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Beginner Pen turning help (Read 156 times)
 
Ken Davis
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Beginner Pen turning help
Dec 6th, 2017 at 8:37am
 
Hi all, Im sure this has been covered a thousand times somewhere but Im search challenged.
My wife unexpectedly bought me a drill press. She knew beforehand which one I wanted, but was still a surprise. Anyways when she showed it to me, she said, now you can make me some pens and some for christmas gifts. I have never turned a pen, so I started digging for info and of course Im overwhelmed with all the different things.

I think for me it would be best to start with a mandrel, but which to get? An adjustable or non adjustable? I like the idea of using a live center mandrel saver so I will get one of those.
Ive seen barrel trimmer sets but dont know which one is good. Im also looking for a good brad point bit set, but not sure on those either.
Looks like I will need extra bushings too once I pick a pen kit.

Any advice and help would be appreciated. I dont mind spending a little for all the stuff I need, I just dont want to buy stuff I dont need or wish I had gotten something better.

I plan to turn about 20 pens to start with. Im sure I will like it, Ive liked everything else about woodturning so far  Smiley So I want to get what I need.
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Ed Weber
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Re: Beginner Pen turning help
Reply #1 - Dec 6th, 2017 at 10:04am
 
IMO
Turning pens is like anything else, you can go as cheaply or as expensive as you want.
Mandrel, I prefer a standard no frills mandrel. if I need to adjust for length, I will pact the extra space with an tube or bushings to achieve proper working length.

Drill Bits, I started with a PSI bit and it worked fine for many pens. Once it dulled to the point of replacing I opted for a Colt brand. I have heard that the Fisch is supposed to be very good and less expensive.

Barrel trimmer, For a while it seemed it didn't matter which one you bought, they were all the same "junk" having to apply way too much pressure to get them to cut and they dulled quickly. I have upgraded to the (more expensive) Whiteside barrel trimmer. It's like night and day.
Links are what I have, you decide whats best for you and your situation.
Multimedia File Viewing and Clickable Links are available for Registered Members only!!  You need to Login or Register
Multimedia File Viewing and Clickable Links are available for Registered Members only!!  You need to Login or Register
Multimedia File Viewing and Clickable Links are available for Registered Members only!!  You need to Login or Register

A lot of this depends on how and what you turn, I ONLY turn wood, no acrylics or man made materials. There are special bits and methods for those products.

One other thing, if you can, when turning 20 pens I would build them in large batches, at least ten at a time.
Do all the cutting, all the drilling, all the gluing etc, in an assembly line method, it will save you time overall.
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Ken Davis
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Re: Beginner Pen turning help
Reply #2 - Dec 6th, 2017 at 10:44am
 
Thank You Ed, this was just the sort of advice I was looking for. I only plan to turn wood at this time too and the assembly line method sounds like a time saver.

I will check out the links you put down.
Thanks again

Would I need other size bits besides the 7mm? I wouldnt mind buying a set as long as they are needed and going to be used. I just dont know what size all the different pens use.
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Ed Weber
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Re: Beginner Pen turning help
Reply #3 - Dec 6th, 2017 at 11:37am
 
I only linked to the 7mm bit because it's the most common with the sets most of us start with.
Like I said it really depends on how much into pen turning you get.
If you go to a site like Multimedia File Viewing and Clickable Links are available for Registered Members only!!  You need to Login or Register you will see all the different kits available. Within each style it will tell you what size bit and what bushings you need for that style. Some bits, like the 7mm, are good for many styles of pens and other small items.
I've done the "pens for Christmas" years ago, they are always a hit.
Here is a (poor quality) photo of a portion of what I turned.
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Ken Davis
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Re: Beginner Pen turning help
Reply #4 - Dec 6th, 2017 at 12:02pm
 
Very nice looking pens Ed, I will go look at the PSI site and see what they have as well. I guess I need to decide on which pens I want to do so I can get the correct bit size and bushings.
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Steve Kniffen
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Re: Beginner Pen turning help
Reply #5 - Dec 6th, 2017 at 7:35pm
 
Ken,

I turn lots of pens.  I really enjoy being able to see the finished product in a short time.  If you want to get started right, pick a PSI kit you like and order the sampler set.  You'll get 3-4 pen kits in different finishes, the proper drill bit, and the bushings for the kits.  That takes the guess work out of it and you don't wind up with a set of drill bits you never use.  I recommend you start with a single barrel pen like the Knurl GT (with or without stylus), the Executive, or the Gatsby.

