Adjusting pen balance

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jelevy

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So, I'm new to pen turning and was not able to find existing threads discussing this question (though some may exist)... and while I am new to this, I figured the collective Advanced forum would be the group to answer this.

Of the dozen pens I've made most (if not all) are top heavy and I'd like to how to move the balance towards the nib/paper. I'm aware I could make the lower barrel thicker and/or longer than the upper, but that aesthetic is not always desired. So,...

Does anyone know of a way to add mass inside the lower barrel... thereby affording me the freedom to make the exterior as thick/thin as I'd like? It'd be great to come up with solutions for the various types: ballpoint, rollerball, fountain pen. It'd also be nice to know if, then where, suitable materials might be obtained. Thanks all!
 
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jttheclockman

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Welcome to the site. If you could include your name we would be able to better refer to you. Now to answer your question you will have to explain a little more as to if you are referring to kits and if so what kits are you using?? If you are referring to custom one of a kind kitless pens then show us an example. In fact we would like to see some of your work.

if you are talking about kit pens with two pieces, (cap and Nib ) then the easy answer is leave off the cap when writing with. There many pens that are non-postable. If you are talking of kits like cigar pens they are basically well balanced because the cap end tapers as well as the nib end as long as you stay away from bulbous portions. Do a bushing to bushing turning and you should be fine. After that as I said we need more info. :smile::smile:

I should add many of those gimmic kits sold by PSI are terrible to write with and are just that gimmick pens and to me just should sit on the desk for show. Not a fan of their designers for pens. Most of their kits are top heavy.
 
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jelevy

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Thank you, John, for taking the time to reply.

So far, I've used kits; moreover, I've made 11 slimline pens, 1 slimline pencil and 1 "classic elite 2" fountain pen. I've added a few pics as you requested.

Thanks again for any and all advise.
(Sorry some of the pics are rotated)
 

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jttheclockman

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Well Jay thanks for posting some of your work and I have to say well done. But to me I am confused because all pens you shown are relatively light weight pens. There are many kits that do get heavier because the are a larger kit but mostly are capped pens and as I say just leave the cap off when writing with and the weight is far less. The pens you show use a transmission but that basically is centered in the pen when assembled. Maybe tipped a little toward the top. I suggest you do a balancing act thing and see if you are really seeing a top heavy situation or just a grip thing. Many times people can not grip thin pens well because they do not have the finger pressure. Lay the pen on your finger and try to balance it or lay it on an object where you can balance it and see if it tips toward the cap or the nib and by how much. I bet you will be surprised it will not be much if at all.

Now if it is a grip thing or there is a slight inbalance you can always change the profile of your turning in that make the bottom portion more bulbous in shape and that will add some weight to the nib or vice versa if the cap needs more weight. You see many people do this for people who have a hard time gripping a pen and this makes it easier. There are many examples throughout here and maybe others can post photos because I do not do this type turning. Good luck.
 

monophoto

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This is an interesting topic. I don't have a lot of experience with slimlines - I've made a few, but I abhor ballpoint pens so I've never actually used one for any length of time But my limited experience with them has been that they seemed fairly balanced.


For me, the issue has been with pens with a removable cap - many pen designs are proudly promoted as 'postable', and I agree that if the cap is posted for writing, the result is almost always that the pen is top-heavy. So I don't post the cap. In theory, the risk is that if you don't post the cap, you could lose it - - but I haven't lost one yet.
 

chartle

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I don't think making the wood or other material on the lower section thicker is going to add any appreciable amount of real weight. It may look heavier but only add 10ths of grams.

I've never really thought about balance but the only way I can think of is add something heavy in the lower tube. Like a cylinder of lead. Or depleted uranium :smile:
 

BSea

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Thank you, John, for taking the time to reply.

So far, I've used kits; moreover, I've made 11 slimline pens, 1 slimline pencil and 1 "classic elite 2" fountain pen. I've added a few pics as you requested.

Thanks again for any and all advise.
(Sorry some of the pics are rotated)
I completely agree with jttheclockman on pens with postable caps. While many people seem to like them, I almost never write with one posted unless it's just a short note. I'd bet the fountain pen you made is the pen that bothers you the most from a balance standpoint. When I 1st got into pen turning I carried many postable pens, but now I carry a Euro as my daily carry pen. But it is basically just a longer slimline with a heavier cap, so if you think a slimline feels top heavy, I doubt a Euro would change your mind.

Since you are new, I'm guessing most of the pens you used in the past were inexpensive plastic pens. These pens are much lighter overall than even a slimline. I noticed that when I 1st started, every pen I made was heavier than the pens I normally used. Could it be that the weight of the slimline pens is what you're noticing, and that they aren't actually top heavy? The reason I say this is that I don't think I've ever heard anyone say a slimline was top heavy.

