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Abbey Pens

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Keep it Turning

I find making one of my handmade pens a rewarding challenge that takes comparative patience and can be quite time consuming; however results in a unique one off writing instrument that is as unique as it’s owner.

The pens that I am currently making involve the use of wood and various resins or plastics.

Whatever you choose to make the body of the pen has to be capable of being turned on a lathe and it is in general the preparation of the material you decide to use that takes the majority of time involved.

In this blog, I am going to run briefly through the stages of making one of my Aspley Pens.

The process is generally the same for either a fountain pen or rollerball, with just the components used being variant.

The choice of design and material is a personal thing which in itself makes the pen so unique.

In this case I have chosen components that create The Aspley Classic Rollerball Pen, which offer an appointment finish in Rhodium, a bright and very durable white metal plating which is part of the Platinum family of precious metals.

Plated rhodium is very hard and has a high reflectance, which makes it great for optical instruments, jewellery and accessories such as pens.

I have also chosen a seasoned piece of African Blackwood for the main body of the pen.

Firstly the quality of the materials must be of the highest standard available, and I endeavour to use the same suppliers who have proved consistent in quality supply previously.

It is important that the wood is seasoned well and treated with a wax seal at end grain to prevent moisture fluctuation within the piece prior to turning which could result in the sample splitting or cracking.

Most of the pen components are visible in the finished article except the brass tube centre of the pen which is inserted within the wooden body, and is the main skeleton into which the pen components are pressed after turning.

The length of the pen is determined by these tubes, and in this case there are two tubes involved; one for the main body of the pen and the other for the cap.

The wooden sample is firstly cut into two lengths, one for each tube and is left slightly longer than the brass tube to allow for trimming and squaring off accurately.

A centralised hole is then drilled through the length of each piece of wood, ensuring square drilling throughout for an accurate fit of the brass tubes which are then secured in place with a strong adhesive.

Once this is achieved and the tubes are securely adhered into the wood, the ends of the wood are squared and trimmed to the length of the brass tubes which ensures a snug fit of the pen components upon assembly.

The two pieces that have now been marked to ensure the best grain match upon later assembly, are then fitted onto a spindle using bushes unique to the pen component design, which determines the limits to which you can turn down the wood.

The turning of the wood can now commence and the shape of the pen be determined.

Throughout the making of the pen, protective clothing and safety glasses are used as high powered machinery and very sharp tools are constantly in use.

As the wood is turned with the use of various chisels, it is initially turned into a round and then more delicately shaped into the desired shape of the pen.

I tend to shape into a barrel style which I find provides a well balanced pen resting comfortably between thumb and index finger.

Once the wood is turned into the desired shape, the samples are then sanded using up to fifteen grades of abrasives to provide a very smooth surface, then sealed and polished using approximately six layers of wax.

The turning and polishing now over, the pen is ready for assembly.

Ensuring that the grain is lined up to match on both the body and the cap of the new pen; the components are then carefully pressed into position using a special press that ensures parts are added squarely and accurately.

The result is a beautiful unique rollerball pen destined to become the trusty servant of it’s new owner for years to come.

I hope that you have enjoyed this brief insight into what goes into making one of my pens.

Visit my Handmade Abbey Pens Shop to find a pen of your choice, available for immediate delivery.

Ken McLeod © 2011

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