Making an aluminium pen

I’ve now got the aluminium rod pen down pat. I make a centre hole, run the rod further out and use a centre dog, and run a chunky cutting bit down the whole length of the piece, leaving a small chunk of rod inside the chuck. Then I run the rod further in, and drill out the part I have centred with a 1/4″ bit to the depth of about 1″. Then I reverse the rod and cut down the part that was in the chuck, adding a couple of notches so the tiny difference in thickness is not noticeable. Then I run the same bit across the end to flatten it off, and I’m done. I also, for extra points, remember not to leave the chuck keys in the drill or the main chuck, so I don’t die. That’s always a bonus.

Making a better pen – success 1

A dip pen, showing the nib, a length of brass, and then the wooden handle.I nabbed some more apple wood from the same tree/friend combo, and this time I used a Stanley knife to pare it down, which was much easier than the pocket knife, both in sharpness and in the shape of the handle. I went through the same process as before, but this time I formed the far end before I started sanding down the wood closer to the join, to make sure it stayed strong there. I also sanded the brass with the fine soft pad, and then I squeezed hot glue into the brass fitting. Then the ferrule wouldn’t fit, and I had to bang it in with a hammer, which meant I had to scurry for a hammer. However, nothing broke, and now I have a pen. It’s a snug fit for pen nibs, but I’m OK with that. I’ve bent the inner springs a little bit to help the fit, and it’s all good, and I have no problems. I’m pondering making a two part top, with bits that fit inside each other, so I can get rid of the need for steel. That’s a long way away, though.

I’ve given it a coat of varnish, and I’ll give it a couple more. That’s to protect it against the horrible mess inside my pencil case, mostly. I’ll also make sure the join ends up full of varnish, so no moisture penetrates.

Making a better pen – failure 1

A brass cylinder with a wooden handle attached.  The wood has split.I nabbed a bit of apple wood from a friend. It’s soft, but that means it works easily, and I don’t have real wood-working tools, so I’m in favour of ease. I cut it to length, skimmed it down with my pocket knife to take the bark off, and drilled into the top to put the handle in, which I did with hot glue. (In case of failure. As it turned out, I was prescient.) I then carved it down further so it was almost the right size to hold, then I sanded it. I did that with a soft pre-bought sanding block, so the handle could sink in a bit. First of all I taped some rough paper over it, and clamped up the block. Then I put the metal into my drill, and went ‘vrooom’. I used the 120-ish grit to tear off most of the surface, then switched to the less brutal surface, and smoothed it. However, after I thought I was finished, I noticed my knife had left a splinter inside an otherwise innocuous dent, so I put it back in, pressed too hard, and shattered the shaft at the bottom. Pants.

I have acces to more apple wood, and I can use that. If it fails again, I’ll have to use something much harder. A friend offered me some rose wood and some lilac, and I could try either of those.

Making a better pen

A brass cylinder with a protrusion at one endAfter making the aluminium pen, I showed off pictures of it and ended up agreeing to make a couple more. I did one more in aluminium, and then turned to brass. If it were solid metal, a brass pen would be too heavy, but I can make it out of brass and wood easily enough.

I had a scrap bit of brass, and there was a failed thread already in there, so I took that off very very slowly, and as a consequence my chip size was tiny. It picked up a bit once I had a smooth cylinder. I had had to hold the aluminium at both ends, and the brass was a lot shorter, so although I was using the tail stock for some of the time, it wasn’t in the way, and I only needed to cut a section of it. There was very little chatter. I cut the shoulder slightly wrong, and it has a small step on it, but I’ll see how that goes. It may not need re-doing. I also added rings to the part that will sit inside the handle, to help with the attachment process, whatever that will be. Drilling out the inner part was not difficult, but a combination of lube and chip size meant I could not see what I was doing if I took the drill bit out, so instead of peck drilling, I checked my speed calculations and then pushed harder. Still alive.

We didn’t have a decent parting tool, and my brain was starting to complain about all the work I had done, so I cleared up on the lathe and took the part off the parent rod with a hack-saw. I’m glad I did, because it felt so different to aluminium. It’s really slippery, but it cut well anyhow.

I need to source some wood, make it into an approximate round, and then put it onto the brass part. Then I’ll sand the heck out of it until it’s properly round and fits the handle perfectly. A bit of hot glue, and I’m done. Then I declare tea and victory.