Custom Fountain Pen from Scratch - Tooling and All!

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chris4891

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Joined
Jun 4, 2013
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8
Location
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This is my first post here – hopefully it will be noteworthy. I recently purchased my first fountain pen, a Charcoal Lamy Safari with a Fine nib. I decided that I wanted a second, possibly a third, etc.

I also decided that I wanted to make it myself – so I came here and started reading. This is the end result. I thought I would try to document everything I did and more importantly the thought process and reasoning behind why I did it – in case it could possibly benefit anyone else.

*******

I wanted to make as much of the pen myself. And since I really only planned on making myself a pen, I didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on custom tooling. Luckily for me, I have a fairly well outfitted machine shop in the basement so I set out to make everything I needed.

So I purchased some acrylic blanks from ExoticBlanks and added on some of the replacement Edison nibs with an order I placed at gouletpens. I initially thought about casting my own blanks from the outset but decided I didn’t want to get too carried away.

And then the work began.


A little background about myself… I am a mechanical engineer with a little bit of machinist, welder, woodworker, and auto-mechanic thrown in there for good measure. I set out to draw what I wanted in CAD first. This is more or less what I came up with.










This was designed more or less without a clip in mind. That’s only because I haven’t figured out quite how I wanted to make one yet.

So my first design is a clipless version that is postable. I notice that many of the fountain pens that I’ve seen here and elsewhere have fairly short sections with the cap threads very close to where the pen is held. Though I haven’t personally held many of these designs, I suspect that for most of these, I would find that uncomfortable. I tend to like a longer grip section. That is what drove most of the design of the pen.

For posting, there is a tapered section inside the cap that mates with a matching taper on at the rear of the pen.

I noticed while examining my Lamy Safari that inside the cap, there is a little rubber collet inside the cap that creates a seal just around the nib. I presume that feature is to prevent the nib from drying out between uses. I incorporated a similar feature in this pen, where the cap bottoms out against a chamfer on the front of the section. That should create a more or less air tight seal and to my mind, should provide the same functionality as some of the commercial features that I’ve seen. Time will tell I suppose.



[FONT=&quot]So, up until this point, everything pretty much existed only on the computer screen. It was time to change that. First things first – there’s obviously a bit of tooling that I’d need before I could make the actual pen. The #5 nib I was using was an M6.4x0.5mm thread. Not, shall we say, a common size (at least not in my world). I wasn’t sure which size I wanted to start out with, so I also acquired a #6 nib. The #6 used an M7.4x0.5mm thread – though the major diameter measured closer to 7.2mm.

[/FONT]
number5edisonnib_trimmed.jpg

The above image shows one of the #5 nib assemblies. One of the other things that I did, which I forgot to take pictures of, was that I trimmed away the material on the feed holder outside the dashed red lines to get rid of the raised lip at the front. To do that, I chucked the feed holder in the closest ER 32 collet in a hex collet block. Then I mounted the hex collet block on the 3-jaw in the lathe and turned it down with a very sharp tool. I did this because I wanted the feed holder to sit flush in a the counterbore at the front of the section.

As it so happens, a couple of years ago I acquired the metric change gears for my south bend 10k lathe, so I was in business. The first thing I set out to do was to make a hub with threads that fit the feed holders. The reason was to have a guage of sorts for the subsequent creation of a tap. The only problem was that I didn’t have any internal threading tools that could fit through diameters that small. So, the actual first task was to make a tool to make a gauge to make a tap. Right..

internalthreadingtool_before.jpg internalthreadingtool_after.jpg

After that, I used the internal threading tool to single point a female thread for each of the two feeds in a couple pieces of aluminum.

internalthreading.jpg nibsection_threadgauges.jpg

After this was complete, I started to make the two custom taps, using the aluminum hubs as a reference. The stock that I used was a spare grade 8 bolt that was left over from a previous project. The first step is basically to make a bolt with the appropriate thread form. I started by turning the major diameter, then cut the taper at the front, then cut the threads with a single point thread cutting tool.

cuttingthreads_setup.jpg cuttingthreads1a.jpg cuttingthreads1b.jpg

Once I had a bolt that was just able to thread into aluminum hub, the next step was to cut the flutes. I did this using my milling machine with the help of an ER32 square collet block. There are a number of ways to make flutes. I happened to have a ball end mill of an appropriate size, so I used that. No matter how you go about doing it, the goal is to make sure that the cutting edge has some rake to it. When using a ball end mill, the easiest way to insure that you have a positive rake at the cutting edge is to cut with the end mill slightly off center. I’ve included a sketch to show how this is achieved.

cuttingflutes1.jpg cuttingflutes2.jpg tapcuttingrake.png

Immediately after I had cut the flutes, the tap was in a virtually unusable state, 75% of the threads had a huge burr, thanks to the end mill. Note: most professionally made taps are ground, not machined and thus don’t fall victim to this. So I used a small wire wheel on the dremel to remove the burrs. Tedious, but necessary. I also used the square collet block to machine the square flats in the driving end.

cuttingsquaredrive.jpg cuttingthreads_beforedeburring.jpg

If I had been in need of cutting a thread into steel, I would have used a material that was hardenable. I had some 5/8” W1 tool steel (drill rod) around, but it wasn’t worth the hassle to use for this much smaller diameter. As far as I know, the material used in grade 8 hardware is already quenched to achieve the 130 ksi yield strength they are spec’ed at. So heating this material up and quenching probably wouldn’t achieve any increase in hardness. Since I only intend to use this on plastics, it wasn’t really necessary to do anything further anyway.

makingfrombolt.jpg

I repeated the operation for a second tap that would fit the threads on the #6 feed holder.

cuttingthreads2b.jpg

[FONT=&quot]I tested the taps on a couple of piece of scraps of delrin and was very pleased with the fit.

