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How to Turn a Pencil on a Lathe



Paul uses his lathe to turn out a pencil for us. Actually the pencil was for me! He sent me the pencil he made.

He wrote us a terrific tutorial with lots of pictures and it's a step by step on how to do it.

My thanks go to him for this tutorial and for the hand-turned pencil!

You know, this lathe work is really a whole lot of fun. I might get myself a little lathe to do some work. They have them on amazon.

And if you are interested in more lathe stuff I have opened up a whole new section of the website here: Lathe Projects


Here is the finished pencil that Paul makes in this tutorial:

Paul has also made some other pens from exotic woods like Yew and Walnut. You can see pictures of them, and find out which is his favorite right here: Various pens made from exotic woods.

Safety Warning: Being safe, is the most important thing. And keep good practices particularly when operating machinery. Wear eye protection, either full face or safety lens glasses. And don't wear ties or loose clothing that can be pulled into the machinery.

When polishing pens, or anything on the lathe with a lint free cloth be extra careful that it doesn't catch the turning piece as it can wrap around it quickly and damage the piece or anything losse near moving parts!


You can purchase any type of wood blank from a variety of sources for example

- Exotic woods dealer on eBay
-Lumber yard that stocks a good selection of timber you can use reclaimed wood and as long as you check it for splits or defects and if you have a band saw you can make your own blanks suitable for turning a pen body.- -Pen Blanks on Amazon - They of course have lots of them

I chose a piece of Elm for this project as I liked the grain and the nice pattern it had. My choice of kit was something I hadn't heard of before � a woodworkers clutch pencil.
What was special about it? Well, I had always associated clutch pencils with those draughtsmen used, they had the finest of leads and as a student one of these often broke because I was too heavy handed. A woodworkers clutch pencil has a much thicker lead and is very robust, with a nice piece of turned wood it makes a beautiful addition to your workshop. 

The pen kit has two main tubes which are used to mark out the relevant top and bottom part of our pencil.

  Mark a tube plus about an 1/8 over on to the blank.


Then cut the blank into two pieces.

Mark an X on the ends of each piece. For this particular kit an 11 mm drill bit is required. 

Drill them.

The tubes will need to be sanded to provide a key for the glue for when a tube is put into each piece. *Tip � the front tube has an integral threaded portion which must be protected from any contamination from excess glue so pushing the tubes into a potato or carrot will provide a plug that will seal it until ready. Next place some CA glue on the middle of the tube and rotate it quickly and get it into the tube before it goes off.


To give you a bit more time I suggest you use a two part epoxy to secure the tube.  When the glue has set then it is possible to make flush the ends on a sanding wheel (so far I have been unable to find a barrel trimmer and pilot shaft for this size of tube)


A barrel trimmer and pilot shaft. The picture shown is of two types one ie the smaller is a dedicated one and the larger one takes different sizes of pilot shaft. In use they remove the one eighth portion of material down to just expose the brass tube. The shaft centres it within the particular internal diameter of pen tube. Due to the shape of the shaft it also removes any hardened glue that may have got into the tube. I could not find a pilot/trimmer of sufficient size to fit. I resorted to my power sander which worked adequately in flushing the blank end.

  The ends are taken down to where the brass ends of the tube are showing and no more. For this pencil you require a particular set of bushes to engage with the now prepared bodies. They are secured to the pen /pencil turning mandrel and fitted to lathe prior to turning.

Once the blanks are taken down to size then start sanding. I purchased a set of square pads of various grits and these were also colour coded for ease of use. (You can of course just use any suitable papers with coarse to fine grit cut into strips for the same purpose. The pads are wet and manipulated from side to side lightly


then a lint free cloth is applied to remove the �slurry' of wood dust and water. You will notice that the friction of cloth on wood dries the blank and you can feel how smooth it is getting between papers/pads. The process is repeated until you are satisfied with the level of smoothness acquired. 
Make sure you give it a good drying before you apply the CA finish (you can miss this step out if you just want a more natural feel with a boiled linseed oil coating.

For my purposes I chose the CA or Superglue coating. Cut some paper towel into 1� or 1.1/2� strips and folded two or three times. 20 strips should provide a good finish to work with. Set the speed to low, wear good eye protection full face or safety goggles and I found that the small plastic bags which are supplied with bits of kit placed over the first two fingers protects them from the Superglue seepage.  Put 3 drops of CA on a strip in the middle and sweep it from left to right once as the lathe turns.  You can see the blank getting a nice smooth coating. Discard the strip. Select another and do the same only this time right to left. Again discard strip. Alternating in this way until you use up all 20 strips. The glue dries quickly so a fresh coating is built up.  At this stage it is ok to use an accelerator spray to set it. But I found that it was not required. Turn the speed up to apply some T cut liquid, this is used in the auto trade for cutting back paintwork and it is a fine abrasive, much the same as Brasso for polishing metal.

Finally, buffing with a clean lint free cloth.  Paste car wax applied can give the pen/pencil a fine gloss finish. All that remains is to assemble the kit according to its instructions. 

-Pen mandrel by Planet Rotur by Planet Plus ltd  - reference number  PM1 MT1 (Morse taper pen mandrel.)
- Pen blanks 10 assorted from eBay.
-   Lathe was Charnwood W815 in UK 
- Sanding pads assorted.
- CA glue medium.
- T Cut or Brasso
- Simoniz paste car wax 

Want to improve your pen and pencil turning? Paul has an Lathe upgrade suggestion right here. He did it! Turn better pens and pencils


Amazon Pen Making Starter Pack 3 -

Get started in the wonderful pastime and hobby of pen making. This 42 piece Pen Making Starter Pack 3 is a comprehensive collection of kits, tools and supplies to get you started making hand turned pens. It includes enough pen kit components and pre-drilled exotic rosewood pen blanks to make 10 projects. A pen turning mandrel, sandpapers, polishes pen assembly tools, and presentation pouches are also included. The bundle includes a 40 minute instructional DVD and comprehensive user manual to help you get started. Requires a lathe with a 2MT headstock.

Pen Mandrel Pro MT-1

Pen Mandrels are used specifically for turning pens on your lathe and essential to the pen turning process. The Pen Mandrel Pro features a precision-machined steel shaft that is held in your lathe for accurate pen turning when used in conjunction with a live center (not included). Since the Pen Mandrel Pro has a morse taper on the end, there is no need foe a drill chuck! It fits directly into the morse taper on your lathe. Another unique feature of the Pen Mandrel Pro is the brass compression fitting. The fitting allows you to turn shorter blank lengths with no need for a wood spacer. Just slide the fitting onto the precision-machines shaft and tighten the fitting in the proper location for your pen blank.



Holy land Olive wood pen blanks for turning - 10 Olive wood blanks, Each aged for more than 5 years.


Micro-Mesh 2" Assortment Pack - 18 pieces



Exotic Wood Pen Blanks -