are appreciated :)

Step 1: Materials

I don't have my own woodturning studio, unfortunately, but I do get to woodturn at a shop called Lower 48! It's a nonprofit in California for woodturning, and where I myself learned.

  • wood lathe (I used a small Nova Comet II)
  • pen blanks (Usually come in 3/4" x 3/4" x 5" blocks. Good source for nice blanks is Penn State Ind [subscribe to email for % off, watch inbox for occasional 20% off offers], Woodcraft [subscribe to email for % off, occasional product discounts], or even eBay)
  • wood turning gouges (I used a roughing gouge, spindle gouge, and scraper)
  • live center for tailstock
  • center finder, awl, and hammer
  • drill press
  • thick (gel) super glue
  • 7mm pen mandrel
  • slimline pen kit
  • 7mm drill bit
  • 7mm barrel trimmer
  • slimline pen bushings
  • sandpaper (I use 120, 240, 320, 400 grits) and paper towels
  • finishing wax and oils (explained further in step 10; I use any of boiled linseed oil, tung oil, or Boos mystery oil with wax sticks)
  • Jacobs chuck + barrel trimmer OR scrap chunk of pen blank and spur drive center (explained further in steps 6 and 7)
They turned out absolutely stunning! (sorry, bad joke intended)
watchmeflyy (author)  emilyvanleemput4 months ago
Teehee thank you :) I may or may not have actually sent one to you... hopefully arrived? Was timing this instructable so it wouldn't ruin the surprise.
What! Hmmm I think I have to keep a very close eye on my mailbox then..
PaulK3104 months ago
Love your stuff. You've made some impressive wand pens. I wanted to make a recommendation about finding center. Theres this brand called Blokkz, and they have a center punch called the squid. I've used it on small and large blanks and finds dead center on even odd shaped or imperfect blanks. Highly recommend this punch.
Saw your stuff on reddit and i'm glad I found your instructables account. Going to try and make a wanderful pen in the upcoming months. Great and thorough instructions.
jmadara4 months ago
Very well done! I started turning pens this year and thought of doing some wands. This would let me do both! Voted!
batcrave4 months ago
Very nice work, although I'd be curious to know more about the texturing tool you mentioned.

This is also the first time I've seen your gold powder+wax idea used on pens, which I'm dying to try out. I'm a big fan of CA finishes, though, and I'm worried the wax (even just in deep grooves) would prevent the CA from setting or adhering properly, potentially leading to fogginess in the short term (it's possible what you were seeing was the wax making the CA cloudy, rather than the CA making the wax cloudy) and cracking or peeling in the long term.

This is a similar style I turned a couple years back as an experiment on a little DIY not-quite-a-lathe, using a DIY pin chuck (a lot more work and probably a whole lot less effective than your jam chuck). While I like the way it turned out, it was something of a hack job (ok, it was a complete hack job) - the lighter bands were just created by sanding through the mess of assorted dyes & stain on the rest (I think the whole thing was actually poplar, layered with strips of black leather and/or black plastic at the center), which made sanding and finishing especially awkward. I've been meaning to give it another try - having since moved on to real lathes, real tools, and real wood - but some other project keeps distracting me.
watchmeflyy (author)  batcrave4 months ago
Oh, that looks very nice! Your method seems tedious but it definitely paid off.
The texturing tool was this one. It's a neat tool for making even textures.
I did try CA coating to protect the wax and it does turn cloudy, unfortunately. I didn't see it for the first week and thought it was fine, but sure enough it turned foggy.
That's a neat looking tool - I'd seen chatter tools(which are unfortunately limited to endgrain, and not much use on pens) and spiraling or knurling wheels, but I hadn't seen one of those before. It costs a little much for an impulse buy right now, but I'm wondering if I could make one and then just buy a replacement cutter to mount in it. I'm guessing it's basically a handle with a pair of ball bearings at the end that that cutter head spins in?

As for the fogging, there are a couple possibilities. Occasionally if the glue sets funny (I've seen certain glue/activator combinations do this, as well as "activator substitutes" like baking soda & water) it'll get a foggy/milky color, but more often I see it when the glue either doesn't adhere to the underlying surface (due to oils, waxes, or the fact that I'm stupidly trying to glue incompatible plastics), or doesn't adhere quite well enough and then separates later when the wood moves or flexes, which could be why you didn't notice it at first. This can be a problem on some of the oilier exotic woods (although it's possible to alternate coats of CA & BLO to good effect - go figure), but it's usually enough to give them a quick wipedown with acetone before applying the glue. The decorative wax is likely to be trickier, though, since wiping it off sort of defeats the point.