[/FONT]feedholder_taptest.jpg feedholder_testfit.jpg


Ok. The next gaps in tooling were for the section-to-body threads and the cap-to-body threads. After going through the design process for this first pen, using the #5 nib, I can definitely see how all the dimensions of the pen are driven by the dimensions of the feed. In my job, I tend to work with highly stressed metal components – so designing a pen with areas that have wall thickness on the order of ~0.030” thick makes me a bit squeamish.

As a bit of a sanity check, I measured the wall thickness of the Lamy Safari in a couple of places. Sure enough, the pen I have been carrying faithfully in my jeans pants pocket has what seems like a miniscule wall thickness between the section and the body – yet in the month or so that I’ve been carrying it I haven’t broken it yet. I’ll cross my fingers..

Now for the pen body-to-cap joint. Here, I wanted to use a triple start thread. This was mostly driven by the desire to minimize the number of turns to take the cap off during use. But there was also a small part of me that wanted to do it because I’ve never done it before – and I like challenging myself. I have kind of been intrigued with multi-start threads ever since I first learned about them in college while talking with one of the machinists I used to work with.

I decided on an M12x0.8mmx2.4L thread (major diameter = 12 mm, pitch = 0.8mm, lead = 2.4mm). So, custom triple start thread, here goes nothing..

I started with the male tap as that seemed the easiest place to begin. I again single pointed this thread, although there was a bit more complexity with this being a triple start thread. Here, I turned between centers. That is to say, that I drilled a 60 degree center in either end of the tap. In the three jaw chuck, I mounted a piece of steel and turned a 60 degree center in place. This insures that the center is aligned with the headstock axis. I then mounted the tap between the dead-center in the chuck and a live-center in the tail stock. A simple, custom dog was made to drive the tap using the chuck jaws.

cuttingthreads3a.jpg cuttingthreads3b.jpg

A triple start thread is nothing more than three individual threads separated by 120 degrees. With the tap mounted between centers, to cut the three threads in sync all I needed to do was change which jaw the dog was driven by. The tailstock could be loosened and the tap repositioned with a high degree of accuracy. It should be noted that this procedure can only be used for external threads. A different method must be used for internal threads as you can’t very well support the part using the tailstock if you have to cut on the ID.

So, by the end of this procedure, I had another bolt which had the appropriate threadform. Since I didn’t have a reference part to check the fit of the thread, I kind of winged the thread depth – when the proportions of the thread looked appropriate, I stopped.

cuttingthreads3c.jpg

I cut the flutes in this part, except this time, I only cut three flutes instead of four. No real reason for it, just on a whim. I didn’t take the flutes back the whole way, in part because I was only making three flutes. With only three flutes, you can’t use a caliper or micrometer to measure across the threads to check the size of anything – so I left a full diameter section for the sake of measuring the thread form later on if I should desire.

This full diameter section of thread turned out to be useful later when adjusting the split-adjustable die. (There’s a picture that shows the final geometry of the tap after the discussion of the mating die).

As I mentioned already, I couldn’t support the die on centers so I needed an alternative way of indexing the die while cutting the female thread. There may be other options for indexing, but the only one that I was readily familiar with was using the compound in-line with the lathe axis to shift the cutting tool over by a distance equal to the pitch. This way, I could cut one of the threads, index the cutting tool using the compound, and then cut the remaining threads. This worked out quite well and I found it to be faster than using the centers.

The difficult part about making the die (and internal threads in general) is that there’s no good way to measure where you’re at. Technically, you could make a casting of the threads and then extract it and measure off the casting. But that sounds like a lot of work, especially since it would have to be done while the part was still on the lathe to be at all useful.

When I started to go about making the die, there was one aspect of the process that I had not thought of in advance. Though my procedure up until this point had been no different than simply making a custom nut/bolt – there was a subtlety to it that I had neglected. In order to figure out when to stop I had just assumed that I would stop when the tap fit through the die. But as the thread form was starting to look finished, the tap (still was a full screw at this point) still wouldn’t fit. I was left scratching my head.

Fed up that things did not appear to be going smoothly, I decided to let it sit until the next morning. Thankfully, I walked away before I did something rash and wasted all my effort up to that point.

Upon thinking about the problem further, I realized the subtle thing that I had been missing. If the tap and die fit together perfectly, the threads that they cut would (in theory) also fit together perfectly. But if there is any looseness in the fit of the tap/die, the threads that they cut would have interference. So necessarily, when making the die – I couldn’t use the tap to check the fit. By the time that it fit, the die would be too large (slightly).

That still left me with a dilemma. When to stop removing material? I decided to guess. I took another couple passes until the thread form looked just about right when using my loupe. I kept going until I said to myself, “Just one more pass.”

Aside: I have a rule that I try to follow. I think I read about this somewhere specifically with regard to painting. But I find that it’s applicable to many situations. Any time that I say to myself, “Just one more…”, I stop there. I find that usually by the time I say “just one more” I’m already 95% of the way finished with whatever I was doing. Usually there’s some risk involved in going too far and it may well be better off to stop at 95% than try to get that last little bit without going over.

