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Thread: so what is it with pen turning?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Topeka KS
    Posts
    118

    so what is it with pen turning?

    i mean i just dont get it, people seem to go nuts over these things. i see pens sell on ebay and such for $50-100 all the time and i see a bunch of you guys that it seems thats all you do is turn pens. so what is the draw? are you just doing them to sell or is there something more too it?
    Als ik kan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Carlyle IL
    Posts
    350
    well, i just started turning this past fall,

    why pens? because they are fun and fast to complete. For me, I look at them as a learning tool. As I learn how the tools cut wood, it gives me more confidence to approach the tool rest for more complicated turnings.

    also, my daughter had a ball turning a pen, and I want her to do more while I sit back and watch.

    i don't know about the others, but those are my reasons. hope this helps.

    joe

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Melbourne, FL
    Posts
    472

    Pens

    I make them to sell.

    But the real reason is that very much ingrained American desire - almost instant gratification.

    Once you have the tubes glued and cured it is only a matter of minutes from rough wood to a beautiful pen without a big investment in either time or money.

    Do not get me wrong. Some of my high end pens take many hours of labor which is reflected in the price.

    To me the more complex and difficult the pen the more I like it. If they were as easy as they may look everyone would make them.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    S E Washington State
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    3,777
    I've turned pens of over a year. It kind of grabs you. Lots of fun. I got bored just making pens from kits so I started making ones in which I make the center band, nib and finial. It is fun to figure out different material to use and it is very gratifying to see the reaction of people when you show them what you made. Give it a try, you get a lot of "friends" real fast. I have also had a thing about pens, don't know why but I always like different and comfortable pens. Mow I can make what I like.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Reno, Nv
    Posts
    3,632
    I've done over 600 pens in 6-8 years. I give most of them away, but there are a few in the $300 club. I think the draw is that you can make them as simple or as ornate at you want; don't like the gold centerband? make a wood one, want inlay..what color? Want a purple one, yellow or orange one?And everyone needs a pen. I gave our checker at Trader Joe's one yesterday. Now he has 4 fellow employees that want one now. I gotta back Pete up, it's rough to spend up to 3 days on a bowl or lidded box. You can have a pen in 10 minutes or 3 hours. It's a lot of fun!!
    Last edited by Jim Burr; 03-05-2009 at 02:44 AM.
    Your Respiratory Therapist wears Combat boots

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Goodland, Kansas
    Posts
    4,834
    I've done a lot of pens. I like the fact that they sell well, make great gifts and you have almost instant gratification of the completed piece.
    Bernie W.

    Retirement: Thats when you return from work one day
    and say, Hi, Honey, Im home forever.

    To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    ABQ NM
    Posts
    30,014
    I've turned a few dozen pens...nothing like some of the other guys here. I liked turning them when I first started because of the instant gratification, and the fact that they sold pretty easily. (It helped that I got into it right before Christmas that year.) I sold enough pens that year to pay for my used Sears lathe plus some of the tools.

    Not too long after though, I got kind of burned out on pens and now I only make a few here and there. I still enjoy the instant gratification, and they generally pay for themselves in time, but get tired of turning the same shape over and over. I don't really like 'wavy' pens, so there's not a lot of form options available.

    I really admire the guys who make the fancy pens, and respect the amount of work they take. I just get more enjoyment out of the bowls and hollow forms. I may find myself turning more pens and other smaller utility items for sale though, since I suspect the 'art show' market for bowls and hollow forms will be a bit depressed this season.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Oceanside, So. Calif. 5 mi. to the ocean
    Posts
    4,944

    This is really questions

    Hi,

    I have wondered about all of the catalog stuff for turning pens. Questions:
    Are the working part of the pens really good quality?
    Do they write with little pressure?
    Is the ink quality as good as an expensive pen?
    When the ink runs dry can the new owner go to Staples or some place similar and purchase a new filler?
    What is the minimum cost to start (tools other than the lathe and chisels) and be able to do a good job?

    Nosey aren't I?!

    Enjoy,

    Jim
    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.
    VOTING MEMBER

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    ABQ NM
    Posts
    30,014
    Here's my take...

    Are the working part of the pens really good quality?

    They seem to vary with the cost of the kit. The expensive kits tend to have higher quality, smoother mechanisms, but even the cheap kits are surprisingly decent.

    Do they write with little pressure?

    The same as any other Parker, Cross, or Schmidt pen.

    Is the ink quality as good as an expensive pen?

    In the kits I've made, the ink cartridges have been imported knockoffs of name-brand refills, although I've never had any problems with them.

    When the ink runs dry can the new owner go to Staples or some place similar and purchase a new filler?

    Yep. They typically use standard Parker, Cross, or Schmidt refills, depending on the particular kit.

    What is the minimum cost to start (tools other than the lathe and chisels) and be able to do a good job?

    By the time you buy a few kits, maybe a few blanks (you can use scrap hardwood, but the exotic blanks are sweet), a pen mandrel and some bushings, a small sandpaper assortment (which you may already have), you're probably looking a bit north of $50. Most of the kit suppliers have "starter kits" that include the basics for about that or a bit more. Penn State Industries has this one that looks like a pretty good deal for about $80. (The turning tools they include probably aren't anything to write home about, but even without them, it's a pretty decent price):

    http://www.pennstateind.com/store/PKSTART1F.html

    Nosey aren't I?!

    Nah, just inquisitive. And dangling your toes verrrry close to the edge of the Abyss.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  10. #10
    Thanks for asking the question, Mike. I've often wondered the same thing.

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