Interested in penturning? It is fun and easy, and you can make beautiful pens that make great gifts that will actually get used. It is also a fairly inexpensive hobby once you get started, but you will need to spend some money on the right tools to get started. There are some pen making supplies that you can’t do with out.
Lathe- This is essential for every woodturner. A lathe spins the pen blanks, allowing you to carve them and make them into pens. Lathes come in a variety of sizes, so choose what is best for you. If you are only interested in making pens, a small lathe will suffice, but if you want to make bowls and other projects, a larger lathe would be best. PSI and Grizzly make affordable lathes, and the JET Mini is a favorite among hobbyists.
Turning Tools- A lathe is pointless unless you have the proper tools to cut the wood. Make sure to get high speed steel (HSS) tools so they work well and last longer. Some common tools for penturners area 1/8″ gouge, 1/4″ gouge, 1/16″ parting tool, 1/4″ round nose scraper, and 1/4″ skew chisel.
Mandrel and Bushings- The mandrel is the metal rod that extends from one side of the lathe to the other and keeps the pen blank secure. Bushings are the small metal bits that go over the mandrel on either side of the wood. Trim the wood down to the bushings and you know the pen blank is the right size. Bushings are available for every style of pen.
Pen Blanks- The “body” of the pen. This comes to personal preference since there are many types. There are wood blanks, acrylic blanks, and other types of well. You can even use scraps from your projects to make segmented blanks.
Pen Kits- To make a wood blank into an actual pen, you need a pen kit. This comes with bushings, ink, and hardware. There are lots of types of pen kits (styles) such as slimlines, cigar pens, sierra, and gentlemens.
Finishing Materials- To make the pen look professional, and to be more durable, you need to add a finish to it. Shellawax, HUT, and friction polishes are easy and look nice. There is also the popular CA/BLO technique to get a nice shine.
A lathe and turning tools will cost you a bit, but once you get going, this hobby will get cheaper (and more addictive!). Pen blanks and pen kits are relatively cheap, and I again recommend using scraps from your projects to make segmented blanks.
Woodcraft and Rockler are two of the best places to get pen making supplies.