So I stopped when the internal thread in the die looked about right. I took it off the lathe, went over to the mill and used a stub length drill bit to create the cutting edges. Cleaning out the burrs from this process was quite a bit more tedious than for the tap as I had to do each tooth manually.

Unfortunately, it was only after I was looking through pictures after the project was complete that I realized I neglected to take any pictures of the die threading operation while everything was still on the lathe. Oops..

die_drilling.jpg die_solid.jpg

Twenty minutes later, I had something that looked rather like a regular solid 1” die. I chucked up a piece of delrin, turned it so that it had a 12mm major diameter and used the die to cut a thread. And you know what? It was awful. Absolutely terrible. The thread was torn, rough, and all around pretty crappy.

So I tried it again, but this time I reduced the major diameter by a bit. And this one was better. Still terrible, but somewhat less terrible than the first one. So I realized that the die was just a bit too small as it was displacing way too much material. I thought maybe I would have gotten lucky and my “looks just about right” would have resulted in exactly the perfect fit I wanted. Not so.

[FONT=&quot]So I set about turning the then solid die into a split-adjustable die. I drilled and tapped the die for an 8-32 set screw and then used a slitting saw to segment one side of the die. Here the threads are on the entry side. So as you thread the setscrew in, it bears against the other side of the die, causing it to spring open.

[/FONT]die_splitting.jpg

I shortened an 8-32 set screw in the lathe and turned a reduced diameter section to pass through the threads. This worked like a charm.

It was at this point that I realized why all of the other split dies I had measured were on the order of 0.990”. I had left the material at the original 1” diameter and when I applied the set screw to slightly expand the die, it no longer fit into my 1” die hold. D’oh. It’s the little oversights sometimes that make me laugh. Easily fixed however.

To set the size of the die, I used the full thread portion I had left on my tap. I opened the die until it would just thread over the tap. Then I loosened the screw slightly to relax the die so that it would cut a thread with a hint of clearance. In the end I was able to make what I feel is a very pleasing fit between the mating threads.

threadingset_captobody.jpg

Having two parts fit together perfectly knowing that I was responsible for every part of the process was quite satisfying. After completing this part of the project, I can definitely see why quality taps and more specifically dies are so pricey. It’s a good thing that my time is “free.”

A macro look at one of the split adjustable dies…

diemacro1.jpg diemacro2.jpg

The next thing was to repeat the process for the section-to-body threads. Here, I decided to go with a 3/8”-36tpi – 12tpi lead triple start thread. That diameter worked better in my design than the more commonly used 10mm. Mostly was an arbitrary decision.

[FONT=&quot]I won’t repeat the description of the process as it was predominantly the same as the one I already described. The only thing I’ll mention is my reasoning for going with an English thread as opposed to the more typical M10 at this size range. The reason was twofold. First, I wanted to put the gearing on the lathe back to its original state. The metric change gears that I purchased are not of the same quality as the stock gearing. One of the gears has a bit of a loose fit on the hub that it rides on and ultimately this introduces noise into the gear train which I find annoying. Second and probably more importantly, when using the metric change gears, in order to cut a thread you can’t disengage the half-nuts. So you take one pass, then you have to reverse the lathe to move the cutting tool to its original position, lest you lose the timing with the lead screw. Cutting standard (English) threads is much easier because you can disengage the half-nuts and using the thread dial to get the timing correct. It makes for a much faster threading operation and less start/stops on the motor.
[/FONT]
threadingset_sectiontobody.jpg

Once I had cleaned all the burrs and crap out of the threads in the various taps I made, I used a cylindrical stone bit mounted in the dremel to sharpen up the flutes. The bits that I used are advertised as being “chain saw sharpening stones.” Seemed to work quite well. I also used this to sharpen the inside “flutes” of the dies.

sharpeningstones_dremel.jpg

The last bit of tooling (or so I thought) that I required was something to aid in the machining of the inside of the cap. There were some fairly specific features that required close control on the tolerances in order for the cap to work the way I had intended. Here I made what is called a D-bit reamer. In this application, it amounts to a single flute form cutting tool.

The process is as follows: First, you cut the male version of what the finished bore should look like. It’s much easier to control the dimensions of outside diameter (since they are so easily measured). Then you machine away almost half of it. The goal is to cut about 0.005” above center – this is important (from what I’ve read). Cutting more than half way would result in the tool cutting smaller than it should. Cutting it slightly above center gives you some extra material left for sharpening.

I left a full diameter section at both ends. The one at the right would later be machined away, but it provided a second hold down point once mounted at the milling machine.

dbitreamer1.jpg dbitreamer2.jpg dbitreamer3.jpg

Some relevant background info on d-bit reamers that I found while I was doing some research for this project…

Why are these called d-bit? If you look at the tool from the front, the cross section looks like a D with half of the diameter removed. Simple as that.

