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Wood Pen/Pencil Finishing

Finishing a pen or pencil is an art form, meaning there is no specific method that works best for all kits, materials, preferences, etc. I belong to the Northwest Indiana Woodworkers Association, where I took a pen turning class with the current President, Kevin Sturgeon. I've also learned a great deal from watching Bob Blanford at RJB WoodTurner's YouTube channel, which is a wealth of information from a seasoned wood turner. Both of these folks, and a handful of other sources, have helped me to learn more about pen turning and also let me know how much fun and entertaining it can be.

Hands on classes are my favorite way of learning, especially when the subject is new to me. Kevin Sturgeon provided an excellent class at a local industrial arts training facility, along with the help of a few other experienced wood turners. Standing in front of a lathe while watching Kevin explain the next steps every few minutes, then providing some coaching and tips while we worked on our own pens was the introduction I needed.

By the end of the class, I had created a beautiful pen and asked Kevin and the other folks for recommendations about lathes and tools. I happened to use a Grizzly G0657 10" x 16" lathe that day, which I was happy with, but Kevin suggested something with more than the 1/2 HP motor that particular model came with. Kevin owns a couple Jet lathes, which he suggested, as well as Penn State Industries, which was one of several brands available for use in the class that day. I purchased the 12" version of the Penn State Industries Turncrafter Commander with a 1 HP motor the next day. There is also a 10" version with a slightly reduced feature set and 3/4 HP motor available, as well.

One of the things I appreciate the most about RJB's videos is his troubleshooting of issues that occur while he is working on his pens. Rather than gloss over an error, or just toss the pen blank, he takes the time to work through solutions and share them. It's always nice to see a presentation work perfectly, but we learn the most through our mishaps. And it's refreshing to see someone with years of experience deal with the issues that come up.

I have provided a combination of techniques from Kevin Sturgeon and RJB Wood Turning that have produced excellent results for the pens and pencils I've made. Not every pen follows the same steps, but this is a general path to follow to achieve a beautiful product.

Pen Finishing Steps

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