One option that might work is to seal the pen with a thin coat of shellac (specifically unwaxed shellac - Zinsser's SealCoat is probably going to be the easiest pre-made option, at least in the US) and then, once the shellac cures, apply the CA finish over it. I don't have much experience with shellac (although I've got a few pounds of raw flakes pouting on the shelf waiting to be tried), but it's traditionally used as a barrier coat between otherwise incompatible finishes - "shellac sticks to anything, and anything sticks to shellac", or so the saying goes. You generally wouldn't want to use a hard, brittle finish (like CA) over shellac on top of a soft surface (like wax) for fear of cracking when it's pressed on, but with the wax only lying in fine detail work like this, I don't think that's likely to be a problem. For that matter, I suppose you could avoid the whole issue by just using a shellac finish - I think the Mylands pen finishing "system" is basically a sanding sealer, a shellac-based friction polish, and then carbnauba wax - although it doesn't have nearly the long-term durability of a CA finish (not that you need a durable finish - or any finish, really - over ebony).

Also, I meant to ask before - what's that beehive-shaped marblewood piece top of the barrel trimmer? Just a handle?
watchmeflyy (author)  batcrave4 months ago
I found this tutorial for making a texturing tool, using burl bits from Dremel. Doesn't seem to hard and the materials are fairly easy to get.

Thanks for the suggestions about shellac: I'll have to try that out sometime... I just tried a clear spray on finish, and it protects the wax to some extent (still can dig it out with fingernails, but better than nothing at all, I'd think).

The beehive-shaped thing is just a handle for the barrel trimmer. Sometimes I mount a barrel trimmer in the drill press, but I usually just sand down the face with a belt sander and use the barrel trimmer by hand for better control.
Ham-made4 months ago
Accio pen! Great 'ible!
Mr. Ham
PLLman4 months ago
Bloody Marvelous! Very clever and clearly explained. I've have had pen classes, but this was just as good or better
batcrave4 months ago
Also, one thing on the materials list that's probably worth clarifying:
Be careful which "Mystery Oil" you use. I haven't worked with the John Boos Mystery Oil specified, but it looks like it's a variety of butcher block oil. The widely available Marvel Mystery Oil, on the other hand, is a product that's great for a wide variety of other purposes, but I wouldn't suggest using it as a wood finish.
watchmeflyy (author)  batcrave4 months ago
Oh, I didn't know this; thanks for pointing it out. We ran out of boiled linseed oil in the shop and Boos was a good substitute we had from cutting board work.
pjb494 months ago
Very Good! I like the pens you filed the flats on.

Just a couple of points, first any ¼ inch rod or even the unthreaded
shank from a ¼ -20 bolt will work in place of the barrel trimmer rod. I have
even tried filing teeth on the end of the rod to make it a micro-drive spur. Adding
a little piece of blue painter’s tape will make it a jam chuck.

On your wooden jam chuck, instead of mounting on a drive
spur, just turn the end of the jam chuck to match the Morris taper in the head
of the lathe. Then the jam chuck can’t shift around.

Penn State Supply has a “Turn Between Centers Mandrel System”
that solves this problem.

I have glued projects back together after they came apart on
the lathe. Also try hardening or strengthen the wood with thin CA glue.
watchmeflyy (author)  pjb494 months ago
Haha the flats were initially a move to cover up a mistake, but it grew on me and I liked the contrast with everything else being round. Great suggestions: thanks for the tip on 1/4-20 hardware. And the jam chuck Morris taper is something I'll definitely be doing: much more convenient.
MarcoG44 months ago
I recently turned my first two pens and it was a lot of fun! Note that it is possible to do this on a drill press instead of a lathe, however for me it took 10x as long and the result was a lot less precise than what you’d get on a lathe.
watchmeflyy (author)  MarcoG44 months ago
Ooof yes, doing turning work with a drill press sounds much more tedious. But it gets the job done!
JerHall4 months ago
Great tutorial. Wonderful designs. I have played with longish slimline pens.

One idea is to use a short brass tube in the top piece, requiring a less deep hole. Helps turning thin elements in solid wood.

Another idea is to do it in three pieces the bottom two pieces as conventional slimline. The third piece (the top) has a 1/4” tenon glued into the tube instead of the kit cap. A “V” element and matching grain hides the joint.

A third idea is a one piece pen where bottom tube is not glued in and pulls out by the nib. I drill a on the lathe with long jaws and a long bit. Requires filing down the little ribs on the twist mechanism so it is an easy to remove press fit. Tricky getting that right! Also requires adding a third element at the top as with the second idea above.

I find drilling on lathe with long jaws most reliable if a bit slower.
watchmeflyy (author)  JerHall4 months ago
These are great suggestions! I really like the idea of having no brass tube and just the nib.. may be trying that out sometime soon.
eddevine4 months ago
Very impressive, well done!
watchmeflyy (author)  eddevine4 months ago
Thank you!
These look fantastic!!
watchmeflyy (author)  Penolopy Bulnick4 months ago
Thanks Penolopy!