While I used this technique to create a form tool, that doesn’t have to be the case. You could just as easily start with a right circular cylinder of the correct diameter, cut the D-shape, sharpen, and voila – you have a custom sized drill bit/reamer. Handy in a pinch if you don’t have the time to wait for a specialty tool. Diagram shown below.

dbitreamer_typical.png

In operation, you would begin by creating a starter hole using a drill bit the next fractional size smaller than whatever your reamer is. Then, for the most accurate hole you would using a boring tool to create the exact size you want to a depth of 1-2 times the diameter. This will provide a good starting point (in terms of straightness) for the reamer and will enable it to follow that surface along the length of the whole. Because the d-bit reamer was cut on-size, it more or less acts like it’s own pilot surface – but it needs help at the entry to the hole.

This technique is used quite often for machining custom chambers by the gunsmithing community. If you’re interested google “d-bit chamber reamer” or just “chamber reamer.”

Regarding the use of this technique in other applications and for different materials: If you were going to use a d-bit reamer to cut metal (steel, aluminum, etc), you would need to heat treat it in order to harden the cutting edge. Also, while cutting metals, go slow and use lots of cutting fluid.

The order of operations between cutting away half the body and hardening depends on the intended accuracy of what you’re trying to do. If you wanted the utmost accuracy out of the end product, you would harden the reamer first and then remove half the body. The difficulty is that you would then need to grind away all that material, since you’ve just hardened the whole thing. The result however is that because you quenched the part while it was still solid – it had an even section thickness the whole way through and that should have minimized the possibility of the part warping.

If you machined away half the body (well, ~0.005” less than half), then heated and quenched the part – you could potentially introduce some warp. How much depends on a lot of factors. As I will not be cutting anything out of steel with this tool – I can thankfully skip the heat treating step altogether.

In all cases, once you have the D shape, you’ll need to sharpen the tool. This is accomplished by running the flat against a sharpening stone. I have a number of large stones for sharpening my kitchen knives and I already had them out – so I went with that.

dbitreamer_sharpening.jpg

This form tool will perform the following functions. 1) Create clearance for the nib. 2) Form the chamfer where the cap will bottom against the section. 3) Form the taper where the cap would sit when posted. 4) Cut the minor diameter for the cap threads 5) Locate all of the features at the appropriate depth and in relation to one another.

Once I had decided to go this route, it became obvious to me that the level of effort required to remake additional copies of my pen was dropping quite drastically. Though I had initially only intended to make one for myself – now I can imagine all of my close friends and family will be receiving fountain pens as their gifts at major holidays for at least the next year.

Though I’m sure many of them would prefer a design that has a clip.. That will be next.

For turning the exterior geometry of all the components, I opted to make custom mandrels rather than struggle trying to hold them in some other fashion. Each of these mandrels was designed to grasp onto two different diameters to hold the parts securely. Each of the mandrels had a custom bolt with a tapered head. The tapered head engaging a matching taper in the mandrel is what caused the expansion. I cut the slits with a slitting saw, 3 slits for the larger one and 2 for the smaller one.

expandingmandrel1a.jpg expandingmandrel1b.jpg

expandingmandrel2a.jpg expandingmandrel2b.jpg

For the section, instead of an expanding mandrel, I just made a pair of bushings that threaded together. One end of the bushings were drilled for a center, so that I could later support them with the tail stock.

bushing_section1.jpg bushing_section2.jpg

Last but not least – the final thing that I needed to do was to create a fixture that would allow me to use wood lathe tools on my metal lathe. So I built a small toolpost which fit onto the cross slide in place of the compound. As it turned out, I already owned the tool-rest, I just didn’t know it. By that I mean, I was able to make it from materials that I already owned. That’s always a nice feeling.

It attached in place of the compound and is adjustable in height/orientation by means of a thumb screw. I made the thumb screw from a spare bolt and wingnut welded together. I also added a brass tip to the thumbscrew to prevent it from damaging the shaft it locks in place. All in all it works fairly well, although I think that I ended up making it a little too tall even in the lowest position, so I’ll have to modify that at some point.

woodturningrest_compoundinsert.jpg woodturningrest_design.jpgwoodturningrest_testfit.jpg woodturningrest_welded2.jpg

woodturningrest_welded1.jpg woodturningrest_welded3.jpg woodturningrest_wingnut1.jpg woodturningrest_wingnut2.jpg

Once all of these extraneous bits of tooling were completed, the act of actually making the first pen went by fairly quickly. I opted to make the first prototype out of delrin as I had a bunch of it and I didn’t want to waste the couple acrylic blanks I had ordered on what could very well be a bunch of screw up attempts.

Before I started, I got out all the various drills and taps I would need and set up some cheap depth stops using masking tape. That worked out pretty well. Even though I made drawings of the parts, dimensioning everything quite closely, I only really used them as a reference and made everything to fit as I went along.

These were just the tools for the internal geometry of the cap and the body.

toolsprepared2.jpg

All in all, everything proceeded pretty smoothly. The D-bit reamer was a first for me and was very easy to use. To be able to quickly and easily machine a number of precise features in a small diameter bore where you would otherwise be working blind – well, let’s just say it was well worth the time spent making it.

Making the cap…

dbitreamer4.jpg cap_reamer.jpg cap_threading.jpg cap_mandrel.jpg cap_mandrel_finished.jpg

I ended up shaping the exterior of the cap and body with the standard metal lathe tools and a bit of filing. The compound was essential in cutting a taper on the rear of the body which matched the angle of the taper cut into the cap.

For the section, I opted to use the wood lathe tools to turn the contour to my liking. I ultimately decided to remove the chuck and use the lathe’s collets. I was initially getting set up to do it with the 3-jaw chuck, but had a flash of what could have happened if I slipped and the tool – or my hand – got caught up in the lathe jaws. Definitely worth the couple extra minutes to work safe.