As for mandrels, I agree with Ed.  I like the standard A mandrel.  There is also a B but not many kits need that one.  I also recommend a mandrel saver which is a life center that fits over the end of the mandrel and rests against the bushing or spacer.  It keeps you from putting excess pressure on the mandrel with your 60 degree cone live center and causing it to bend and throw your pen out of round. 

+1 on the Whiteside barrel trimmer.  I have to sharpen one of my trimmers every dozen pens or so. 

One word of warning, pick 1-2 pen kit suppliers and stick with them.  Just about every supplier carries some of the same basic kits, just with different names (Sierra, Gatsby, Wall Street, Mesa ...) but they're not all the same.  Bushings may or may not be interchangeable.  Quality is not the same either.  Pick a few to start and you'll be happier.  PSI puts out 1-2 catalogs a month.  Beware the vertex.

Enjoy.  It's a lot of fun.
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Don Stephan
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Re: Beginner Pen turning help
Reply #6 - Dec 6th, 2017 at 8:01pm
 
Ken

My experience is only a few pens I made last spring, but by coincidence I ordered today sixteen kits that likely will be New Year's Day presents now.

After reading a number of reviews, I decided to order from Berea Hardwoods and my limited experience has been very good.  The A mandrel was bent, they immediately replaced it free of charge, no questions asked.

I had questions about the longevity of finish on the metal parts.  Berea patiently explained the differences and suggested that two of the longest lasting finishes are titanium gold and black titanium.  That significantly increases the cost of the kits, but I didn't want to give a good friend or family member a pen on which the metal plating might wear off if they carried the pen every day.

Production work is more efficient, but you might consider trading efficiency for initial caution and make and assemble just one or two of each kit.  That way, less lost if there is a fabrication problem - I trimmed a couple pen blanks too much, and was not careful enough keeping bushings in the right sequence for turning.
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Ken Davis
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Re: Beginner Pen turning help
Reply #7 - Dec 7th, 2017 at 7:41am
 
Thank You Steve and Don, I was hesitant to ask my initial question because I know this has been covered, but Im glad I did now, you guys and Ed and have extremely helpful.

I ordered the A mandrel,a live mandrel saver and the whiteside barrel trimmer set yesterday. I also got a set of fisch bits, they werent cheap but Ive been needing bits for awhile and have just been putting it off.

I will head back to PSI today and may just get the sampler kits to start with.

Thanks for all of your help Smiley
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Ed Weber
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Re: Beginner Pen turning help
Reply #8 - Dec 7th, 2017 at 10:20am
 
Don Stephan wrote on Dec 6th, 2017 at 8:01pm:
Production work is more efficient, but you might consider trading efficiency for initial caution and make and assemble just one or two of each kit.  That way, less lost if there is a fabrication problem


Thanks Don, I didn't initially consider that since I've made many.
When working in batches (of anything) first get your tools set up.
Set the cut length for the wood, set the drill press, set up a gluing station etc.
When the tools are ready, test the first one, Adjust, tweak or what ever and then test the second one. Keep adjusting until the process is reliably repeatable, then continue the run. Even if you have to test 5 times, when making 20 pens, it's still a time saver.

That's the way I do it, I rarely if ever make a "single" pen unless it's special or requires more attention for some reason.
My first pen
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Bill Rockwood
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Re: Beginner Pen turning help
Reply #9 - Dec 7th, 2017 at 6:46pm
 
Ken, all good advice here, and sounds like you're on the right track. I do pens frequently, and recently did a batch of PSI Trimlines, and decided to make a little vid of my small production run, which you can find here: Multimedia File Viewing and Clickable Links are available for Registered Members only!!  You need to Login or Register

I use the mandrel saver as well, works great. You can PM me if you have any specific questions - rockwoodcraftedpens@gmail.com.
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John Cepko
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Re: Beginner Pen turning help
Reply #10 - Dec 9th, 2017 at 10:53am
 
I find I get the most accurate holes drilled not using a drill press, but my lathe.
Find the center of the blank on each end,
A Jacobs chuck in the drive end of the lathe, and a live center with a good point.
After checking to be sure the tip of the bit and tail center line up point to point, draw the quill all the way back, and put the blank between the bit and live center...holding the blank with a pair of pliers is handy if you do not want to hold it from spinning in your hand.
Now turn on the lathe slow as she will go, and turn the quill to push the blank into the bit. Once things get going, you can push the speed up to where it is comfortable.
Back the bit out often to clear the chips, and keep an eye on things when you get close to the end...You can even go half way in from both ends, but I find this is not needed, just finish the last little bit off pushing it by hand.
Center to center every time.
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