However, I think you're going to be a great addition to this forum. Especially if you get into doing custom pens which are basically a pen made from scratch not using a kit. Balance becomes part of the challenge because every pen is unique, and it's good that you think about these things already. Most of us are our own worst critics, so don't stress about it too much.

BTW, those are some nice pens.
 

gtriever

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I think the guys are on to something here. There's a big difference in feel moving from the throwaway bics to a "good" reusable pen. Postable caps (not a favorite), body material, hardware size, all play a roll in how the finished product will perform and fit the customer's expectation.

This summer I'd like to try going kitless, or at least working with some modded kits to see what turns up...
 

jelevy

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Thanks for the comments thus far, all. It is the fountain pen that is the primary "offender".

Considering these comments, I suspect you've all touched on aspects I haven't considered (e.g., the way we hold pens, familiarity with the Bics of the world, etc.). I think you guys are right with respect to the slimlines; regarding these, I'll just keep the thought in my back-pocket if ever I find myself concerned again.

This does leave the fountain pens unresolved. This particular FP kit uses a 10mm brass tube for both barrels. I noticed other kits use a larger diameter tube for the cap which would change the weight and shift the balance some (perhaps, insignificantly). Additionally, I don't have much experience with using fountain pens so I'm beginning to suspect experience with more varieties could help level-set my expectations.

BSea, it's interesting that you mention custom/kitless pens. It didn't take much considering the balance question before I started thinking about custom pens. I think the bespoke is too advanced for me right now... but I see myself going there in the future :smile: And thanks for the compliment!

Again, thanks for the input guys. In the short term, I'm still interested to learn of ways to shift the balance on the capped pens... if a solution is out there.
 

chartle

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I completely agree with jttheclockman on pens with postable caps. While many people seem to like them, I almost never write with one posted unless it's just a short note.
Once saw an add for a very expensive non postable pen where it was pointed out that in an important meeting you would place the cap on the table in front of to show you had good taste and were a very important person. :smile:

Yes it was a very nice cap.
 

carandacher

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Regarding this matter, how are you guys achieving a perfectly balanced pen? I guess somehow measuring the weight between the two halves of the pen would be good method to find the sweet spot in terms of ratio.
 

chartle

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Regarding this matter, how are you guys achieving a perfectly balanced pen? I guess somehow measuring the weight between the two halves of the pen would be good method to find the sweet spot in terms of ratio.
I never knew it was a thing. :confused:

Just some people like pen X some like pen Y.
 

darrin1200

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Generally, like others, I do not like to post my pens. I find that unless the pen is specifically designed to be posted, when the cap is attached the length of the pen becomes excessive, giving a very off balance feel. Generally, if it is designed to be posted, then the body is much shorter. This allows the pen to be the right length when posted but to short when not posted.

You could take a kit fountain pen, and reduce the length of the body so that it is comfortable when posted. Keep in mind, that then you would only be able to use a single Intl ink cartridge, and no converter.

If you go the non postable route with kit pens, you can reduce the rear weight by removing the rear finial. Either do a closed end pen, or do the barrel as normal but instead of the included hardware, creat a small wood plug to glue in and close the end. This will actually drop a lot of weight from the rear of the pen.
 

BSea

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Regarding this matter, how are you guys achieving a perfectly balanced pen? I guess somehow measuring the weight between the two halves of the pen would be good method to find the sweet spot in terms of ratio.
Generally, the balance is determined by the kit, and most 2 piece pens are pretty well balanced (without posting the cap). But if you don't like the weight of a posted pen, you can make a closed ended pen that in most cases will eliminate the option of posting the cap. is it perfectly balanced? That's up for debate, but without the cap, the pen feels much better to me when writing.

There is also the possibility of doing a closed ended cap. These are much less common because you then have to deal with the clip. But this could reduce the weight from the top of the cap. Most rollerball or fountain pen kits that I've made have a heavy top finial. So eliminating the kit finial piece might make a capped pen feel more balanced. This is just a guess. I've never done a closed end cap on a kit pen.

Most ball point kit pens I've made are pretty well balanced. One exception that I know of is the Jr Gent ballpoint. I guess these were made to have a pen set. I made one for a wedding pen, and I felt it was really top heavy. Here's 1: Jr Gent Ballpoint
 
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jelevy

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... instead of the included hardware, creat a small wood plug to glue in and close the end. This will actually drop a lot of weight from the rear of the pen.
Maybe this is a common modification to a kit but, being new to pen turning, this is a new idea for me. Love the idea! Thx, Darrin.
 

penicillin

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I have made quite a few different kits that I bought at my local Rockler store. I believe that most Rockler kits are made by either Penn State or Rizheng, possibly others. After making many gifts, I am starting to make pens for my own use. In the process, I made the same discovery as @jelevy. I don't like the weight, balance, and feel of some pens. Obviously pen preference is very personal and differs greatly between individuals.