I got pretty lucky with my lathe. The previous owner sold a set of collets (odd size -> 6K) along with the lathe. The largest diameter the set goes to is 5/8” but it’s been plenty for most of my projects. Very handy.

section1.jpg section2.jpg

One of my favorite drafting pencils in regular rotation is the Pilot S20. I really enjoy the shape of the grip section. For this design, I tried to copy the general shape as much as possible. It turned out pretty close, if I do say so myself. I intend to use this as-is for the next couple of weeks and see how I like the shape. If everything is to my liking, I’ll go ahead and make a more finished product out of the acrylic blanks that I have.


I'll be sure to post the finished product when the time comes, but for now, here is the prototype...








Some information about the pen:

Weight (uncapped) = 12 g
Weight (capped) = 18 g

Length capped = 5.1 "
Length uncapped = 4.875"
Length posted = 6.0"


I have now reserved a drawer in my toolbox for custom pen tooling. This is where it currently stands as of now.

pentooling.jpg

The only other things I needed to make in addition were the woodturning rest and a couple of HSS lathe bits for threading and reaching into tight areas. And to think, I made all these parts just to make 3 parts! It of course took longer than I was hoping – but in the end it paid off. Once I had everything shown above, I probably only had a couple hours invested in the actual making of the pen.

This has definitely gotten a bit more lengthy than I originally intended. Hopefully some of you managed to make it the whole way through and found it interesting. I guess this is pretty much my take on making a custom pen with my background of dealing with metal parts. Maybe there will be some tips or tricks that some of you find useful.

If there’s interest, I can reformat this into a tutorial – though I’m not sure what the process of submitting that would entail.

In any case, this was intended as something of a show and tell. Let me know if there is anything that’s unclear or if you have questions about anything and I’ll do my best to answer them.


 

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vanngo5d

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May 16, 2011
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Porter,TX
Wow welcome to the forum. That's a heck of a first post great job. Really like the mandrels.
Pen looks great.
 

edstreet

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Aug 12, 2007
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No longer confused....
First welcome to the forum :)

Second. Interesting to say the least. tool and dye making has always been the fore front staple of modern society.

Few notes of question that I found while looking over the post.

*) balance point of the pen is where?

*) sharp edge of the plastic cap and durability over use and time. which leads to the question of a center band to prevent that.

*) clip design? How about a rotary broach on the crown of the cap, a slot on the side and a ring nut on the inside to lock it all together.

*) Koma-nagura? Kaisei?

*) I dont like the looks of those weld marks :) you can do better than that!

*) you interested in doing custom work for many of us? :)
 

John Den

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Mar 21, 2012
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Location
Bideford, Devon UK
Wonderful Post!!
I make my own tooling taps and dies (maybe using bit different methods from you) but the result is just the same - very satisfying.
I also draw up first using TurboCAD.
Keep at it - this is great work.
Regards,
John
 
Last edited:

chris4891

Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2013
Messages
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Location
MD
Thanks all for the kind words!


*) balance point of the pen is where?

I figure a picture is worth a thousand words...

balance_uncapped.jpg balance_posted.jpg

*) sharp edge of the plastic cap and durability over use and time. which leads to the question of a center band to prevent that.

*) clip design? How about a rotary broach on the crown of the cap, a slot on the side and a ring nut on the inside to lock it all together.

I'm not sure I'm picturing correctly what geometry you mean by rotary broach on the crown of the cap. Do you have any pictures I could reference?


*) Koma-nagura? Kaisei?

Never heard of this, will have to look into it.

*) I dont like the looks of those weld marks :) you can do better than that!

Bah, you got me. The one area I was embarrassed about. I almost considered not posting that. That's what I get for rushing. I only have a mig welder at the moment (prefer doing tig), and I recently I had been using it for doing sheet metal. I guessed at the settings for doing this thicker stuff but got the wire feed rate wrong. The actual mistake here was not cutting additional pieces and practicing first. Was rather frustrated about it - but I was anxious to get everything finished so I just let it stand.

*) you interested in doing custom work for many of us? :)

I hadn't really considered that - but I'd say the answer would be probably. It would have to be on a case by case basis. I would be wary of doing more taps/dies where the end product would need to have interchangeability with parts made using other tooling. It's easy to make stuff fit together when you have everything in front of you - but I don't have enough experience or measuring equipment to really have the confidence to stand behind taps/die.

But the bushings/expanding mandrels or other fixtures are easy by comparison. I wouldn't be opposed to doing that kind of work.
 

Curly

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Nov 20, 2010
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Saskatoon SK., Canada.
Welcome to the forum and you get well deserved props for diving into the deep end of the pen making pool!!! :bananen_smilies046:

I am curious to know why you went with a triple start thread for the section to barrel thread instead of a single start?
 

chris4891

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I am curious to know why you went with a triple start thread for the section to barrel thread instead of a single start?

I think that was probably just me getting carried away. After using the pen some, having the triple start at that joint seems like it was more trouble than it was worth. If I were to do it again, I would probably just do a regular single start there.

I would have ended up making the tap/die for that joint anyway, so it wasn't really that much more work. I'll chalk it up as practice.
 

thewishman

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Thanks for the awesome read! What a great first post.

