Bespoke Pen Turning For The Neophyte

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Dr Robert

Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2015
Messages
31
Location
Kennett Square, PA 19348
Greetings!!!
Several years ago a colleague approached me while I was teaching at Temple University and proudly showed me a slimline pen he had turned. From that point on I was addicted to the hobby. I have thoroughly enjoyed turning “kit pens” from a lot of different manufacturers along with casting blanks from all different kinds of resins along with natural and man made materials. I have obviously accumulated a myriad of instruments and equipment to facilitate this. I am now however ready to move on to the custom realm of turning. I have ZERO experience with taps and dies to,create custom threads. What I have seen on YouTube videos seem to be limited to acrylic threading. I am not adverse to getting a metal lathe to turn metal,components, not the body or cap however. At the Philadelphia Pen Show I met an extraordinary young man with an impressive display of wooden and antler custom pens. It seemed to me that all of the fountain pens had housing holding nib and feed “grip” sections made from Ebonite. These were all so uniform and perfect to lead me to believe they may have been mass produced and purchased to fit the pen diameter. The threaded cap end was metal along with the section receiver or coupler. What I am leading up to is learning to perhaps turning closed end pens first with prefabed metal couplers and Ebonite “grip” sections. What resource or course could someone recommend for me as an introduction to “semi-custom” turning using a few prefabed components? Where could I obtain these couplers? Once I get my “feet wet” I may jump to a metal lathe and learn to cut custom threads. Thank You .... Dr Bob Starner
 
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FGarbrecht

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Aug 22, 2019
Messages
510
Location
NY
You may have seen manufactured feed sections (triples = nib, feed and section (grip) designed and sold together) incorporated into custom designs. Bock sections look like ebonite but they are actually metal under whatever black finish they use. I don't know of any source of prefabbed metal threaded couplers unless you scavenge them from pen kits, but you can certainly make them once you get your metal lathe. I recommend looking through the 'Resources' section here; there are quite a few articles and tutorials relevant to kitless and custom builds. Also check out YouTube for videos on various aspects of penmaking; highly recommend some of the videos on traditional Japanese fountain pen making that will blow your mind.
 

Fred Bruche

Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2018
Messages
438
Location
Philadelphia 19146
It ain't that tricky or complicated Dr. Bob! I'm nowhere close to being proficient at it but let me know if you want to stop by and I can teach/show you what I've figured out with kitless fountain pens :)
 

Lucky2

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Joined
Mar 2, 2012
Messages
1,116
Location
New Brunswick/ Canada
Robert, personally, if I first had the money, and secondly, if I had a shop or basement to turn in. I would run right out to purchase the metal turning lathe. Especially, if I were going to start threading blanks, plus, you could possibly make the segments you need as a pen coupler.
Len
 

1shootist

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Joined
Dec 2, 2018
Messages
721
Location
Ennis/Waxahachie Texas
If you havent already, a gentleman on youtube , "Steve4948" really helped me figure a few things out on kitless. He only has 7 or 8 videos on the kitless subject but worth the watch ,well thought out presentations. The videos are from 2012 so look back in the history for them..
Also in the libary here on IAP are a few very helpful tutorials on kitless.

On the metal lathe subject, I make nearly every piece on my mini metal lathe. I'll jump over on a wood lathe for making a section quite often and at times to put a taper on a barrel but its always back to the metal .
 

magpens

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Joined
Feb 2, 2011
Messages
11,684
Location
Coquitlam, BC, Canada
@Dr Robert
Hi Bob,

As Frederick said above, it is unlikely you will find prefabbed components except by stealing from a kit.
If you want to proceed as you have outlined - namely by starting with "semi-custom" - you might want to consider the small number of closed end pen kits available from PSI. . They are listed here: ... https://www.pennstateind.com/store/closed-end-pen-kits.html ... .
I have tried several of these, and I do not really endorse them. . However, they might give you some ideas, or you might actually like them.

If you are serious about the pursuit of your stated goal of moving into "nearly-full-custom" you will certainly need a metal-turning lathe and there is no time like the present to acquire one ... you will use it a great deal. . You can use the metal-turning lathe for all parts of all of your pens. . I have done all of my pens solely on my metal-turning lathe for the past 10 years. . For me, it is superior to a wood-turning lathe in almost every respect. . The one area in which it is not superior is in shaping the profile of the pen barrels. . But there are other ways to achieve the desired profile.

Go for a metal lathe and I am confident you will enjoy this hobby more than you ever have previously. . Feel free to ask any questions you have.
One place to start looking (if you have not already started) is .... www.LittleMachineShop.com ... .
 

eharri446

Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2016
Messages
848
Location
Marietta, GA
Little Machine shop sells a tool that fits into the tool holder which will allow you to use your wood turning tools to shape a section or taper a barrel. You may have to look at several different version of the tool rest to find the one that is right for your metal lathe.
 

jalbert

Member
Joined
May 17, 2015
Messages
471
Location
Louisville, KY
At the Philadelphia Pen Show I met an extraordinary young man with an impressive display of wooden and antler custom pens. It seemed to me that all of the fountain pens had housing holding nib and feed “grip” sections made from Ebonite. These were all so uniform and perfect to lead me to believe they may have been mass produced and purchased to fit the pen diameter.
You are likely referring to Ryan Krusac. He uses CNC equipment to machine his pens, which accounts for the uniformity in components.
 

hokie

Member
Joined
May 29, 2017
Messages
155
Location
DC Area
If I wanted to stay away from kits, didn't want to take the plunge into buying a metal lathe, yet wanted a little jump start into making custom pens, I might start by purchasing a pre-made bock section from here or here depending on the finish I wanted. I'd then buy this tap to allow the section to screw into whatever material I wanted to use for the pen body (a plastic of some kind, most likely). Then a standard tap/die combo for the cap/body connection in maybe a 13mm size would be the extent of the "specialized" items. You can use a standard wood lathe with a collet chuck or similar and some custom made mandrels to drill and shape the cap/body. I hope I didn't miss anything obvious!
 

bmachin

Member
Joined
Jul 28, 2013
Messages
505
Location
Owensboro, KY
This might be close to what you are looking for:


The product consists of a piece of material threaded with cap threads, one threaded with barrel threads and section threads and a section ready to be shaped.

