Pen Blank Preparation
Penturners work with small parts around woodworking machinery. Use proper safety precautions to prevent injury. Use clamps and jigs to hold small parts while cutting and drilling.
Mark Pen Blank
Using the brass tubes, layout the tubes location on the blank.Depending on the blank, you may want to show off the blank to the best effect.
Cut the blank roughly in half
Draw a line where you want to cut the blank and a short line on the length of blank to mark the center of the blank(s). It should look like a plus sign "+". You should assemble the pen in the same orientation as the original blank for grain patching purposes.
There is a slightly different drill technique for Wood versus Acrylic blanks.
- When drilling wood blanks, cut the blanks to finished length plus 1/16" (1mm) and then drill. If you drill then cut the end off, the wood will move enough to make it difficult to insert the brass tube in the blank after cutting the end off.
- When drilling acrylic blanks, the acrylic tends to splinter or break when the drill bit exits the blank. To avoid this, leave the blanks long prior to drilling and only drill the length of the brass tube. Then cut off the un-drilled end.
Drill holes in Blank
The hole for the brass tube must be accurately drilled the length of the blank. Drill the blanks either using a Drill Press or a Lathe. Drill both blanks from the center marks outward. Because the blanks are longer than you need, just drill the length of the tube. The drill bit will not come out the other end of the blank. This helps prevent breaking the blank when the drill bit exits the material.
Tip: When drilling the blank, mark the length of the brass tube on the drill bit with a sharpie marker. When the mark disappears into the blank, the hole is deep enough.
Trim ends to length
Now cut the blanks to the exact length of the brass tube +1/32 or 1/16". Be sure to cut off the un-drilled end!
Paint Hole in Blank
Acrylic blanks are often not completely opaque. You must paint the inside of the blank. The color used will affect the appearance of the finished pen. White will make the color brighter and more vibrant. Black will make the color subdued and dim. On a white blank, you can change the color of the result using a different color. The technique of painting on the side opposite to the viewer is called "reverse painting"
Scuff brass tubes
Scuff the brass tube with sandpaper. Some recent pens come with pre-scuffed tubes. A good wipe with Denatured Alcohol will not hurt. This gives the glue something to bond to. Brass tubes are formed by drawing with a lubricant called drawing lube and may be coated with a lacquer to keep them from tarnishing, but both these prevent a good glue bond.
Block one end of brass tube
Either play-doh, or dental wax can be used to block one end of the brass tube. This keeps glue out of the tube.
Glue for tubes can be Polyurethane, Epoxy, or thick CA (superglue). Each glue has advantages and disadvantages. CA is quick, but doesn't fill gaps well. Polyurethane is flexible, but needs to cure for at least 6 hours and can push tubes out of the blank while drying. Epoxy forms a strong bond, fills gaps well, but doesn't have much give.
Glue Tubes in Blank
Make sure you use enough or more than enough glue! Put a glob inside the blank and another around the base of the brass tube hear the end you insert into the blank. Insert the brass tube into the blank with a twisting, sliding motion. If you are using CA, make sure the tube keeps moving. If you let the tube stop moving, it will stay there! The glue you are using should form a ring around the tube where you are inserting it into the blank AND come out of the far end of the blank all the way around the brass tube. If it doesn't, you did not use enough glue or did not spread it out enough. After the glue dries, remove the plug from the tube and make sure there isn't any glue inside the brass tube. If there is, clean with an exact-o knife blade. Brass gun barrel cleaning brushes will clean out any glue or gunk. You must get ALL the glue out of the brass tube.
Trim to Final length
Either a pen mill or sanding jig can be used to make sure the ends of the blank are exactly 90 degrees to the brass tube. On some pen kits, the length of the tube is critical so you must be careful not to shorten the brass tube. A Transfer Punch set can be used with a sanding jig to sand the blank end exactly square to the brass tube in the blank.
Pen Mill Sleeve
For pens that don't use a 7mm brass tube, you can make a sleeve for the pen mill or sanding jig. Prepare a pen blank with a 7mm brass tube. Install the blank on the mandrel with several 7mm bushings to make up the additional length of the mandrel. Slip the bare brass tube over the 7mm bushings and put the knurled nut on the end of the mandrel. Turn the sleeve down so the brass tube is a push fit. Write the name of the pen on the sleeve with a Sharpie marker and apply a coat of CA (superglue) to the sleeve.