It's kinda' like a guy walking in to a car making group where most* of the people are bolting dune buggy bodies onto Volkswagen frames, and here you come with a block of steel and build your car from scratch.

I am in awe.:)


*Please note I said most. There are many talented people here that have capabilities far surpassing the large majority of the rest of us. No haters. (Where is the emoticon for ducking and hiding?)
 

Justturnin

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Welcome. What you just did is where I am working to be. I have a far ways to go but I want to be self sufficient in my shop making as many of my own tools as possible. Great work and thank you for sharing so much of you process.
 

edstreet

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No longer confused....
Thanks all for the kind words!


*) balance point of the pen is where?

I figure a picture is worth a thousand words...

View attachment 96367 View attachment 96365

DOH! I did not see that one, my bad.

*) sharp edge of the plastic cap and durability over use and time. which leads to the question of a center band to prevent that.

*) clip design? How about a rotary broach on the crown of the cap, a slot on the side and a ring nut on the inside to lock it all together.

I'm not sure I'm picturing correctly what geometry you mean by rotary broach on the crown of the cap. Do you have any pictures I could reference?

Well it is quite unique. These holes are cut on a lathe or drill press :)


The holder is a 1 degree offset and the bit wobbles, exactly like our old spirograph toy's back in the day :)

Allow me to show :)
How to Drill a Square Hole - YouTube
Internal and External Rotary Broaching - YouTube


*) Koma-nagura? Kaisei?

Never heard of this, will have to look into it.
Both of those are waterstones in the range of 1500 grit that is in your photo. I was not sure what stone it was.

*) I dont like the looks of those weld marks :) you can do better than that!

Bah, you got me. The one area I was embarrassed about. I almost considered not posting that. That's what I get for rushing. I only have a mig welder at the moment (prefer doing tig), and I recently I had been using it for doing sheet metal. I guessed at the settings for doing this thicker stuff but got the wire feed rate wrong. The actual mistake here was not cutting additional pieces and practicing first. Was rather frustrated about it - but I was anxious to get everything finished so I just let it stand.

That is ok, many of my photo's you will see things in the photo that I wish were not there, most knife makers when they do photo's you will see dirty or messy shops so it's really not a problem at all.


*) you interested in doing custom work for many of us? :)

I hadn't really considered that - but I'd say the answer would be probably. It would have to be on a case by case basis. I would be wary of doing more taps/dies where the end product would need to have interchangeability with parts made using other tooling. It's easy to make stuff fit together when you have everything in front of you - but I don't have enough experience or measuring equipment to really have the confidence to stand behind taps/die.

But the bushings/expanding mandrels or other fixtures are easy by comparison. I wouldn't be opposed to doing that kind of work.


There have been group buys on triple start tap/dies and they run well over $100-150 mark but they are also oddball threading. There are closed end mandrels and various other tooling that is needed from time to time, most of those things are very difficult to find. Figured I would ask.
 
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hard hat

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Norfolk, VA
astounding work. maybe one day I'll have the machine shop tools and skills to make everything myself but for now I'll just sit back and watch, learn, and make what I can with what I have.

You certainly jumped into the deep end of the pool with both feet first on this, no kit pen will bring you satisfaction at this point. I'm excited to see what you have in store
 

chris4891

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DOH! I did not see that one, my bad.

Oh, you didn't miss anything. I took a few additional photos this morning in response to your question.

Well it is quite unique. These holes are cut on a lathe or drill press :)


The holder is a 1 degree offset and the bit wobbles, exactly like our old spirograph toy's back in the day :)

Allow me to show :)
How to Drill a Square Hole - YouTube
Internal and External Rotary Broaching - YouTube

Actually, I have seen some videos similar to that before. I kind of discounted the notion of ever trying that in the home shop because it appeared that you need a live spindle in the tailstock driven at some RPM related to the headstock. I was never clear on whether or not the process would also work if the tailstock was not driven.

Both of those are waterstones in the range of 1500 grit that is in your photo. I was not sure what stone it was.

Ahh! Ok, I was missing the context initially. Those names sound more familiar now that you mention it. I have the following array of stones

Beston 500
Bester 1200
Suehiro Rika 5000
Kitayama 8000
Naniwa 12000

Also have a DMT Extra Extra Coarse used for flattening the stones and very rough reshaping operations.

There are closed end mandrels and various other tooling that is needed from time to time, most of those things are very difficult to find. Figured I would ask.

When I first set up my homeshop, I had entertained notions of maybe someday doing machining as a small side business. After I started making some of my own designs, it became apparent to me how time consuming it was to do everything on hobby-sized manual machines (especially working with steel). Given the limited number of hours in the day, I kind of discounted the possibility of trying to do that profitably. I also tend to hate repetition - so the thought of filling out an order for 50-100x quantities of even small parts was not desirable.

But all that aside, it's still something I would consider. I get a special kind of satisfaction from making tools that go on to be used to make other things. So as long as the work is interesting, useful, and reasonably non-repetitive - I'd be interested.
 

chris4891

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Welcome. What you just did is where I am working to be. I have a far ways to go but I want to be self sufficient in my shop making as many of my own tools as possible. Great work and thank you for sharing so much of you process.

