Power Tools Commonly Used for Pen Crafting
The lathe is at the top of the list. Arguably one could make a pen by carving the barrels with a knife, but the majority of crafted pens are turned on a lathe. Most pen crafters turn other items as well (there are a noteable number who do not).
A lathe is a machine tool which spins a block of material to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, or deformation with tools that are applied to the workpiece to create an object which has symmetry about an axis of rotation.
Lathes are used in woodturning, metalworking, metal spinning, and glassworking. Lathes can be used to shape pottery, the best-known design being the potter's wheel. Most suitably equipped metalworking lathes can also be used to produce most solids of revolution, plane surfaces and screw threads or helices. Ornamental lathes can produce three-dimensional solids of incredible complexity. The material is held in place by either one or two centers, at least one of which can be moved horizontally to accommodate varying material lengths.
Examples of objects that can be produced on a lathe include candlestick holders, cue sticks, table legs, bowls, baseball bats, musical instruments (especially woodwind instruments), crankshafts and camshafts. (Source: History of Lathes ) And pens.
The drill press is used by most pen crafters to drill the hole through the center of the blank. Because of this, the amount of quill travel is important feature to look for when purchasing a drill press. Quill travel is the distance that the drill can move vertically in one height setting of the drill press table.
Another common use of the drill press that is unique to pen making is to turn the barrel trimmer.
Other uses off the drill press that may apply to pen crafting include powering a drum sander for sanding inside radius curves.
A vise to hold the blank during drilling is essential. These can be as simple as a shop made jig, up to a centering vise.
Bench grinders are used to sharpen Turning tools. Common consensus is that slow speed grinders (~1750 RPM) are a better choice than high speed grinders (~3500 RPM).
Many pen crafters use jigs and fixtures to hold their tool to the sharpening wheel at the correct angle for that specific tool.
A popular variant of the bench grinder includes a wet wheel grinder with jigs and fixtures that allow the turner to sharpen specific tools.
Cutting small pieces of wood presents a challenge to penturners. A saw sled or clamping jig will help keep your fingers away from spinning blades.
A saw sled is almost a necessity for cutting small pieces of wood accurately.
Some of us believe a sled for cutting small pen blanks with the table saw is an absolute safety necessity.
Many of us say we need several sleds for use with our table saws.
Pen-making typically uses small pieces of wood. These pieces are often too small to cut on the table saw without use of a sled and hold-down devices.
Without the use of sleds, hold-downs, and possibly push sticks, the small pen blanks we use are subject to kickbacks and can be a major contributor to pen-makers having unnecessary accidents with their table saws. Such accidents can cause loss of limb, time, and money. The only smart conclusion is to always use our safety equipment.
Sleds and hold-downs are commonly shop-made.
Two other extremely important safety devices for the table saw are push sticks and a zero-clearance throat plate.
Push sticks are easy to make and they keep your hands clear of spinning blades. They can be nothing more than a 12-14" long, 1/4-3/4" thick X 1-1/2" wide scrap with a notch on the front.
The band saw is the tool of choice for those who wish to cut blanks from larger pieces of lumber or found wood. The standard text for band saws is "Band Saws: Workshop Bench Reference" by Mark Duginske. A more recent book is "The New Complete Guide to the Band Saw" also by Mark Duginske.
A power miter saw can be used but keep your fingers away from the blade. A clamping jig will allow you to make cuts safely.
For those on a limited budget or with other constraints, a metal miter box and small hand saw is perfectly usable to cut pen blanks.
A dust collector will keep your shop clean, and your lungs too! CA fumes can be wisked away before it burns your nose.