You would need to turn the barrel and cap pieces to diameter and glue them in.

Also pretty sure that the section is threaded for Schmidt nibs which is what Richard sells. BTW, there is nothing wrong with a Schmidt nib, so don't let that be a hang-up.

There is also a chucking tool available to hold the parts as you turn them to diameter.

Not cheap, but less expensive than a metal lathe.

You would need to call or email Richard to get thread diameters etc.

FWIW,

Bill
 

Penchant 4

Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2018
Messages
20
Location
Great Lakes Area
J
Greetings!!!
Several years ago a colleague approached me while I was teaching at Temple University and proudly showed me a slimline pen he had turned. From that point on I was addicted to the hobby. I have thoroughly enjoyed turning “kit pens” from a lot of different manufacturers along with casting blanks from all different kinds of resins along with natural and man made materials. I have obviously accumulated a myriad of instruments and equipment to facilitate this. I am now however ready to move on to the custom realm of turning. I have ZERO experience with taps and dies to,create custom threads. What I have seen on YouTube videos seem to be limited to acrylic threading. I am not adverse to getting a metal lathe to turn metal,components, not the body or cap however. At the Philadelphia Pen Show I met an extraordinary young man with an impressive display of wooden and antler custom pens. It seemed to me that all of the fountain pens had housing holding nib and feed “grip” sections made from Ebonite. These were all so uniform and perfect to lead me to believe they may have been mass produced and purchased to fit the pen diameter. The threaded cap end was metal along with the section receiver or coupler. What I am leading up to is learning to perhaps turning closed end pens first with prefabed metal couplers and Ebonite “grip” sections. What resource or course could someone recommend for me as an introduction to “semi-custom” turning using a few prefabed components? Where could I obtain these couplers? Once I get my “feet wet” I may jump to a metal lathe and learn to cut custom threads. Thank You .... Dr Bob Starner
In no particular order:

Jim Hinze--sells mandrels, etc Hinze Pen Company. He also offers classes in kitless pen making. He attends some of the pen shows and was at Philadelphia.
RJB Wood Turner--on youtube has a few videos on kitless work done on both wood turning and machinist lathes.
Richard Kleinhenz book The Pen Turners Bible dedicates a couple of segments to kitless work with a focus on machinist lathe work drawings with dimensions are included for sample pens and tools
Turncrafters--sells tools and parts for kitless work
Beaufort Ink in UK has been mentioned

By no means is this an exhaustive list, just sources I have come across in my exploration of the field.

Good luck!!
 

Penultimate

Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2010
Messages
730
Location
Bartlett, IL 60103
Bob
I think you are over thinking the kitless pen. Start using what tools you have and get drills, taps and dies as you need them. Check out youtube, Gabe Castro makes a lot of videos on kitless pens.
 

Dr Robert

Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2015
Messages
31
Location
Kennett Square, PA 19348
As a result of the many fine and informative posts I received, I’ve had the chance to research and ponder them. I have decided to get a metal lathe and start becoming comfortable with its use. A few more questions. Since this will be an extension of my growing hobby instead of my sole profession and livelihood,there is no need for me to invest thousands. To that end I started looking at Craigslist and EBay for a good used one. I noticed that Harbor Freight also sells one along with Grizzly. Your thoughts!!?? Would a HF work?? What features do I look for?? ALSO.... Once I do get it, what is a good way to learn how it works..I’m quite comfortable with my Jet wood lathe but I’m sure there’s a learning curve with the metal! Thanx again Guys for your help and suggestions..Bob
 

FGarbrecht

Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2019
Messages
510
Location
NY
Most of the inexpensive mini-metal lathes available are comparable to the Harbor Freight 7x12 (and in fact they are all made in the same factory in China); there are minor differences and colors but they all are about the same quality and price. Little Machine Shop offers the Chinese made Sieg lathe as well as their own mini-lathes. Check out mini-lathe.com (Frank Hoose's website) as well as his You-tube videos. Plan to spend a couple of days minimum taking apart the lathe and degreasing and lubricating it as well as tuning and adjusting it and possibly upgrading various parts. Plan to spend a bit of money on tooling (carbide tools as well as HSS blanks for grinding your own), get a quick change tool post and you'll probably want to get a quick release cam mechanism for the tail stock if the model you select doesn't have one. For pen making I'd recommend getting a tailstock Jacobs chuck (for drilling), a round die holder and a spring loaded tap holder as well, and you might want to replace the headstock chuck with a collet chuck and complete set of ER32 collets from 2 to 22 mm. Lots of this stuff can be obtained from Little Machine Shop (they stock complete line of replacement parts and all sorts of add-ons), or made by Rick Herrell (IAP member) and a few others here, or purchased from China (Ali Express or Banggood). Of course you can get more expensive lathes, but I can't comment really because I don't have one. I make ebonite pens on my Harbor Freight 7x12 as a number of others here do, so I imagine others will chime in. Good luck and have fun!
 
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