No matter where you are on the journey, I don't think you ever quite lose that desire. I have a fairly well outfitted shop, in terms of having basic smallish metalworking machines (lathe, milling machine, small drill press), measuring equipment and tooling appropriate to the size equipment I have - but that doesn't stop me from still feeling limited in my capabilities and wanting to be able to do more.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that there are plenty of things I can do with what I have and to stop pining over all the things I can't afford or don't have room for yet.

Let's see... high on my list of capabilities to still acquire:

1.) 220V service to the garage and a Tig Welder so that I can also weld aluminum
2.) small furnace so that I can play around with heat treating
3.) surface grinder - mostly in combination with the furnace, so that I can make more tooling, harden knives, etc.
4.) cutter/grinder and accessories for sharpening end mills, reamers, etc.
5.) larger versions of everything I already have - first requires purchasing my own house and settling down (I currently rent). this is not so much because I want to work on larger things, more so to have the rigidity to be able to work faster.
6.) complete woodworking shop separate from the metal shop so I can delve into making some of my own furniture.
7.) building #3 for the lift and automotive related tools..

It never really stops, does it? :) At least not until you get to the point where you can make anything and are only limited by time. I suppose that's my end goal really.
 

edstreet

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No longer confused....
DOH! I did not see that one, my bad.

Oh, you didn't miss anything. I took a few additional photos this morning in response to your question.

Well it is quite unique. These holes are cut on a lathe or drill press :)


The holder is a 1 degree offset and the bit wobbles, exactly like our old spirograph toy's back in the day :)

Allow me to show :)
How to Drill a Square Hole - YouTube
Internal and External Rotary Broaching - YouTube

Actually, I have seen some videos similar to that before. I kind of discounted the notion of ever trying that in the home shop because it appeared that you need a live spindle in the tailstock driven at some RPM related to the headstock. I was never clear on whether or not the process would also work if the tailstock was not driven.

Both of those are waterstones in the range of 1500 grit that is in your photo. I was not sure what stone it was.

Ahh! Ok, I was missing the context initially. Those names sound more familiar now that you mention it. I have the following array of stones

Beston 500
Bester 1200
Suehiro Rika 5000
Kitayama 8000
Naniwa 12000

Also have a DMT Extra Extra Coarse used for flattening the stones and very rough reshaping operations.

There are closed end mandrels and various other tooling that is needed from time to time, most of those things are very difficult to find. Figured I would ask.

When I first set up my homeshop, I had entertained notions of maybe someday doing machining as a small side business. After I started making some of my own designs, it became apparent to me how time consuming it was to do everything on hobby-sized manual machines (especially working with steel). Given the limited number of hours in the day, I kind of discounted the possibility of trying to do that profitably. I also tend to hate repetition - so the thought of filling out an order for 50-100x quantities of even small parts was not desirable.

But all that aside, it's still something I would consider. I get a special kind of satisfaction from making tools that go on to be used to make other things. So as long as the work is interesting, useful, and reasonably non-repetitive - I'd be interested.


Several things.

*) No you do not need a live tail to make it work. You would just have to mount the object in the tail stock then feed it into the head. Or just mount it on a drill press.

See this.
Rotary Broaching Demonstration - How It Works - GenSwiss - YouTube
Rotary Broaching Brake - YouTube
Rotary Broaching on a Bridgeport - YouTube

The biggest reason for live tail is for full blown CNC work and not have to remount the object. :)


*) The stones, I see you have kitayama, that is the best stone on the market for post 8k-12k stone work. I use it for sharpening mostly. I have a good 2 dozen or so stones that range from sword polishing (complete set) to sharpening.


*) On the tool making. If you were doing say an online store then the 50-100x may be needed but there is this one tool maker that I used to make me some rivet drill bits for knife making. These are quite simple and easy to make, if you have the right setup that is.

This is a 2 step drill bit, in this case 5/16" head and 5/32" shaft. It drills both holes at the same time and no need to change drill bits plus the step is a perfect 90 degree for the corby bolt.
This


this is the holes they drill.


They get glued in, screwed down and the slotted ends cut flush.

Perhaps custom orders is the way for you to go. I am sure you would get plenty of orders here.
 
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chris4891

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hmmn, that's very interesting. those videos make the problem seem much more tractable. might have to try and figure out to make one of those wobble tool holders. it's a neat capability - but I'd have a very hard time justifying the $300 plus to buy the holder.


I think as a project the step drill is very doable.

I recently bought a second bench grinder that I was planning on refurbishing and putting to use exclusively for grinding HSS tooling. Once I got that finished, all it would take would be a little spin fixture and I could probably make quick work of that.
 

edstreet

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No longer confused....
hmmn, that's very interesting. those videos make the problem seem much more tractable. might have to try and figure out to make one of those wobble tool holders. it's a neat capability - but I'd have a very hard time justifying the $300 plus to buy the holder.


I think as a project the step drill is very doable.

I recently bought a second bench grinder that I was planning on refurbishing and putting to use exclusively for grinding HSS tooling. Once I got that finished, all it would take would be a little spin fixture and I could probably make quick work of that.

The bits are fairly affordable. The holder is the killer, little machine shop use to sell one but their supplier stopped making them.
Rotary Broach Tool Holder 2MT - LittleMachineShop.com
There is not much to them and I did see plans for them somewhere, will look when I get home this afternoon.

There are also rentals you can get from one company.

http://www.slatertools.com/rotary-b...nt-free-holders/small-swiss-type#.UbIR3djmylg
 

Sandy H.