The best (worst?) examples are Rockler's Manhattan twist pens, which are like Gatsby pens but with a fancy middle band. To me, they feel top heavy, pulling the pen back toward my wrist as I write. I believe the metal/plastic top cap is too large and weighs too much for the overall pen. The Manhattan pens are very easy to turn and assemble, and they make great looking gifts. Despite their good looks, they are not practical as writing implements as I had hoped.

Other pens have their good points and bad points - different mechanisms, fat vs. thin, wood vs. acrylic, etc. As much as I want to like those Manhattan pens, the balance doesn't feel right to me. I keep writing with them, hoping that I will learn to like them, but so far, I prefer others.

Other pens have their drawbacks, too. I am still searching for a perfect size, perfect weight, perfect balance, perfect feel, perfect look, ultra durable pen that I will use every day. That doesn't mean much; I am still digging in the big pile of whatever for that pony, too. :)
 

hokie

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I know this conversation is a few weeks old, but I thought I'd chime in with an observation I made while watching a Japanese fountain pen maker on YouTube...
If you watch at this moment, you can see he inserts a thick brass barrel into the inside of the section of the pen. My only guess is that must be for weighing down the writing end of the pen. I'm not sure what other function that thing would serve.
I've noticed in my own kitless pens, they are unbelievably light when finished. Almost light to a point where it could be perceived as lower quality, so I am also thinking about ways to add a bit of "substance" if I can.
 

bmachin

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I've noticed in my own kitless pens, they are unbelievably light when finished. Almost light to a point where it could be perceived as lower quality, so I am also thinking about ways to add a bit of "substance" if I can.
I think if you go out and pick up a few Pelikan or Montblanc fountain pens you will be surprised at how light they are. The same is true for the classic Parkers and Sheaffers. Of course, twist ballpoints are going to be heavier, and some of the really large Japanese fountains are quite heavy.

I own a click action Namiki ballpoint which does not have a button; rather, you press the cap to extend and retract the point. The last time I checked on Ebay the asking price for one of these was in the neighborhood of $400. Not exactly low end. I haven't weighed it, but I would guess it is in the neighborhood of 25 grams.

Take a look on Nibs.com and you will find the weights of all the pens that he sells.

For what it's worth, 2 or 3 years ago Nibs.com had a spreadsheet showing the weights of all their pens. Unfortunately, it no longer exists. I wrote a post at the time (which I can't find at the moment). As I recall, the median weight was something like 25 grams with 75% of all pens being under 35 or 40 grams.

Guess my point is: don't try to conflate weight and quality.

Bill
 
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hokie

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I think if you go out and pick up a few Pelikan or Montblanc fountain pens you will be surprised at how light they are. The same is true for the classic Parkers and Sheaffers. Of course, twist ballpoints are going to be heavier, and some of the really large Japanese fountains are quite heavy.

I own a click action Namiki ballpoint which does not have a button; rather, you press the cap to extend and retract the point. The last time I checked on Ebay the asking price for one of these was in the neighborhood of $400. Not exactly low end. I haven't weighed it, but I would guess it is in the neighborhood of 25 grams.

Take a look on Nibs.com and you will find the weights of all the pens that he sells.

For what it's worth, 2 or 3 years ago Nibs.com had a spreadsheet showing the weights of all their pens. Unfortunately, it no longer exists. I wrote a post at the time (which I can't find at the moment). As I recall, the median weight was something like 25 grams with 75% of all pens being under 35 or 40 grams.

Guess my point is: don't try to conflate weight and quality.

Bill
Thanks Bill. I'll be the first to admit I am not well acquainted with the commercial high end pen market. In a backward sort of way, I got into pens by way of the turning craft alone, not because I am a writing enthusiast (I'm working on it!).
I'm glad to know my pens might not be too far off the scale from modern, traditional fountain pens. I weighed one of my wood kitless pens that consisted of the cap, body, and section. It came in at 18g. I suppose the nib and ink cartridge/converter would add a few more grams.
 

bmachin

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If you’re casting your own blanks and are looking to add some weight or maybe experiment with changing the weight distribution,, Alumilite sells tungsten powder that might be interesting to experiment with. 20 bucks for a half pound.

Bill
 
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