I apologize for getting behind in my updates. I'm starting to get caught up from all of the orders and I'll have some more on pen making soon.
Making pens can be a rewarding and fun hobby to get into. Notice I never said anything about it being inexpensive.
Of course you can get started with a lot less tools than I use. I am a professional tool collector after all. But, there are some "Must have" tools you will need to get started. The good news is you don't need a lot of work space.
A must have tool is a lathe. A "bench top" lathe will work fine. What's cool about bench top lathes is you can pick one up and put it away when you're done. On my list of tools, I'd recommend a drill press. You don't need one of the giant models that stand alone like a refrigerator in the garage, and have more features than you'd ever use. Here again, you can get a bench top model. However, this isn't going to be a machine you will want to pick up and move very often, no matter which model you choose.
If you want to try pen turning and don't want to spring for a drill press, there are "pen blanks" with the sleeve already in place. Of course this will limit you in the choices of woods you will be able to use in creating your work of art.
You will have to have a pen turning mandrel to hold the blank or blanks while the lathe spins them. You can't turn pen blanks between centers like a spindle. There are a bunch of different styles of pens to choose from, and each style has their own set of bushings that slide on to the mandrel and center the blank. Bushings aren't expensive so don't see dollar signs each time you want to try a different style of pen.
Finally you will need a tool to turn, or shape your wood with. This isn't supposed to be an ad for tool companies, but I can't recommend a better tool than one from Easy Wood Tools.
My first was the CI3, also called the mini finisher. For someone wanting to see if pen making is for them, this one tool will be all you need for your collection. You can take a piece of wood from square or rectangular to round in no time, and even shape the blank as you go. They call these tools Easy for a reason.
Finally, the last thing you will need is a few grades of sand paper and some finish.
I'll post a video on this soon Using a few different tools and you can see how easy it is to have fun.
Once you get started, you'll catch yourself saving all kinds of off cut pieces of lumber. A typical pen blank starts out 3/4 by 3/4 by about five inches long. From this size you can usually get two blanks for turning two different pens. Once you get started, you'll find all kinds of scrap pieces laying around the shop that you were ready to toss that can be turned into a pen. There is no right or wrong kind of wood that will work.
Most pen blanks come from exotic wood, which is another way of saying wood that isn't grown here. But, I've also made pens from left over pieces of cherry, birds eye maple, walnut and oak.
I have a box on the floor of my shop that I toss scrap wood into, or at least I toss it towards the box. The scraps come in handy for everything from sample cuts for a project to pen blanks. It can become an addictive hobby with each new creation giving you a lot of pleasure, and a great idea for a gift most people will never receive from anyone else.