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When I started reading your first post, I thought: Wow, this guy sounds a lot like me. I'm an ME, have a modest metal working setup (Southbend Toolroom 10 included), enjoy making tooling/fixtures for projects etc. Then I got to the meat of your post. Wow. I imagine I have most of the equipment and a decent amount of the knowledge to do what you did, but I have neither the motivation nor skill to actually get it done. Great work!

Personally, I'm new to pen making and took a much more conventional approach than you, but I have been enjoying it. I guess it turns out we're actually pretty different people after all. If it weren't for Woodcraft, kit pens and the Internet, I doubt I would have ever made a pen. I think you, on the other hand, would have done it without any of those influences.

Kudos to you and thanks for posting your process. I hope you keep attacking projects (pen or otherwise) with the same gusto you went with on this and I hope I get to read about the results.

Very cool work.

Sandy.
 

chris4891

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Sandy,

Your note struck a chord with me. It's interesting, because a couple of months ago I would have described myself pretty much as you described yourself.

Something happened recently that I'm trying to make the best of. One of my coworkers died suddenly of a heart attack just over a month ago. He was 32. Apparently he had a heart condition that he just found out a few years ago - but he seemed healthy, so they hadn't pursued it yet. He and his wife were expecting their first child. To be honest, though I sat near him for 3+ years now, I didn't really know him well at all. We went to school together, but he was a few years ahead of me.

I attended the memorial service along with a number of my other coworkers. I think I can honestly say it was one of the most emotional, gut-wrenching experiences I've ever had. But in the time that I was there, I feel like I learned a great deal about his life and the person that he was. And I was inspired to say the least. Seeing how he lived his life made me question how empty I had let mine become.

I had been going through a bit of a rough patch recently. Difficulties in my personal life and feeling unfulfilled at work. I found that I kept letting myself fall into endless pools of distractions. I'd get home from work, turn on the TV or browse the internet. Pretty soon, the evening was gone and it was time to start the cycle all over again. After the experience I'd had at the memorial service, it hit me like a blow to the chest how much of a waste of time it all was.

I wanted to make a change. I don't normally do things like this myself either. So, this singular thread may be a slight misrepresentation of myself. Not completely, don't get me wrong, I'm definitely a perfectionist and put all of myself into what ever it is that I'm doing. It's just that I rarely find the motivation to do anything this involved. Maybe one somewhat extensive project a year.. I'd guess that's about been my average since I graduated college.

But more often than not, I would have the tendency to move from project to project, getting started on one thing only to advance to the stage where hard work and continued effort was actually involved and then I'd lose interest or get distracted by the next shiny object (or website or tv show).

The goal with this project was to try and break that cycle. I made up my mind that I was going to finish. I of course did not realized quite how much work it was all going to be at the start. In my mind, each one of those "simple" pieces of tooling I'd need would only take a couple hours at most - I mean, how hard could it be? Maybe someday, the experience I've earned will help me to have more realistic predictions of the time involved. And then hopefully I'll only have to multiply that number by 2, instead of 3, to get closer to the real answer.

But like anything, once you break the final goal down into the individual steps it takes to get there, it soon becomes much more manageable. I'd make goals for myself each weeknight - just one productive thing. It would sometimes take multiple evenings to complete a single thing - but it was manageable. Seeing that drawer fill up with all the little things I made gave me all the satisfaction I needed to continue going.

I miss working with my hands and making things. I find myself sitting at a desk all day - but aside from emails, analyses, reports, etc there isn't anything physical at the outcome of my effort. And that I just find draining. I need to be responsible for the creation of some thing, some object, something real in order to really be happy with my day's work. That's where I find real satisfaction. That's what really drives me. It's why I switched from computer/electrical engineering to mechanical engineering - write code and work with electronics..or be able to make anything I can dream of?

So, long story short. I'm trying to make a change and I started by getting up and doing something. Then I didn't stop when it took longer than I wanted it to. And the goal is to keep up the momentum and never turn back.

I received the nibs for this project around May 1st and it took until last weekend before I had a pen. So about 5 weeks. That's the longest I've stuck with a project in a long while. And it feels good. I'm proud of what I've done so far. And hopefully that is only the beginning.

-Chris
 

chris4891

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Hah! I drove through Hackettstown earlier today! I was on my way down to Port Murray to pick up a part at the junkyard for a repair over the weekend.

I'm in Wharton.
 

Paul in OKC

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Nice post. As a machinist for many years I tend to over think these things. Nice to see them done. On threading, you wouldn't want the tap and die to fit together as most likely your finished threads would not fit each other. Could take a bit of plastic, run it through the die while still on the lathe, and check that with a part tapped with the tap. Just a thought. Been wanting to do this as well, just lack time.
As for rotary broaching, I do some of that at work. We make some small pivot pins by cutting the heads of of grade 8 bolts and broaching for an allen wrench.
Keep posting!
 

jyreene

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Wow! Now I'm a little sad I quit college to join the Corps instead of becoming a mechanical engineer. Well I was then I kept looking at this and realizing I have no clue how you did it even with pictures!

Also now I am second guessing learning how to make my own pen kits!
 

Bugmerc

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Apr 7, 2013
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I love this kind of stuff.
I am incredibly fortunate to have the time and ability to leave my desk go into my shop and play for a few hours while the crew handles things.

Now I just need the ability to do this stuff...:biggrin:
 
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